Ukraine's Alina Kozich is currently the subject of some extremely interesting rumors. First there was a rumor that she was retiring from competitive gymnastics in order to join a circus, a rumor she just debunked in the interview included below. And now there's an even more interesting rumor to the effect that Oksana Chusovitina, in her capacity as the new Uzbek national team coach, has asked Kozich to compete for Uzbekistan, and that she has consented to do so. We have no idea whether there is any truth to the rumor; we certainly haven't found anything in the Ukrainian media to suggest there is. But even if Kozich does indeed want to compete for Uzbekistan, there are formalities to be observed which make it unlikely that she will be doing so any time soon. As far as we know, athletes can't just swap nations at the drop of a hat; it takes a while (usually a few years) for them to be allowed to compete for their adopted country. We can't imagine a gymnast who looks like she's headed for the end of her career would go through such a process. Then again, if Ukraine were willing to let Kozich go, and if she could prove that she had some Uzbek blood running through her veins (we have no idea if she does), that might speed up the process considerably.
Let's put it this way: We don't think it's likely that Kozich will compete for Uzbekistan, but it's not inconceivable - no more so than Oksana Chusovitina taking over the reins of the Uzbek national program, and that appears to be true. We'll keep an eye on the situation.
First of all, though, here's an interview with Kozich from Segodnya/Sport, published on January 24. Uzbekistan doesn't get a mention, but that doesn't mean it isn't true...
(Photo: Jasmin Schneebeli-Wochner/Gymbox)
Alina Kozich: "I Have Not Exchanged Gymnastics for the Circus"
The [former] European champion described to Yevgenia Poddubnaya at Segodnya/Sport how she very nearly finished her career and what she will be doing in the future.
Alina Kozich: For a time I was sure that I would leave gymnastics for the circus. I was so enraptured of the idea that I wanted to drop sport. Many well-known athletes are working in the circus. I know from their tales that it is really interesting performing there, and the working conditions aren't bad either! Only it's not the easiest work, even if you come from a professional sports background. Imagine performing five shows in one day! It's crazy! Moreover, if I decide to join the circus, I would be constantly on tour. I would rarely be home, but I can't do that; I need to feel the constant support of my family! So that means that for now, I want to go on training. My health is still good enough, although I don't know whether it will last to the next Olympics. After all, there is my age to consider. (Alina is 21 years old. Ed.)
Q: If not the circus, then what?
A: I will either become a choreographer or a coach. I am really good at thinking up complex exercises and composing routines! It's also simpler, and it is closer to me professionally.
Q: You live in Kiev, but you spend a large part of your time at the center in Koncha-Zaspa. How have you arranged your living area?
A: I have arranged my favorite keepsakes around my room. Earlier, before they redecorated the center, we would stick certificates and diplomas and various photographs on the walls instead of wallpaper. But after they had redecorated, they forbade us to hang anything on the walls. It's a shame, as it would be much cosier that way!
Q: How do you get on with your neighbors? Don't you ever get fed up with each other?
A: In general I have a very difficult nature. Although I am very communicative and know how to talk to people about what interests them, if I have already set my heart on something, then you can't change my mind. I have my own opinion on everything, which I always defend to the end! If I say something is so, then that is how it is. I guess I have been the team leader, the number one, for a long time.
(Photo: Jasmin Schneebeli-Wochner/Gymbox)
Q: Is there really no person who is close to you and to whose opinion you do listen?
A: Certainly there is! My sister Olya. She is also a gymnast, but she now trains for herself. The fact that we no longer compete at the same competitions has drawn us still closer. And, of course, my mother and grandmother – they are very dear to me! And on top of that my coach, Sergey Mikhailovich Butsul. He is the very closest person. We have lived through my victories and defeats together over the last seven years. And unlike my relatives I see him every day. I share everything with him.