As many of you undoubtedly know, Svetlana Khorkina turned 30 on January 19, which brought about a flurry of interviews with and articles on the former star in the Russian media. It took us a bit of time to get around to it, but here, finally, is an update on Khorkina - a long but interesting interview made up of two separate Khorkina interviews published just before her birthday by Altapress and Sport Express. The first half of the interview focuses on Khorkina's involvement with politics and gymnastics; the second half focuses on her creative endeavors and family life. Enjoy!
Svetlana Khorkina: "It's My Year!"
The fifth convocation of the State Duma, which was formed one year ago, beat all records as far as the number of "stars" and "starlets" of sport and show business is concerned. Most of them came to legislation on the party lists of "United Russia." On New Year's Eve, Olympic champion Svetlana Khorkina, one of the icons of current Russian politics, shared with our readers her legislative and creative plans.
Q: What drew you to political activity and what does it give to you?
A: I always wanted to take up politics, but first there was sport, then motherhood. But everything worked out well. In the fifth convocation of the State Duma there were quotas for young people, and I was selected to fill one of these quotas. Now I am the Deputy Head of the Parliamentary Commission for Youth Policy in the Russian State Duma. As a deputy [translator's note: members of the Duma are referred to as deputies], I occupy myself with the advance of legislative initiatives concerning youth policy. My colleagues and I are working on setting up a public Youth Chamber, where active young people would have the opportunity to present their interests to Russia's legislative organs. A further important task of our committee is to push through a federal law on state youth policy. All Russian youth is waiting for this.
Q: Do the habits and strengths you acquired during your sporting career help you now in politics?
A: Without a doubt. This is how sport has contributed to my personality, toughness and discipline. I have a plan, and I work on it. It is necessary to understand clearly what you are going to do on any given day, and to rely upon your energy. I dream of there being 48 hours in the day, because besides my basic work in the Duma, there is so much else that needs to be done!
Q: You have been a deputy of the State Duma and Deputy Head of the Parliamentary Commission for Youth Policy for more than a year now. This year must be especially important to you, as it was named the Year of Youth by the President of Russia?
A: I think that it was no coincidence that fate arranged that precisely 2009, such a complicated year, was proclaimed the Year of Youth. Certainly, my colleagues on the committee and I are facing a lot of serious work. This year will be the most significant. We young deputies have enormous responsibility, especially in the legislative plan. Young people should have their own law. This is highly necessary. I can say that the parliamentary hearings apropos this bill will be held already in February, so that work is in full swing.
Work in the Duma is in full swing
Q: Is youth policy now your main occupation?
A: Naturally, this is my main work. But I cannot but note that I have by no means completely left sport. I have my finger on the pulse. I'm in the middle of all things. I will see to what is going on, especially in artistic gymnastics.
Q: You are not only following from the sidelines, but you are also participating in the process. During the Olympics in Beijing, for example, you worked for television as a commentator. Does such an occupation feel right to you?
A: Yes, it was interesting, but... You know, when you are on the other side of the Olympic podium, you often get the impression that things should be done differently than they are. You think: "Well, girls what are you doing?" or "Well, boys what is that supposed to mean?" It's intolerable! But it was a useful experience. I think it really did come in handy. Who knows what the future holds in store for us? Perhaps soon I will be the one doing and not giving the interviews? In any event, this kind of work will not have been in vain.
Q: So you do not exclude the possibility of returning to the position of commentator as an expert?
A: No. I am open to dialog for various kinds of joint projects. I see it like this: who, if not the athletes themselves, can comment clearly and professionally on their own sport?
Q: How do you rate our athletes' performance at the Beijing Olympics?
A: I'm not going to appraise the performance of our athletes, but I think that they all worked with only victory in mind. The Beijing Olympics was a long-awaited holiday for me. My entire sporting life I was on friendly terms with my rivals [editor's note: really?] and there was very often a contest with the Chinese athletes. But in Beijing I took on the role of correspondent and it was very difficult. I was sitting in the commentators' box and understood that our team was having a hard time. It was taking place right in front of my eyes... It was incredibly difficult to observe that struggle, which was wreaking havoc on the Olympic podium, from the outside. I so wanted to get involved in that fight! To work for that victory!
Khorkina in Athens, with Carly Patterson and Zhang Nan
(Photo: Stuart Hannagan/Getty Images)
Q: At the time of the Beijing Olympics we were told that you were thinking about returning to top-level sport. Were they having us on?
A: In my time, we taught everybody that artistic gymnastics is a form of sport where medals are won for Russia. And it really did bring in rewards - gold, silver and bronze medals, and lots of them. It is understandable that now, too, the entire country expected medals of whatever color from our gymnasts. And here, many journalists approached me and asked cautiously: "Well, how is this? Can it be that you will return?" And I joked and laughed and said: "And why not?", although I myself understood that my sporting career, especially the professional part, would remain a thing of the past.
Q: We already discussed our gymnasts' performance in Beijing. Now I will inquire: what results did you yourself expect? Did you assume that everything would turn out just as it did or did you reckon with something more?
A: I was present both during the national team's control trainings and at the Russian Nationals, which are considered as part of the selection process for the national team. So I was able to get a good picture of the situation. Before that, the results had not been bad: the juniors won the European Championships, and one girl [Ksenia Semyonova] became world champion on the uneven bars. And indeed the World Championships is a very significant tournament. The boys were expected to be in the medals. Not gold, of course, but it was expected that there would be medals. It was also hoped that the girls would manage to win a medal on bars, but here you see... Our girls are good, but they are still very young.
I'd like to say that we – Alexei Nemov and I - are former Soviet athletes. We witnessed and experienced the Soviet school of preparation. But Russia has not yet managed to educate its gymnasts. There were too many problems. For instance, the Round Lake Center required a complete makeover. So it came about that first there was one distraction, then another. But that's OK; the situation is righting itself now. I think that we will be better prepared for London than for Beijing. I hope to see our boys and girls making bright appearances in 2012. I want to believe this!
Q: Do you keep up with other kinds of sport, other than gymnastics? Are you a fan of anybody in particular?
A: When I was in Beijing I went to other competitions: tennis, swimming, synchronized swimming, diving. Unfortunately, I did not make it to the rhythmic gymnastics competition. I did not risk the track-and-field events – it was too hot. And I was very tired. Alas, I did not have the strength to do everything. On the whole, I would like to note that the Beijing Olympics was interesting and bright. It was great to be there!
Q: What else do you do, other than your work as a deputy?
A: I enjoy trying out anything new. It was interesting to act on the stage, in Sergey Vinogradov's play "Venus." I played the role of a young actress, lover of the famous 85-year-old dramatist Henry Miller. I also enjoyed participating in various television show ventures. And I wrote a book about my life. I'm going to write some more books about exercises for body and soul, where there will be photographs of the exercises, so that any woman can do them at home. And on top of that I sing - thus far only for myself, but I plan to put out an album soon. And the family is sacred.
Q: In 2001 you acted in the theater. Don't you want to return to the stage?
A: I have had proposals of scripts of plays and cinema films. In theater, certainly, everything is great, everything is interesting. However, my debut play was so powerful that everything that they suggest now doesn't seem very inspiring.
Q: In that case, what are your creative plans?
A: I like to sing. I must confess that I have written six songs. Of course I am not going to release a disc for the general public; for now I am simply going to distribute it among my family and friends, in order to hear their opinion and receive reviews. After that, we will see.
Q: If you permit – a little about your personal life. How is little Svyatoslav?
A: He is already three and a half years old. He is a very energetic, inquisitive, likable chap. He really loves sport – we are inculcating in him a love for a healthy way of life. He adores his parents and grandparents. And we love him.
Q: You are bringing up your child and you are working in the State Duma. You do not reject contact with the press and you participate in a television show. From where do you draw so much energy?
A: A strong family, and on top of that, of course, the feeling of love gives me inspiration, emotions and my strength. I love! I love to improve myself, I love to do interesting things. So all this is only the beginning!
Q: Did your life change significantly with the birth of your son?
A. Of course my life changed with the birth of a child. Now I plan time to spend with my child. I really love being with my little one. Thanks to my child, I am learning to see the world from other perspectives. We go to museums, exhibitions, zoos, dolphinariums together... When the weather is good we spend time outside. At home we play football [soccer], hockey, basketball and skittles. If I take any kind of exercise, my son joins in. My boy is very active.
Q: What style of clothing do you prefer: classical, sporting?
A: Quality is what interests me most. But I select the style depending on the situation. You will agree, for example, that however suitable a sporting style is for some occasions, there are critical situations where it is necessary to wear a business suit. The same applies to other situations where I appear in front of people.
Q: At the moment it is fashionable to have a personal stylist. Do you have one?
A: I try to choose the right style for myself. No one knows better than I myself what suits me best. Although sometimes it is necessary to run to professionals for help.
Q: Who makes up your inner circle? With whom do you spend the most time?
A: Most of all I love to relax with the family! Of course, I have a lot of friends, and we meet up frequently and do things together, but nevertheless family – that is sacred!
Q: You are now 30 years of age. Is this a watershed?
A: Of course. Indeed, it is an anniversary. Perhaps in some sense it is a kind of resume of my life. It has come about that my thirtieth birthday fell in the same year as this critical year for young people, meaning that it really is my year. I think that we should use this alignment only for good, in order to realize serious projects, and at the end of the year to sum up the results.
And a few more tidbits from the Altapress article...
Svetlana Khorkina was born on January 19, 1979 in Belgorod. This famous Russian gymnast was two-time Olympic champion on uneven bars and a multiple European and world champion. She finished her sporting career in the autumn of 2004. She gave birth to a son, Svyatoslav, on July 21, 2005 in Los Angeles. In 2007 they put up a statue to Khorkina in Belgorod. She is a member of the party "United Russia" and is a deputy of the State Duma.
There are 62 women in the fifth convocation of the Duma (eighteen more than in the previous convocation). Among this number are seven businesswomen, three politicians and twelve officials. But there also two former cosmonauts (Yelena Kondakova and Svetlana Savitskaya), one ballerina (Svetlana Zakharova) and five sportswomen: gymnasts Alina Kabayeva and Svetlana Khorkina, speed skater Svetlana Zhurova, figure skater Irina Rodnina and the boxing master of sport, attorney Natalia Karpovich.
Svetlana Khorkina and Alina Kabayeva in the Duma (photo: AFP/Getty Images)