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10 years after Universiade gold, Russian tennis player still cherishes the experience

Tennis 17 September 2019

The Summer Universiade holds a special place in the heart of five-time medalist Ksenia Lykina, a tennis player from Kazan, Russia.


Lykina took the court in 2009 in Belgrade, 2011 in Shenzhen, and 2015 in Gwangju, coming away with an impressive haul of two gold and three bronze medals.


“I was honoured to get selected three times to represent my country,” she said.


“Each time the experience was a little different. Different countries, different expectations and goals. But no doubt It was exceptional every single time.”


The peak of Lykina’s Universiade career was in 2009 during her gold medal match versus Klaudia Jans of Poland, which took place near the end of the two-week event. With her country neck and neck with China atop the overall medal leaderboard, many Russian athletes and administrators came out to the court to cheer Lykina on.


“I wasn’t aware that my win would put us in first place,” she said.


“I won the singles gold medal and in addition to that, we claimed the gold for the tennis team competition too. So that was a priceless moment for me.”


10 years later, Lykina still remembers the details of that match.


“I still can’t believe it since we played on clay,” she recalled..


“I am not a clay fan. Even in the future, I tried to avoid playing on clay. The only exception I made was for Roland Garros.”


There were also other benefits to the gold medal.


“It brought me not only the title but also an opportunity to continue playing the sport and a government award,” she said. “I also got selected to perform a speech on behalf of all athletes in front of the President of Russia at the Kremlin.”


Her life also changed in another major way thanks to participating in the Universiades.


“I also met my future husband Maxim Filippov at the Universiade in Belgrade,” she said. “Maxim became my coach later on and helped me achieve three bronze medals in Shenzhen.”


After her university career ended, Lykina – who grew up admiring Martina Hingis and Kim Clijsters – embarked on a professional tennis career that took her around the world. As a professional she’s squared off against the likes of recent U.S. Open champion Bianca Andreescu, plus other current top-10 players like Elina Svitolina, currently ranked third in the world, and world No. 10 ranked Belinda Bencic.


Lykina has found that competing on tour is a bit different than among fellow university athletes.


“There is always another tournament next week but the Universiade is being played only once in two years,” she explained. “So it definitely puts additional pressure. Also, on the tour you are more recognized as an individual while at the Universiade you are first of all recognized by the country you represent.”


Like all athletes, Lykina’s career has had peaks and valleys. Through it all, she cherishes her experiences at the Universiades.


“It’s been a long journey with ups and downs but looking back it was all worth it,” she said.