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22 January 2019 | in Winter FISU World University Games, Cross Country

Cross-Country test event winner Olga Vokuyeva: "Winter Universiade 2019 will be a festival"

The past December saw the Cross-Country Skiing Russian Cup 1st Stage take place in Krasnoyarsk, the test event of the Winter Universiade 2019. With almost 300 countries’ best athletes competing for victory, it was the largest event by the number of participants. Olga Vokuyeva, a skier from Tyumen, won the 10 km individual race in true Siberian conditions. The winner of international and Russian national competitions shared her impressions on the new Raduga Cluster and spoke about competition in big sport and the unchanging drive to win.


How challenging did the individual race of the Russian Cup 1st Stage turn out for you?


Actually, it wasn't too complicated. What did challenge me was the hard frost in Krasnoyarsk during the competitions. But I have already raced in such conditions before, so I'm no stranger to it all, you just aim for the best result and go. The race panned out well, there was nothing I'd kick myself for. I find difficult courses easier to run, the ones with lots of steep slopes, just like at the Raduga Cluster. As a kid, I was moulded to endure, persevere and work hard. The trainer would say I'm very small and light, so I have to speed up on the way up—it's my competitive advantage.


In fact, Raduga Cluster is an amazing sports facility. When we arrived here, I was impressed: everything looks beautiful, the buildings and the interiors are awesome. The sports complex itself, as well as the commentary booths, have been built to the highest standards, just like we used to see abroad. I even spotted a swimming pool here, it's great.


Olga Tsareva finished second in the individual race, just 2.2 seconds behind you. Would you name her as one of your main rivals?


100%, of course.  Athletes always compete with one another, but it's only so during the race. After we cross the finish line, there's no more rivalry between us. In any case, when racing, everyone is only focused on their own result. You don't keep any particular athlete in mind that you want to beat. All you try to do is to show your best, because races are quite unpredictable, you may be overtaken by anyone any moment. Besides Olga Tsareva, there are many other capable skiers in Russia.


Do you have a favourite distance or a cross-country skiing discipline that you particularly like?


It depends. Some athletes like mass starts, others do better in individual races, yet others are sprinters at heart. There may be universal athletes. I'd say sprints are not my strongest point. Sprint is more explosive in its nature; it demands more physical strength. You have to run a short distance giving it all you have. In the individual race, it's up to you to manage your physical resources. The race challenges your endurance, but gives you a chance to speed up or slow down in certain stretches. It's not that I'm always far behind in short-distance races, it's just that I'm better at racing the longer ones. I sometimes end up in the top three in sprints, too.


How do you psych up for the victory?


I normally start a race strongly determined to win, certain to succeed and with my mind set on the victory. And if something goes wrong, then I think my mistakes over and try to pick up a mindset that would prevent me from giving up. If I fail today, I will fight on tomorrow. If I fail again tomorrow, I will strain even harder the day after tomorrow, and so long and so forth. When you are lining up at the start, there are no thoughts in your mind other than that you just have to race and never give up. Also, before the race I visualise the distance, how many slopes there will be, how many of them I will have to cover. My trainer always says, "Strive on, no matter how the race comes about."

Veteran Winter Universiade competitor Olga Vokuyeva stands atop the 10km interval start podium at test event for the Krasnoyarsk 2019 Winter UniversiadeWhich is the most memorable victory in your sports career so far?


I've taken part in lots of competitions, both Russian and international. I'd say that the World Championship 2015 proved to be the most unforgettable race. I ran only one 10-kilometre skating skiing race back then, but the weather conditions were overwhelming. I also took part in the Winter Universiade Trentino 2013 in Italy and in the Winter Universiade 2017 in Kazakhstan. In Italy, I came third in the sprint, and in Almaty I took the gold in the relay race.


We also have the Russian cross-country skiing championship every year. It's important too because full national teams come to participate. In 2017, I won the 30 km skating skiing race, it was a mass start. And we won in the relay race with the girls, too. It was very significant for me, too.


Would you like to take part in the Winter Universiade 2019?


Sure! Competing at the Games is unmatched. Universiades offer something special even in comparison with the world championships: the level of emotions and the atmosphere are out of this world! While you're on the course, you feel the eyes of the entire country on you, and it's incredible. The world championships mean high level of responsibility, you have to cope with a lot of pressure and anxiety. The Winter Universiade 2019 offers a celebration, the atmosphere will be absolutely different: light, heartwarming and friendly. The way the preparation for the Games is going on is already impressive.


I'm sure the Winter Universiade 2019 will be really cool. I hope other girls from Tyumen will get to the competitions as well, I will be supporting them with all my heart! The host country of the Games is our motherland, I'm sure our team will do their best. I wish all the participants of the Winter Universiade 2019 in Krasnoyarsk great success and victories!