Margarita Mamun, the Olympic dream

Margarita Mamun and Amina Zaripova after the ribbon routine

Interview made by Elena Sobol for to Margarita Mamun during the moscow Grand Prix 2017, original article here.

The first time I saw Rita It was during Moscow Grand Prix 2013. Same place 4 years later, that’s where the interview took place, Mamun is here to cheer for her friends. I really wanted to make this interview as special as she is, to be able to describe her mixture of Bengali and Russian blood, her tenderness and passion, modesty and charm, kindness and light, and most importantly her genuine sincerity. But the first question, of course, was about her future plans for the new Olympic cycle.

What about your career?
I’m having a break. My back is hurting, I’m ending recovery. I was invited to Galas until the New Year, now I realize that i will have another one in Sant Petersburg then I’ll need to recover. My back bothers me in everyday life. But right now I’m not retired yet, I’m still in the national team, I can continue to compete.

Will you surely miss this season?
Yes. Right now I’m enjoying a rest period and I won’t make any statements. Then I’ll take a decision. It will depend on my health, the most important thing. As Darya Shkurkhina said, If you decide to come back after a retirement, you should come to the gym and try again, to avoid any regrets. I’m sure I’ll hear my feelings.

When you ended all your commitments, what did you do?
Actually It’s not finished yet. But I had some time to relax, in January I had a little break and now I’m going on. I’m training but without focing, mainly for my back’s recovery.

What about your new life?
It’s interesting. But all these parties and events are not for me. I’m very tired because I’m not interested into hang out with strangers. I’m not the kind of person who make easily new friends. In some way my new life looks more like a job.

Have you already thought about your life after gymnastics?
Actually there are many things I would like to do. I would like to take art classes and to dance, but my aching back doesn’t allow me to do that.

What If you’re invited to one of the dance shows?
I already received some invitation but due to my injury I had to refuse. But maybe yes, I could learn to dance, and in the future I’d like to teach in Novogorsk Center. Or to open my gymnastics school.

You would like to be a coach then..
I’m quite sure that I’ll never leave gymnastics. I’m not ready to be a coach now but… Right now these are just suppositions. My favorite hobby is drawing, so maybe design.

Margarita Mamun competes with ball at the Rio OG.

Where have you been for vacation?
In Dubai. It was my first time and I loved it. I was with Sasha, as I said the most important is to be together no matter the place we are. I wanted so bad to go somewhere with him to get lost in some sense.

In December, at the olympic ball, Aleksandr made the proposal. Have you accepted without hesitation?
Yes of course!

Have you fixed the date?
Not yet. We would like to do it during summer but there are so many things. We will decide to take the best decision.

Was it difficult to live the past year apart, preparing for the Olympic Games, the pressure increasing, constantly away from each other?
It was very hard. Especially when you know that he is gone, and you won’t see him for the next three months. Well if he had trained somewhere in Europe, I could have taken 2-3 days and reach him, a couple of hours of flight is not a problem, but Los Angeles… Only Australia is farther away! And we lived in different time zones, we could communicate only in the evening. When I got up in the morning, he was already gone to bed. In general, I don’t know how we kept on our relationship. I think it was a test that strengthened our bond.

How have you met?
During Kazan’s Universiades. At Beijing and London Olympics he met some gymnasts. So it was during the Universiade Games that the group’s girls introduced us, they had a good relationship with the swimming team.

So you started to date?
Yes, he wrote to me first. The first impression was that I already knew him. Sasha says that in a past life we already knew each other (laughs). He was as calm as I am, therefore, when we are together, we have a complete harmony. I think we have very similar characters.

Alexander Sukhorukov proposes to Rita at the Olympians ball

Do you often recall Rio’s experience?
Yes, sometimes I dream of competing for the second time. As if we are back in 2016 and we have to go on that carpet again, with the rope… I start to worry, because I’m not trained. I always have colorful dreams. When we were on the way back home, on the plane, I dreamed to get up and repeat the choreography’s classes… Recently I saw the competition with my mom, It was very interesting to see it with commentaries, because she hadn’t see the Olympics.

How is it possible?
During the competition she wasn’t home. So she saw the video later.

So how she discovered that you won? You called her?
No, I competed first, and I stayed seated waiting the end of the competition. Phones were avoided in the hall. And after the awarding ceremony I had the anti doping test. ùùùit was just after a while that Sasha brought me the phone and I was able to call her. But my mother already knew. Everybody started to congratulate her and text her. At first she didn’t knew the standings, when she came back home she met some neighbors who told her that I was first…

What did you told her?
I picked up the phone, and she told me: “I knew, I have always believed – and then said – If you will win the Olympics, you’ll give me a white BMW.!” (laughs). Then Irina said she prophesied this. We drove back to Moscow and when we arrived in the Red Square, I saw the cars of the same brand! And white! I told my mother – did you knew? But in the end she didn’t accepted it. I can’t drive it right now because I haven’t the driving license, my schedule was full. I’ve already passed the theory, but I have the driving.

How did your brother react?
He practices skateboard and snowboard, and he can’t use his phone, but he had the time to text me. He said he had watched the competition and cheered for me.

After the Games you told that this medal was for your father.
Yes. Every time I stepped on the carpet I thought to him, I really did it for him. He was expecting it, he saw me competing. He said that he hadn’t lived in vain.

The gold medal was a goal or more a dream?
I think it was more like a dream. My goal was to make good performances, don’t disappoint my coaches, and myself. Because they invested so much on me! Of course I couldn’t fail. It was my duty do do everything flawless, the rest it was the judges work. It’s a sport, everything can happen. The Olympics are another universe – it’s something unique where everything can happen. Before the games I dreamed such a nice ending. But I’ve never thought that I could become an Olympic champion! I thought only to do a good performance. I had a picture in my head: I performed cleanly, everyone is pleased, with Sasha and my parents I’m going to thank Irina Alexandrovna with flowers. That was my dream! And it became true. When we were at the training camp, I wanted to come to the olympic village to embrace Sasha – at that time it was my salvation in psychological terms. And after the Olympics… I just wanted to rest.

Mamun embraces Yana Kudryavtseva after they both ended Olympics finals
Did you realize that for Rio’s gold medal Yana was your main rival?
I know, so many talked about it… My answer was that the main struggle was with myself, and my fears, every time I have to overcome myself. I remember that I was worried less than usual. Maybe thanks to the experience or my subconscious mind… Just a few weeks before the Olympic Games I started to sleep badly. Sasha calmed me: everything is fine, your body is preparing itself.

Aleksander said that he believed a lot in you.
Always. He told me I was the best and everyone else knew and saw it. When I ended the competition he told me these same words when I went to him.

Is in that moment that you told yourself: “Now I’m the best”?
Probably yes. I’ve always been self-critical, I thought that the others were better than me, even If I was first. Anyways, to me something was wrong. I had to find a fault. Mainly during training, but also in life, I lacked of a bit of arrogance. Maybe now the situation has changed. Sometimes Sasha asks “Who has returned back home?” and I answer in a whisper “the Olympic Champion…”, he replies “Louder please!”

Rita and her coach Amina Zaripova

Amina Zaripova, your coach,  said that she didn’t believed in the gold medal. Did you?
Neither I. I was always missing something. Yana was always first, which is probably why I didn’t believe that this would have been the result of the most important competition in our career.

Were there any hard feeling about the fact that you were often second?
No. It was only my fault If I was second: I did some mistakes or I dropped the apparatus… Apparently, It was necessary to lose the hoop during the European Championship to win the Olympic Games.

It seems to me that this gold, is very important for your coach, Amina Vasilovna who ended fourth during her Olympics…
This was very important to her, she always reminded me that. When we were training in San Paulo, it was very hard to work mainly after the poisoning… It was like to start all over, I was wandering as a leaf. She said “The last spurt, focus! I want you to remember this day as the happiest day of your life! I don’t want it to be a nightmare as it was for me…” This was our victory. I really hope she won’t have this nightmare anymore. When qualifications ended and we saw I was the first gymnast to compete during finals, Amina Vasilovna told me that 20 years ago in Atlanta, she had also opened the Olympics finals…

Incredible coincidence, of course.
God can see everything. Maybe it was all already written.

When the competition ended, how did you approached Yana?
We hugged, and cried together, because we couldn’t believe it was over. Yana asked: “How have we survived to all this?” We cried from happiness. Yana also said “Congratulations, I will stay for the next Olympics” to take her revenge.

What did Irina Aleksandrovna said when you summed up?
I called her at night. She was surprised and said: “Why are you awake?”. I said I couldn’t sleep. She compared the fall in the end of the ribbon routine to Natalie Portman in the movie “Black Swan” for which she received the “Oscar”…

The last seconds of Margarita’s ribbon routine

The second part of the interview will come in the near future.