The original article was written by Nikita Melkozerov for people.onliner.by find it here.
Melitina Staniouta flexible and charming is the most successful rhythmic gymnast of team Belarus, and she will soon represents her country at Rio 2016 Olympic Games. Melita trains eight hours par day, and in the meanwhile she’s taking classes at the university, she acted in commercials, she loves reading books, from Harry Potter to Erich Maria Remarque, and she likes to go to the theater, place which made famous her great-grandmother Stephanie actress of the USSR .
When you were just a kid did you want to become famous?
When I started to speak, people who have heard my name often said “Oh, Staniouta! Are you related to Stephanie?”. Later, I realized that to live with a famous surname is hard. So I was motivated to be not only a great-granddaughter of a famous actress, but also to make the surname Staniouta associated with me, as athlete. Now It seems I have passed the period when every interview started with “..Tell me about your great-grandmother.”
Tell us about it
I was small, so the memories are very sketchy. In my first memory – we feed homeless cats. In the second one – we are in great grandmother’s house on the eve of Christmas and New Year. The Christmas tree stands with around a lot of her things that make the apartment similar to an old dressing room. Chests, handmade beads, masks, for a child it is something incredible. I was mostly impressed with the make-up. But the most memorable were beads made of seeds, my great-grandmother gathered them, and strung on a thread. I have kept it until today, but I rarely wear it. I’m too afraid to spoil the thread [Melitina smiles]. I remember when my grandmother saw my first performance at the Baby Cup, then she said that she liked it. So I thought, maybe, I’m on the right path.
Honestly now is nice when people recognize me on the streets. In Belarus the children sometimes approach me.
And in the other countries?
In Spain gymnastics is followed almost as football. There’s a very famous gala. It isn’t a competition, but purely a show. The stands are full of spectators who come to the gymnasts with photos and gifts. There are so many fans and when you walk on the carpet, the audience is already cheering and screaming. In Spain you realize that you’re doing something meaningful.
Once a teenage girl wanted so desperately an autograph that she laid under our bus. She had a photo of me and one of Evgenia Kanaeva. We were completely surrounded by the crowd. The bus couldn’t move. Our driver went to investigate. As result, I returned to the girl who said: “Zhenya, Melita, please sign it.”
Another time I wandered aimlessly through the shops in Spain and suddenly from the nearest store a girl ran out and began to cry. “Melitina Staniouta?!” – “Yes.” So she asked for an autograph. “Tomorrow I have a competition, are you coming?”. – “Absolutely. I’ve already bought the tickets a month ago.”
Rhythmic gymnastics is really loved in Spain, Italy and Japan. The Japanese fans are not as emotional as the Spanish. But they have a very developed sense of beauty. In Japan, there’s a woman that each year (in occasion of the Aeon Cup, tn) offers to every gymnast an Hello Kitty toy and she sews the dress to suit their performances. I have several of these plushes. It’s very cute and nice.
There was one time in Italy (during Pesaro’s World Cup, tn), Liubov Charkashina noticed during the awarding ceremony a Belarusian flag and asked: “Who is holding it?” And then we saw the same flag in Japan. It turned out the flag belonged to a man named Taka. After the competition he went to Liuba and said, “I’m a japanese fan. I study in Italy.” He has traveled all around the world just to support us. By the way, there was another nice story. We were in Italy, and a girl ran toward us, “Can you sign this please?” – “Of course.” And then she turned showing us on her shoulder a huge tattoo with an image of Liuba, performing an element. Well, it’s great!
And in Belarus?
In Belarus, there isn’t such support [smiles]. I don’t know what to say about the Belarusian… Maybe this is somehow expressed in the interview. Many people follow the World Cups and major events, but sometimes without really knowing the sport. But I don’t take it seriously, and I can’t consider myself a famous person. If you ask to people to make a list of the most famous belarusian athletes, they’ll say the names of Aleksandra Gerasimenya (Swimmer) and Darya Domracheva (Biathlete tn).
At the same time my most loyal fans are kids. The best words comes from them – “Melita, I want to be like you.” It is always very touching. Gymnastics is children’s sport. At 22 you are already old [laughs].
Do you consider yourself an adult woman?
Yes. In the national team I am the eldest. Young girls begin to do gymnastics at the age of 3-4-5. At the age of 14-15 they can compete at the international events as juniors. At 16 you are already a senior and you can take part to the World Championship. Gymnasts usually ends their career at the age of 24. I don’t think I will be an exception and continue to compete till 28. There are still six months before the Olympic Games in Rio. I still don’t know If It will be my career’s end, I’ll consider the retirement depending on my health and nerves.
What about health?
I have some troubles. We train for at least eight hours in a day. During the Olympic Games in London they were asking about us in the morning, “Where are the gymnasts?” – “They are already training”. And in the evening again “Where are the gymnasts?” – “They have another training.” [Laughs.]
With the hip joint and spine everything is normal. But I suffer due to my feet. Once my coach said: “Melita, you’re born for this sport. But your foot changed. It’s very weak ” Indeed very often it breaks. In 2010 I broke my foot during the fourth day of competition (during Moscow World Championships, tn). The foot hurted me for a long time, but the scanner didn’t show anything. The doctor made a bandage and I heard a crunch. During the all around final I could compete only thanks to adrenaline. The foot was hurting me so much. But I decided to ignore the pain and to don’t say anything to my coach…
As result I was operated in Moscow in a second moment. Because at first, I decided to miraculously get sick of chickenpox [laughs]. At the age of 17. I remember when doctor came to look for me asked “Is Staniouta here?” – “I am.” – “Show me a picture… Wow! Cool. And How could you continue with your broken foot?”. Now I live with a screw. However, when I go under the metal detector, It doesn’t ring [laughs].
You have been in many countries and met many people. What kind of people do you like the most?
In the summer I have been to Batumi. Such a delight! A surprising discovery. When I was there I communicated with everyone: with the guards, with the waiters, with the drivers. They are good-natured and disinterested. I was also surprised when I visited Sri Lanka. They are very kind and they always smile. If you look at them, you can see kindness in their eyes. Probably we are not happy enough. When we were in Los Angeles, I noticed that people are open and positive.
Well, who among us will go to meet someone and suddenly say “Cool shoes!” Or “Have a nice day!”. We will look at such a person and think he’s strange, “Something is wrong …”
Anyways I think that Belarusians are maybe a little bit shy and closed. And another thing foreigners always ask me: “Why do you look all so tired?” Probably, I should have more rest and less work… Afterall I’m a person who trains eight hours par day [laughs].
I don’t know, perhaps we should be able to enjoy the little things.
Gymnastics It’s pretty tough.
First of all, the child start to “play” with rope. As long as you don’t get it, you won’t become a gymnast. Then you learn to split on two chairs for ten minutes. One in front of you and you put your heel on it. Another stays back and you put your other foot stayng in split. Hands behind your back. You slowly go down under your own weight. Children often cry and complain, I used to groan too.
Then there are clubs, that you need to catch somehow. Sometimes, though, they can hit lips, eyes or nose. I once caught my nose. It was necessary to toss clubs in a group exercise. One girl threw me a club, I could have dodged it, but I decided that I would have take it so to be able to finish the exchange. I looked at the club, and I saw it arriving direct to my nose… For some reason, there was no ice. I don’t remember If the refrigerator defrosted or what else. But no ice. Nose sore. And tears fell. I remember they brought me a spoon and a jar with condensed milk. The next few weeks, I have been called Stanyudze and Stanyutashvili because of my “Georgian” nose. So when someone came for an advertising I Stanyutashvili, with bruises under my eyes. Like an owl. I asked the coach: “Do I need to prepare for the advertising?” – “No, no, you can go for a walk.” [Laughs.]
But since that episode you have made other advertisings.
Well yes. Bonaqua a long time was setted into the gym.
You were shot in so many different photosession. Do you sometimes refuse these offers?
Rarely. And the proposals are actually not so many. They luckily don’t ask to undress me. Although even if I woud receive such a offer, I would refuse.
What do gymnasts earn?
A contract with the Belarusian Gymnastics Association. We have a salary, and a presidential scholarship. The scholarship is awarded for the result. I was third in an olympic discipline at the World Championship. This was worth 20 million. The salary is four times smaller at World Cup competitions and Grand Prix. For the first place to the sixth or from the first to eighth you can earn something. We got a half of the prize. The rest goes to the organization of the competition, the purchase of equipment or other needs. Those leotards we wear? They cost a lot of moneys, 1500 at least.
Yes, It’s like a mini-dress. But first, It’s an exclusive work. Second, leotrads are covered with Swarovski strass, about thousands, from big stones to barely visible grains. Before It was a lot easier. Now, because of the stones leotards weighs at least a kilo, and maybe more [smiles]. Although when compared with russian leotards they aren’t so expensive. Dresses costs about 2500 and well as long as they are covered with Swarovski everybody agree [laughs].
We can’t train in any place. We need a special coating and high ceilings. We need a new hall. Hopefully, we will get a new gymnasium before the end of 2017. Generally, gymnasts are optimist, so we believe that everything will be perfect. Do you see how our hall now? There’s mold in some places. Although some repairs made it much better.
Once Svetlana Rudalova was picking her bag and she suddenly cried out: “Girls! I’ve got a mouse in my bag” She shook her bag very strong and… It was true! The mouse ran across the room and disappered in a corner [laughs].
Once a mouse ate Inna Zhukova’s apple. It was around 2006 or 2007. Inna opened her bag searching for food: “Oh! Who ate an apple?” Then we noticed that the teeth were obviously not human. Even our fearless coach Irina Leparskaya, once confessed: “Girls, you know, let me in the room a tiger, a lion, or anything else but, please, not a mouse.” Lately, fortunately, they bought the traps and we got rid of rodents.
How do you react to the words about the fact that “all men want to date a gymnast?”
Assume that everyone wants gymnasts. Well ok, but you should know that we aren’t very often in Minsk center and we’re always focused on competitions.
Even if the hall is in Minsk, we start trainings in the morning and we end to train just in the evening. And that’s our planning six days par week. Sore foot, sore hip partying is pretty hard. For professional athletes our little joy is when we can have some free time. Eat, sleep, lie down. Know this: if a girl comes to a party or date without heels and make up – that’s for sure a professional gymnast [laughs].