Russian sprinter Kristina Sivkova (Russian Athletics) © Copyright
Feature Moscow, Russia

Sivkova aspires to follow in Bolt’s footsteps

For 16-year-old Russian sprint prodigy Kristina Sivkova, her life has changed in a short space of time. Last September she moved from her small native town in Siberia to Moscow. A few months later she ran 7.41 for 60m to break the national youth record set by Irina Privalova in 1985. Now Sivkova is one of Russia’s main medal prospects for the 2013 IAAF World Youth Championships in Donetsk.

“She almost could not stop crying for the first two months after we met,” says Sivkova’s coach, Viktor Vasyatkin. For Sivkova, who grew up in the tiny town of Kormilovka in the Omsk region with just 10,000 residents, the decision to move to Moscow was a big one. She was used to living with her family and being with her friends at school. Moving alone to the Russian capital at just 15 years old was a huge challenge.

Vasyatkin noticed Sivkova at her regional championships. Impressed with the results, the coach contacted her through a social network. But Sivkova initially rejected Vasyatkin’s suggestion to attend sports college in Moscow.

“Though I saw her only in photos, I had a feeling this girl could be special,” said Vasyatkin. “I asked my colleague from Omsk to visit Kristina and talk to her parents. They doubted too, but finally gave their permission.”

“My father said that if I wanted to become a professional athlete, it would be better to go,” said Sivkova. “Although we have a stadium and a gym in Kormilovka, of course in Moscow the conditions are much better. But though I realised it all, I still did not want to leave. I had my family, school, best friend – really everything at home! Why would I go anywhere completely alone?”

The deal between Sivkova and her father was to give it a try just for one month. Sivkova had to enter the Moscow sports college and move to the dorm, but she cried almost non-stop during her first days in Moscow and called home, asking her father to take her back right now. But the deal was done, and a month later Sivkova no longer wanted to return.

“She had to go to her entrance exam – but instead she was sitting in the hall and crying,” said Vasyatkin. “I really did not know what to do."

The difficult times were soon over. Sivkova found new friends in Moscow, and though she still misses home, she now enjoys her life in her new surroundings as well. Vasyatkin soon realised that his first impression was right – this girl really had a talent. In spite of some technical flaws, Sivkova clearly beat her rivals thanks to the natural speed.

“She cannot run slowly,” said Vasyatkin. “Even when I asked her at the Moscow Indoor Championships to save her energy and run just fast enough for the victory, she could not. She said, ‘Coach, it is much easier for me to run 100% than to think if I am fast enough or not’.”

On 1 February this year at the National Youth Championships in Penza, Sivkova broke Privalova’s national youth record of 7.43. What was even more impressive was that Sivkova dipped under that mark three times – 7.41 in the heat, 7.42 in the semi-final and 7.41 in the final.

“I did not expect it at all,” said Sivkova with a smile. “When I ran 7.41 in the heat and my coach said it was the Russian record I just could not believe it! The first thing I did after the final was call my mother. She almost cried from happiness.”

Though she admires the 100m and 200m national record-holder and 2000 Olympic 400m Hurdles champion Privalova, Sivkova has a different idol. It may come as no surprise that she wants to be like the fastest man on the planet, Usain Bolt.

“He is just so cool!” she said. “I watched a lot of his videos on Youtube and try to copy some technical details. My coach also helps me to analyse his style. I like everything about Bolt – how he runs, how he celebrates. He is always so relaxed.”

Bolt was the World youth champion back in 2003. The next big goal for Sivkova is to try to win the World Youth Championships in Donetsk. She has already ran 11.67 outdoors this year and hopes to improve on that in Ukraine.

“This is going to be my first international competition, so I am a bit nervous,” she said. “Now I try not to think about it at all. Otherwise I would get too frightened and would not be able to perform my best on the track.”

Aside from athletics, Sivkova is also a talented artist. Her sporting talent was initially spotted by athletics coach Ruslan Sidorenko in kindergarten, but after a year she left athletics and went to arts school. Fortunately she soon realised that she liked athletics more than anything else and focused on that instead.

“I sometimes draw when I’m at school, but it is not serious,” Sivkova says. “My favourite subjects are biology and maths. I have to pay special attention to biology actually, as it is one of the entrance exams to enter the Sports Academy.”

Indeed, if the quality of her academic results is anywhere near that of her performances on the track, Sivkova will surely pass with flying colours.

Natalia Maryanchik for the IAAF