"No time to have a siesta"
Date: 12/2/2012 9:35 AM
Published by : Manuel Røsler

With the Olympic bronze medal for Valeria Sorokina and Nina Vislova in London, Russian badminton achieved its biggest success ever. The woman behind that success is Klaudia Mayorova. We spoke to the Russian coach in our "Women in badminton" series about the London Olympics, victories, barriers and she reveals to us who she finds inspiring.

What the Olympic Bronze medal from Valeria Sorkina/Nina Vislova means to badminton in Russia?

To win an Olympic bronze medal is nothing impressive in Russia as Olympic medals are won quite often and one medal more is to be honest … not a big deal. But to the badminton in Russia it means a lot. I could compare the experience I recently had to a long expected rainfall on the Savannah... When it finally happens, everything starts to bloom. This is what happened to badminton in Russia right now. You could humorously comment it that now we have “four years of peace" because we have financial support from our Ministry of Sport for the national team. However there is no time for a siesta and we need to work really hard. We all realize that during the Olympics we had a lot of good fortune but it favors those who are better and who work hard.

Can you describe how you experienced the London Olympic Games? It must have been an amazing feeling for you as well.

The Olympics in London were the second “Games” for me as a coach. The first one was in Peking with the Polish team. It was extremely difficult to deal with emotions, the euphoria that is present during a sport events like this and with those restrictions imposed by Chinese during Olympics. I for my part used all the knowledge and experience from that time while preparing the Russian squad. Unfortunately there were plenty of unpleasant surprises. In first place those were connected with the organization - but I am talking about the Russian Olympic Committe.  We've been to the World Championships in London one year before and thanks to that, we knew how the organisation part should look like and could avoid these sort of problems.

We couldn't feel the celebration of sport as we didn't stay at the Olympic Village and after the Olympics we were immediately sent back home. But the atmosphere in the stadium and on the streets was wonderful. Because of the four pairs being disqualified, I had extreme emotions about that. On one sidet was exciting that a chance to win the medal became quite real. But on the other side I was aware of the fact that as a coach, I didn't want to get the medal this way. It was extremely annoying for me. Then I resolved we are to do our job... and then everything suddenly appeared in bright colours. Everyone was exceptionally happy and it was worth to give people so much joy.

How much effort have you put into that medal?

I’m certain that the women's doubles category is one of the most challenging one. Because defense in the women's game is very good, they even defend men's attacks in mixed doubles - but the strength of women's attack is lower in comparison with the defense. That is why the game often changes into an hour and a half marathon which is not very entertaining to the audience. For me as a coach it is very interesting to observe how the girls make it out to score the point. And to this kind of effort, girls should be trained. For the last three years, we increased the training capacity by 200% and we still need much more in order to keep up with Chinese. Last year we focused on qualifications to the Olympics. There were injuries interrupting the training but the aim was accomplished with full determination.

During the Olympics we "put all the eggs into one basket", leaving all private matters aside. It was very difficult for my girls. But after the vacation and after the Olympics they said it was worth. Their financial status has been raised as well as their popularity which makes a big difference in Russia.

You are a long-time professional badminton coach, but have you been playing badminton yourself?

I've been involved in sports since my childhood; first it was swimming then figure skating. After having a serious knee injury, I left ice skating and during my school time, when I was 14, I started to play badminton. I lived then in Norilsk where winters last very long and are extremely cold: - 72 degrees and people spend their time in sports halls. After half a year of training I was the best one in the city and I went to my first competition in Krasnojarska and being there I knew that this is how my life is going to be. Soon bigger success came as I was a junior player which resulted in inviting me into the best Russian club of that time in located in Nizni Nowgorod. That was the beginning of my career as a professional during this period. I lived at my coach's house and I was training twice a day.

What have been your achievements as a player?

I became National Champion of the Soviet Union in U19 in all categories: singles, doubles and mixed doubles and still I hadn't been taken to the European Junior Championship. This is how it was then. It was not your level that decided but those who were in power. Yet I continued to practise. Later I won the National Championships of Russia, I was the medalist of the USSR Championships, the Champion of Spartakiad of the Nations of USSR. I took part in abroad competitions twice. First time it was in Prague in the Czech Republic where I lost the first round to the Dane Mogensen. Then in Pressbaum in Austria I lost with my partner Irina Serova in th finals of the women’s doubles to the famous pair Knap and Kloud from the Netherlands. And in 1991, I was invited by Piast Club in Slupsk and I moved to Poland where I was also a player but focused more on working as a coach.

What have been your biggest barriers and victories until now as a coach?

The most difficult task was to win the first medal for Poland. I was working in Słupsk in Chromik Sport School No. 16. The head master understood my determination and the need to work hard in order to win the medal on European Junior Championships level. That is why he allowed us to train in the sport hall whenever it was necessary. I was giving training during that time to about 140 players of different levels and different ages, from 7 to 18 years old. I was spending all my time there between 7:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m. Fortunately I lived in the school building and the sports hall was about 100 meters away. After three years of very hard work, Kamila Augustyn and Piotr Żołądek became the National Champions of Poland and after five years of my work there were 10 players I trained that were invited to Polish National Team and Kamila Augustyn and Przemek Wacha gained the titles of the National Champions in Poland in seniors being only 17 and 18 years old. Then I was offered to work as a coach of Polish National Team for juniors.

I insisted on further work and created training business plan for the next two years. Fortunately the President of the Polish Association of Badminton Jadwiga Sławska-Szalewicz was very supportive and she had a trust in this plan. I was being sent to training courses and to the world sport events in order to learn what to aim for. And then the successes came as we won the first three medals at the European Junior Championships in 1999 in Glasgow, Scotland. Przemek Wacha and Kamila Augustyn won the bronze medal in the singles and in doubles competition, Przemek Wacha and Piotr Żołądek reached the finals.

During this time I had some problems of private nature. As I was focusing mostly on training, the competitors, I did not spend enough time with my child. Then I got divorced from my husband, and my daughter was growing up in the sport halls and when we had the away game, competitors' parents looked after her. Those first medals for the country that raised me as a trainer, set the aims in my life. It was during this time I started to believe in myself as a trainer. I knew I was going to be a trainer till the end of my life and that badminton is what I like and what I'm going to live for. Then it was easier because there was success already.

Two years later in 2001 in Spała during the European Junior Championships, Kamila won the Silver medal in the women’s singles and in the doubles together with Nadieżda Kostiuczyk, they won the title. Later those players achieved more success on various tournaments. The most gratifying to me as a coach was when Przemyslaw Wacha entered the semi-finals at China Masters in 2007 and the victory by Kamila Augustyn and Nadiezda Kosticzuk at the Denmark Open in 2006. From 2006 competitors trained by me were winning the medals on a regular basis during the Europe Championships. In DenBosh in 2006, two bronze medals in mixed doubles were won Robert Mateusiak and Nadieżda Kostiuczyk and in doubles by Robert Mateusiak and Michał Łogosz. In 2008 in Denmark, Przemysław Wacha won bronze medal and Robert Mateusiak and Nadieżda Kostiuczyk won the silver in mixed doubles. During the Olympics in Pekin we reached two quarter-finals in mens doubles and in mixed doubles. And the Polish team I led, moved from 23-rd position to 11-th in the ranking of World Championship Sudirman Cup.

In 2009 I started to work in Russia in Favorit Ramenskoe Club. We won the European Club Championships and I was offered to work with Russian National Team. In 2010, the womens team from Russia won the silver medal during Europe Team Championships and during Uber Cup finals they entered the final eight. In 2010 at European Championship in Manchester, Ella Diehl won the bronze medal and Valeria Sorokina and Nina Vislova won the title. In 2012 during Premium Super Series in Korea, mixed doublse Nikolayenko/Sorokina entered the semi-finals. And finally we won the bronze medal in women’s doubles at the Olympics in London.

After the Bronze medal in London, what is your next ambition to achieve?

Of course I'm not going to stop after the bronze medal. I wish my players a regular success as well as winning Superseries and World Championship medals. I know that in order to achieve such goals you have to systematically build up the structure. And I started to build it in Russia. It's a big country and it has tremendous potential. Now they started to build a 8 courts training hall for the national team only. It will be possible now to train regularly on a top level. Next step is then to raise excellent coaches. A single warrior on a battleground is not enough to win the whole war. We need plenty of those coaches who could help and are here in order to form the structure. We are currently testing the training curriculum for coaches and badminton competitors of Russia ISIDA. This programme will allow the club coaches to observe training sessions of their players during national team training camps and to continue the sessions according to my plans when players are training in their clubs.

Do you have any recommendation to young girl’s players on how to achieve your very personal goal?

In order to become a good badminton player one must have a brave heart. The second thing is great coordination and mental endurance. Sport is difficult for girls because trainings do not allow them to have moments of laziness and keep them away from those boys of little value and that is why girls think they lose a lot. Just believe that it's worth to train because girls are then admired by those valuable persons and a discipline they get used to by regular training will help them resolve their life problems. And the rest... it depends on luck.

Last question: Which female athletes inspire you and why?

When I was 18 I took part in the competition called Literaturnaya Rosji 82' (today known as Russian Open), where international players from Denmark and England came to Moscow. Then in a training hall I noticed a girl who was running very fast over the court. I thought it was more than a minute per round and she did quite a few rounds. Then she got up and started a training session, playing against two boys and she did excellent. During next competitions I found out that she was Helen Troke (European Champion 1984 and 1986 from England), but I was shocked  that it's possible to train so much and so intensively. Since then she is a great example for me.

I also liked Mia Audina very much. She was mentally very strong. And today I admire Juliane Schenk for her hard work and determination; and Tine Baun for her sophistication on court. But the greatest inspiration for me is Yu Yang. This girl with a smile on her face would defeat anyone and she motivates her weaker partners. Passing by she would always say hello, she's great. And for the incident during the Olympics in London I blame the politics of coaches and judging from my personal experience, I know that players in such countries have no influence at all.

Thanks for the interview!

Photo by BadmintonPhoto

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