Friday, July 5, 2013

Zhenya: A role model for RG and for life

In my previous post, I discussed why Zhenya is the Greatest Rhythmic Gymnast of All Time.  Her talents extend well beyond the gym, however.

First, she’s artistic. I already wrote about her artistic talents and love of painting earlier.
In addition, she is quite good at embroidery: in this video, Vera Efremovna mentioned that Zhenya got really into embroidery at some point and embroidered a picture of the Madonna for her (see 39:00).
Second, Zhenya is studious.  I already discussed her intelligence in the previous post, but it seems that Zhenya likes to learn and loves to read.
For example, from an interview after the Olympics:
- In your life, gymnastics in first place. And in what place is gymnastics for the mind? Do you like to read books, who your favorite author?
- I try to read books.  First of all, it is useful for the brain (laughs).  Although up to the fifth grade could not stand to read, it was a burden.  Then I became interested again, thanks largely to the efforts of my teacher of Russian language and literature.  I like Oscar Wilde, it was interesting to read the "Three Musketeers" by Dumas.
So not only is Zhenya physically talented, but she’s also artistic and well-educated.  She’s got it all, brains, brawn and beauty!!


If another girl had Zhenya’s talent, success and good looks, you could easily imagine her becoming a self-centered diva who thinks she’s better than everyone else and demands special treatment.  (It happens with prima ballerinas all the time!)

And yet—amazingly!—Zhenya is not like this at all!  At least as far as I can tell.
(She shares well with others!)
Ul, Olga, Ksenia, Zhenya in Korea in 2011
I already wrote about how Zhenya’s coach, Vera Efremovna Shtelbaums, called her “Mother Theresa” as a child because she always would help others.
Here's another similar quote:
Shtelbaums told with a smile that Zhenya was nicknamed Mother Teresa in the sport school in Omsk.
- She is indeed very kind and always tries to help everybody. Earlier there was a cramped changing room in our school, and because there were a lot of children they always mixed up boots and caps. It happened that I looked for Zhenya: “Where’s Kanaeva?” and heard in response: “She helps babies to sort out with boots.” And if I fall ill, I don’t need any doctors. Zhenya immediately rushes to a chemist’s, carries a heap of medicine: “This is, Vera Efremovna, a cough remedy, that is a headache remedy.” I laugh: “Zhenechka, you’re my emergency.”
My favorite “generous Zhenya” anecdote pertains to the rooming situation at Novogorsk.  Since Zhenya was basically the #1 gymnast after the 2008 Olympics, she was entitled to a room to herself at Novogorsk, but she insisted on sharing a room with a gymnast from Azerbaijan (Zeynab Javadli), and Dasha Dmitrieva, so then there were three gymnasts crammed into a room for two!
See 19:00 in this video.

One happy family: Zeynab, Dasha D, Zhenya
I think this story illustrates Zhenya’s personality perfectly.  Despite the fact that she is the Greatest of All Time, Zhenya has remained extremely humble and modest.  Zhenya seems like she would never expect to receive special treatment because she’s an Olympic champion.
Zhenya signing LONGINES ad

And while she undoubtedly enjoys the perks of being a Russian RG star—endorsements, shopping for luxury goods, riding Usmanov’s private planes and yachts, and fabulous beach vacations—that never seemed to be her motivation for competing.  She never did it for fame or fortune, but purely for the love of the sport!
Zhenya at 2012 Olympics

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