Irina Viner: The secrets of victory
We managed to look behind the veil and find out how masterpieces are created. Being afraid of getting into Moscow traffic jams, we reached our destination before the appointed time and found ourselves in the temple of sports at the time of the ritual. There were a high transparent dome, pleasant music, and unearthly young beauties defying every known law of physics through exercising rhythmic gymnastics. It took us some time to find Irina Viner. She worked magic when training her girls, and we saw that with our own eyes.
“Why do you get nervous? Throw the hoop forward with your leg. Do it calmly. Then turn around and catch it with the other one”, she said to her student.
We were puzzled. It seemed impossible to do it using one’s legs in such a short time.
“Now throw it with your hands. Don’t you see how easy it goes? Legs or hands, it doesn't matter. Nice! Now you did it”, continued Irina Viner.
It was real magic. After her commands, young girls performed all the gymnastic tricks perfectly. It seemed like we were in Hogwarts with hoops flying in the sky and returning to the girls’ hands and the young beauties doing impossible things. Once there was a difficult exercise, and the gymnasts had some difficulty in repeating it. However, after discussing and exercising it with their coach, they performed it at least 30 times. They did it again and again trying new strategies. And finally everything was done perfectly.
This was the sixth hour of their training. We couldn’t help being surprised. We had a completely different picture of this process as the following: Irina Viner at times visits her gymnasts and checks how they exercise, makes her comments and leaves. But, in fact, we were wrong. She provided the girls with laborious training that lasted many hours.
When we came closer to Irina Viner we were fascinated by her beauty and looking young. Unfortunately, TV screens do not convey the full power of her charm.
She joked she was 188 years old after hearing our compliment. However, she made so much that even a 300-year-old person could have fewer achievements. In fact, Irina Viner is a person holding victory in her hands for 20 years. It is worthy of the Guinness World Records. Especially if considering that most of her foreign colleagues have another system of training gymnasts. They are in charge of either one type of exercise, or one or two gymnasts. Irina Viner preparing a team on various exercises is unique in this case.
When you watch competitions on TV, you genuinely admire the grace and flexibility of representatives of other countries, the complexity of the elements being performed. But the performance of Russian gymnasts is truly an amazing show. This can be compared to watching a movie. Sometimes you watch a movie and think how well a certain actor plays, but a real miracle happens when you forget that watch a talented artist and begin to sincerely empathize with the hero of the film.
We managed to interview Irina, and the first question was the following:
– Irina, how do you manage to breed such characters in your gymnasts?
– In my opinion, all people who write music are engaged in creativity, fly into space are receivers who get information from above and must transmit it. Why am I still sitting in this room? Because I get information, images. First, you have to enter the stream yourself. Then you carry the children there in order they could feel this too. One needs great love for music, one needs to understand it. Let's say, now we have chosen an aria about mother performed by Pavarotti. This is a very serious music. Firstly, due to the topic of mother, secondly, because it is Pavarotti. I must train the gymnast so that she believes in this story. And then her performance will cause tears in her eyes, because she will think of mother. It can not be done by every gymnast and every coach. Performance of another sportswoman, world champion, was accompanied by the song Unharness the Horses, Guys. The aim of that performance was to express valor. Creating an exercise devoted to Paris, I made the gymnast study through the Internet the Louvre and watch a famous painting by Eugene Delacroix called Liberty Leading the People. We did a group exercise under accompaniment of Islamey by Mily Balakirev. We had to explain to the girls that we are Eurasia, this is our story, and that we have roots in different regions. We even performed our exercises with the world famous rap playing in the background. Our audience just exploded with applause. Sportswomen should be able to be completely different. At the Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, we made a mix starting with The Rite of Spring by Igor Stravinsky and finishing with Georgy Sviridov's Time Forward. Thus, we showed Russia in development, from the wild one to the cosmic one. Of course, most Brazilians in the hall did not know this music, but they sat holding their breath. We won, of course. Yana Kudryavtseva performed under accompaniment of the Russian song called Horse. Of course, no one understood the words of this song, but it had so strong impression that the image was clear to all without translation. As a result, the most popular music in rhythmic gymnastics was the anthem of Russia, because it is heard in every competition, when our flag rises above the podium. Even Italian children know the Russian anthem in Russian and sing it. Journalists interviewed them when they noticed it. It turned out that young gymnastics fans listened to it so often that they learned the words. We are generally very well treated abroad. However, there are those who are dissatisfied with the constant leadership of Russian sportswomen. They try to create barriers for us, introducing formal limitations in programs, but we have learned to overcome them.
– It is a huge physical, intellectual and spiritual work to keep everything under control, put right accents, and encourage young girls... So, what is your source of energy?
– As everyone around me, I am surprised how I jump and exercise with my students all the time. The main thing, of course, is to find these magic words needed to be said, especially before important competitions. I do not know how I do it. However, then I usually experience ‘emotional hangover’. Words of admiration not only from high leaders who thank and shake hands, but also from ordinary people inspire me to keep fit. One day at the ceremony of awarding the prestigious prize, where there were all our famous singers and artists, the cloakroom employee saw me and exclaimed: “Ah, Viner is alive!”
That was a striking moment for me. I also worried a lot when I was awarded a state award Hero of Labour of the Russian Federation. Such a high rank is a very big responsibility. Especially, concerning the fact that I got it a year before the Olympics. It was so scary to think what could happen if I made a mistake. Then I didn’t manage to go to Rio de Janeiro. My mother was very ill. Nevertheless, I always sat in front of four monitors, watched my students’ performances, and at the same time took care of my mother. If I were there, I could not be in three places at the same time. But then I controlled everything, changed programs, corrected something. And as a result, we won.
– Yes, you won the Olympics. But then there was a change of generations of gymnasts. How do you feel about parting with those in whom you invested so much both in physical and spiritual way?
– My heart is breaking in such moments. Do you see those two twins on the stretch mat? They were considered ‘puppets’, gymnasts, who simply perform the elements without feeling their essence. However, when I stayed alone with them, they showed me another side of themselves. They absorbed information like a sponge. When the Swan Lake theme sounded, I said: “You must tell me this exciting story. Do you understand that you were betrayed? Show it.”
They turned out to be brilliant actresses. As a result, they both had two medals. In the finals, the first girl won the first place, and the other had the second place.
Everyone knows that Irina Viner is a strict but very caring mother of many children. But only few people know that she let her students live in her house. Once Irina Viner gave up everything and flew to another city to save a girl who was seriously ill. However, in this article we focus on our beautiful gymnasts, who by their victories and their brilliant performances form the image of Russian women.
As those who try to show the beauty and diversity of modern women on our web-portal - Global Women Media, we were interested in Irina’s point of view on this issue.
– Women all over the world are the same. I worked a lot abroad. I often communicate with my foreign colleagues, so I can judge of this. And the girls are also not too different. We train foreign gymnasts as well. By the way, we do it very well. Japanese sportswomen we trained recently almost beat Russian sportswomen at the World Championship. In fact, 12 of 24 gymnasts performing at the Olympics were trained in Russia. Another question is that in any country there are women who differ in their character and in their style of life. Someone chooses glamor, and this is also normal, why not? Actresses, models, and socialites bring beauty to the world. Each has the right to choose. Some choose being journalists, others become gymnasts, and still others are housewives. A very wise man told me: “To train an Olympic champion is not a greater merit, than to bring up just a good, strong and kind person.”
I absolutely agree with him. The mother's life is very happy. I always tell my girls: "If the school interferes with sports, drop out of school”.
After all, now you can get knowledge on the Internet. You can take distance-learning courses. Girls who do it also pass the state examination perfectly and enter universities without any problems. But when they get married and the sport starts to interfere with family life, do the opposite. Give up sports in this case. In my opinion, for a woman a family is very important.
– You head the Commission on physical culture and healthy way of life. What, in your opinion, is included in the concept of a healthy lifestyle?
– Going to bed early, absence of bad habits, sound nutrition. Unfortunately, nowadays we have many low-quality products. Sausage and meat harm our health. In addition, it is very important to be able to properly adjust to the right way of thinking. Our thoughts often exhaust us. Unfortunately, I don’t know how to meditate, but I need to learn. It shouldn’t necessarily be Indian yoga, every nation has its own methods of healing. Unfortunately, people seldom write about it and advertise some nonsense instead of it.
– Your recommendations work magic! What pieces of advice would you give to Russian women?
– Do your favorite activity. Do your job with pleasure. Do not complain about your challenges. One must approach them calmly, despite the fact that it is very difficult to face them in the beginning. My students helped me to overcome all challenges I had in my life. Girls understand that I demand a lot from them, because I want them to be stars in sport. Sometimes I am hard on myself. But I am the person who has opportunities, I must realize them all. I always tell my students that they must fully realize their talents. People who watch their performances on TV together with them want to be on the medal stand. My girls do it for those people, for parents, friends, acquaintances, for the whole country. This is a very big responsibility, but to fulfill one's destiny in life is the most important thing.
It was difficult for us to leave Irina Viner. We are looking forward to continuing this dialogue.
Marina Volynkina, Tatyana Vorozhtsova, Global Women Media news agency
Translated by Nikolay Gavrilov
Irina Viner is a Soviet and Russian rhythmic gymnastics coach, Doctor of Education, professor, president of the Russian Rhythmic Gymnastics Federation (since 2008), vice-president of the FIG Rhythmic Technical Committee, Head Coach of Russian Rhythmic Gymnastics (since 2001), Hero of Labour of the Russian Federation (2015), Honored Worker of Physical Culture of the Russian Federation (1997), and Honored Coach of Russia.
She trained a number of famous sportswomen among whom are Yanina Batyrshina, 1 silver in 1996 Olympics, Yulia Barsukova, 1 gold in 2000 Olympics, Alina Kabaeva, 1 gold in 2004 Olympics, Yevgeniya Kanayeva, 2 gold at the 2012 Olympics and 2008 Olympics, Margarita Mamun, 1 gold in 2016 Olympics, Yana Kudryavtseva, 1 silver in 2016 Olympics, and other distinguished sportswomen.
In 2016, she was elected to the Supreme Council of the party ‘United Russia’. In March 2017, Irina became a member of the Public Chamber, chairperson of the Commission on physical culture and healthy way of life.
Under her guidance, Russian gymnasts won 16 Olympic medals (10 gold, 4 silver and 2 bronze) during six Olympic cycles.
In 2015, she was awarded the Silver Olympic Order of the International Olympic Committee for special merits before the Olympic movement.