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Interview: Natalia Ziganshina (Russia)
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IG contributor Kaori Miyaura caught up with 2004 Olympian Natalia Ziganshina in her hometown of St. Petersburg.
Ziganshina at the 2001 Worlds

After winning the all-around bronze at the 2000 Junior European Championships in Paris, Ziganshina became one of Russia's most reliable senior gymnasts through the 2004 Olympic Games. At the 2001 World Championships in Ghent, she was a member of Russia's silver medal-winning team and won the all-around silver medal behind teammate Svetlana Khorkina.

At the 2002 European Championships, Ziganshina won gold medals with the Russian team and on vault, and the silver medal on floor exercise. Later that year she won the silver medal on vault at the World Championships in Debrecen, Hungary.

Injury kept her out of the 2003 World Championships, but Ziganshina returned in 2004 to help Russia win the team bronze at the Olympic Games in Athens. In 2005, she placed sixth at the Russian Championships in March and fifth all-around at the University Games in August. Her last international competition was the 2005 Trophée Massilia in France, where she won the bronze medal on vault. She finished 13th all-around and second with the St. Petersburg team at the 2006 Russian Championships, held in March.

Both Natalia and her younger sister, Gulnara, were coached by Viktor Gavrichenkov, who guided Yelena Shushunova to the 1988 Olympic title. Gulnara won the 2001 International Juniors competition in Japan and was a member of Russia's gold medal-winning team at the 2002 Junior European Championships. She is now a coach at their home club, SDYuSShOR No. 1, and Gavrichenkov works with the Russian national team at Lake Krugloye outside of Moscow.

Now 21, Ziganshina returned to training in January after taking nearly a year off from competition. She is now training seven hours a day at SDYuSShOR No. 1. She didn't specify her competition goals, but Gulnara indicated Natalia is aiming for the Russian Cup, to be held in Chelyabinsk in July.


Gulnara and Natalia
IG: Has your life changed since taking a year off?

NZ: My life has changed. It's gotten better. I became a more social person. I'd like to say that I've matured as a person.

IG: Which university do you attend?

NZ: I go to the P.F. Lesgaft Institute of Physical Culture. It is one of the most famous universities in Russia. I'm in the fourth class in the Athletic Trainer department.

IG: How are your friends and family doing?

NZ: My family members - dad, mom, Gulnara and our younger brother, Ruslan - are all doing well. We're very close.

My friends are also all doing well. I hang out a lot with Polina Miller, Yekaterina Kramarenko, Olga Azarkevich and Alexandra Shevchenko. When Viktor Gavrichenkov comes to the gym I see him as well.

Ziganshina trains ballet in 1998
IG: Thinking back, what was your best memory in all the years you have been in gymnastics?

NZ: When I was standing on the Olympic podium with a medal on my neck and a bouquet of flowers in my hands, the fans and spectators were yelling "Good job!" from the audience seats. This was the best moment I've ever experienced.

IG: How did you continue your training when times got tough? What was your motivation for staying in gymnastics?

NZ: Of course training was very hard and difficult. But I had specific goals and dreams. At that time, I had some coaches who helped and supported me in realizing my goals and dreams. My family was also around me, and they cheered me up and supported me.

IG: What do you think is the best thing about living in St. Petersburg?

NZ: My city is the best place for me. I am very happy that I was born in St. Petersburg. We have a lot of art museums and great places. It's awesome to walk around here at night, particularly because we have White Nights in June.

Read "For St. Pete's Sake," an in-depth profile on Ziganshina, in the March 2002 issue of International Gymnast magazine. To order back issues, click here.

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