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05 November 2013


The Azerbaijani rhythmic gymnastics school has firmly strengthened at the level of the leading ones in the world arena for the last years. A head coach of the national team Mariana Vasileva, who raised our team to the qualitatively new level, had rendered services to it as well.

Her gymnasts, both individual ones and within group teams, have steadily been coming back with medals from the European Championships in the course of the last five years.

She never seeks easy ways: compositions are distinguished with special complexity, and, therefore, they are remembered by judges and the audience, and met with enthusiasm.

Today, Vasileva celebrates her first anniversary – 5 years of work at the head of the country's national team. On the eve of this date, the Bulgarian coach talked about how life was treating her and how work was going in Azerbaijan, the changes occurred within the national team and her life over this period, as well as about her long-term plans.

"Mrs Vasileva, you have been leading the Azerbaijani national team for five years. There rather were more happy days than sad ones during this period. What have you succeeded to accomplish and what you have failed to realize?"

"You literally worry about everything in a coaching work. And, probably, the secret of our collective's success is that we work with all our hearts. During these five years, we have managed to do a lot, but there are also some moments that have not been completed yet. But this is work and there is nothing perfect. Five years ago, I was the head of the Azerbaijani national team consisting of five gymnasts. And, now, there are thirty four sportswomen competing for a place in the first team. And our collective numbers fifty people in total including a coaching staff. Responsibilities are certainly more as you have to be in charge of everybody. But, on the other hand, it's easier to work, as I am surrounded by the people whom I believe in and this is mutual. We have one common goal for which we work."

"Have these five years changed you in some extent?"

"Lots of things have changed. When I came to Baku five years ago, I was not going to live here. I thought I just came to help the team prior to the European Championships-2009 (she is smiling). But we propose, God disposes. At that time, my goal was to prepare the group team for a worthy performance at the European Championships to be held at home. I had thought cooperation would cease after the event. But five years have passed and I still work in Azerbaijan. It seems to me that I have been living here for all my life. So, a lot has changed within this period of time. My children, especially, my younger daughter Valeria, grew up as well. At that time, she was eight-year-old. Now, she is thirteen and everything in her life is associated with Azerbaijan. She went to school here, made friends, and, my husband also found a job he liked here. My elder daughter Siyana performs in the Azerbaijani national team in group exercises and carries the country's flag with proud."

"Of course, there are changes also in the work, as all of us are establishing the newest rhythmic gymnastics school in the republic in fact. It is not so easy, it was necessary to change methods and style of work in some points as the mentality of people in Azerbaijan and Bulgaria differed. The same I can say about traditions. There is nothing to do but change our approach. I think the girls switched over to my methods and I adapted to the Azerbaijani mentality too. And I like this work very much."

"Who and what have become dearer for you for this period of time?”

"You know, all that I have got at this moment in time – is in Azerbaijan. Except my mother and sister who are in Bulgaria. My friends and collective, and, in general, gymnastics - my life are in Baku. Most of my colleagues are also my friends, so, from twenty-four hours a day, thirty we spend together (smiling). Namely, they helped me to adapt and overcome a psychological barrier, as the first two years were very difficult for me. You know a half of me wished to return to Bulgaria very much, and, it was very hard for me to cope with this severance. Five years ago, my dream was to become a leading coach in Bulgarian gymnastics. However, my friends helped me to understand that you could feel good, not only in the country you were born, but also where you felt at home."

"How has Azerbaijan been changing together with you for these years? Could you draw some parallel between them?"

"That is the question! I visited your country first in 2007 and I had no idea of it before. And, when I was offered to work, I thought: " Oh my God, what will I do there?" It seemed it would be difficult. Azerbaijan has not simply changed for these five years, but, in my opinion, Baku become one of the most beautiful European cities. Each time when I come back from the competitions, I see some novelty in the city in my absence, it becomes more beautiful. President of Azerbaijan Republic Ilham Aliyev and First Lady Mrs Mehriban Aliyeva have certainly played a great role in transformation of the capital and the country in general. These are very open-minded and democratic people who do a lot for the state. I am proud of Baku's look."

"What have you learned while living in Azerbaijan? What would you like to change?"

"I would like to change a situation with a traffic jam, probably, this is a life issue for many of us. We do realize that it is impossible to do everything at once and the situation will change with the lapse of time. As we cannot achieve everything we want in gymnastics right away, it is also impossible to improve everything in the city at one stroke of a magic wand."

"As to myself, I have managed to change my character living in Baku. I became much more strict. Azerbaijan taught me to be stronger and to rise after you had fallen. It is very important to me. And I am very grateful to the leadership of the National Federation, its president Mrs Mehriban Aliyeva who believed in me and allowed me to learn by my own mistakes."

"You certainly have a lot of interesting stories accumulated for the years of working in Azerbaijan. Could you please share with the one especially remembered?"

"Generally, I can write a book on this subject (smiling). It is a separate topic and it is possible to tell curious episodes for days. But to be serious, at first, when the girls could not align themselves with anybody, it was very difficult to show that they were not the best ones in the world. When you stew in your own juice, you think that you are the best. But, when you represent the country in the international arena, you have to align yourself with the strongest ones in the world. The period, when we had just begun performances at large-scale competitions, it was both comical and tragical at the same time. You know there is also a psychological aspect: if a child realizes that he is not the best one at present, he can give up. Moreover, each parent thinks his child is the best one no matter what and how he performs. Therefore, it was difficult to convince the parents that their children had to work even more in order to improve themselves and achieve a result, as well as to convince the athletes themselves that they were able to perform better. We have already crossed the certain threshold for these five years and I think it will further be easier."

"I'll never forget an episode at the European Championships-2011 in Minsk, which just engraved on my memory. At that time, the junior group team reached the final, and we had to perform first according to the start list. I got ready the girls for their performance, they started to sing the national anthem of Azerbaijan in the tunnel leading to the hall. And, they were singing louder and louder. And, when they appeared on the floor I was confident that with this approach and mood the team would win a medal for sure. The girls have perfectly performed and won the "bronze"."

"Your children have been growing up in a different country, in a different environment for five years . Did they change in your eyes? In which language do they think and speak? With whom they are on more friendly terms?"

"We talk about it very often. And I can say: "Thanks to God I live in Baku!" As in many European countries teenagers' life develops in a quite different way. My daughter's peers have absolutely different way of life. But there are many advantages in terms of upbringing of rising generation in the Azerbaijani mentality. They are still children and it makes me happy."

"As to the language we speak at home, 60% of the Bulgarian and 40% of Russian languages. But children understand and speak Azerbaijani and this fact makes me happy as well. All this is in their favor. And, in general, a rising generation is more advanced than we were. Children have friends not only among sportswomen, but, they have their own fans with whom they communicate. All of this helps them to develop comprehensively."

"After five years within the national team of Azerbaijan, you probably think extremely globally. What is your plan for the following years?"

"Our objective is the development of gymnastics not only in Baku and certain regions but all over Azerbaijan. Several sections have been opened outside the capital for the last two years and they develop and bear their fruits. For example, a gymnast from Gusar became the medalist of the national championship. Moreover, as you know, the National Gymnastics Arena will open soon, and, then we will have an opportunity to select talented children from the regions and prepare them for the national team. It would also be good to have rhythmic gymnastics sections at every school. Of course, our plans include not only promoting of this discipline. We also intend to continue successful performances in the international arena. It is necessary to create such a pyramid where there is a succession of generations. If there is no base, it is very difficult to achieve results. We got evidence of that from our own experience and thanks to God that everything turned out well. But it was difficult both for children and coac


. And, now, we have to centralize the work. At the same time, now, we can take it easy as machinery is launched and a new staff will appear with a sufficient quota of regularity."

"When you started your work in Azerbaijan, the European Championship-2009 in Baku became the first official event for you as the head coach of the national team. And here again the continental championship at home. Probably, it is a kind of symbolic for you. What do you think of it?"

"There is nothing accidental in life. Maybe, I will work here for another five years. Besides, we should not forget also about the European Games-2015 and the World Championships-2019 in Baku which is a qualification for the Olympic Games-2020. So, we will work for the result."

"The current composition of the national team began to train under our leadership five years ago. When Aliya Garayeva decided to retire after the Olympic Games in London, there were some concerns. But we managed to retain our positions, and the youth had already made themselves known, having won the "silver" medals of the European Championship, Grand Prix and World Cups, and performed at the World Championships. Just imagine that 22 of our gymnasts have become the medalists of the European Championships for the last five years. They are all dear to me and we are - one family!"

"Thank you for the interesting conversation and congratulations once again!"