– Have you recovered after an injury that you got in London 2012?
– I started training in January. And when I started running and bounding, of course, I felt discomfort and niggles. Probably the joint just needed some time to settle. After a fracture there is always some callus left and you can feel it during the practice. But all the discomfort dissapeared in a moment. Anyway, I’m being philosophical when it comes to pain. We are humans, and we all get niggles here and there, either after vauling or after, say, gardening.
– What is your main focus in training at the moment?
– Vaulting. I still don’t use the full length approach – make two steps less. But in June I’ll start vaulting from the full approach. Now my goal is to jump my best heights from 14 steps. I’ve already cleared 4.60 from the short approach. And I did some sprtining, even ran the 100m under 12 seconds.
– Do you remember your first World Championships?
– Of course! It was the World Indoors in 2001, Lisbon. Post-Olympic season. I placed second. Lost on countback. Cleared 4.55 m. There was the outdoor Worlds that year as well. And I also placed second and also lost on countback with 4.75 m, that time – to Stacy Dragila.
– Have anything changed in your attitude towards your job, your rivals, towards yourself during those 12 years since your first World Championships?
– I can tell you what hasn’t changed at all. It is a feeling of responsibility for my actions and my performance. I work with a team of people. And I always bear that in mind. But the attitude towards what’s happening with me in my sport has definitley changed. I’m more reserved now, both about positive and negative things. So my victories and my defeats don’t blow my mind.
– This year you’ll have a chance to take part in the home World Championships. Is it inspiring or weighs heavily on your mind?
– It is a huge pleasure when you can have your friends and relatives cheering for you. The people that support me not because of my results, but just because it’s me. But of course there is some nervousness about not being able to fulfil people’s expectations.
– In Paris 2003 you won the gold with a cold and a fever. During the competition. weren’t you thinking that it was dangerous to compete in that state?
– There were no such thoughts. I just felt annoyed about getting a fever during such an important event. With all that competition’s adrenaline, you don’t really feel the illness. But after the competition it reminds you about itself. But once in a while I had to pull out. Like last year in Donetsk. I had problems with my achilles. So I pulled out after clearing the opening height. Actually I felt good during the warm-up, but the opening ceremony was too long and that pause wasn’t for good.
– What helps you to stay in the elite for so long?
– My mindset. Ambition, patience and passion. I was like that even as a kid. And I admit that I was gifted by nature. I am well coordinated, quick, it definitely helps to perform well. And I have always been a maximalist, I always fight till the end. If I ever underperformed, there should have been some serious reasons for that.
– You started competing at the top-level 13 years ago, at the Sydney Olympics. If we look at your rivals there, only Isinbayeva is still competing. Do you consider yourself a veteran?
– I do (laughs). Me and Yelena, we are like “the last of the Mohicans”. I am two years older than Yelena, so I am the “veteranest”. Terrifying! (laughs) Actually it just hit me. There were so many high-level competitions in my life, so many years. I felt differently, had different rivals, different weather conditions. I am aware of my abilities. And this experience helps me to be more smart and reserved about everything. I’m not trying to push myself to the limit getting ready for this season. At my age, there is no rush (laughs)