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04 Февраля 2012
Svetlana Abrosimova: From Connecticut to London
Despite the nickname "Russian Princess" that stuck firmly to Svetlana Abrosimova, she is not spoiled by her easy victories. She became Champion of Russia (2005-07, 2009-11), Champion of the Euroleague (2005, 2007) and WNBA Champion (2010) due to extreme hard work. During her career she has changed a number of ambitious teams, overcoming various obstacles and achieving all sorts of goals.

On the court she’s always focused, motivated and ready for basketball battles. Her face shines with determination, inspiring not only teammates but also the audience. What’s more incredible is that this impression comes across equally well on the television screen! However, harshness and brutality is just for the competition. From the very first seconds of any conversation giggly "Zvetochka" enchants you with her persuasiveness and a friendly tone. She told our special correspondent of beckyhammon.ru news website that she wants to write a book about all behind-the-scenes details of women's basketball. She also confided to us some funny stories about her childhood pranks and shared her dreams!

- Are you going to play in WNBA?

-I probably will. I'm not sure about the 2012 season because it coincides with the Olympics but, generally speaking, I have no intention to end my career.

- If you were offered U.S. citizenship and the opportunity to play for the U.S. when you studied at Uconn, would you agree, or not?

- I wouldn’t because I’ve been playing for the Russian national team since I was 14. I am Russian. If I was born in the U.S. or went there at a very young age then I’d consider such a proposal. As it is I’ve never thought of playing for the American National Team

- What has surprised you the most during your first visit to the United States? What American stereotype about Russians do you remember and how did you cope with the language barrier?

- First time I went there to study at the University, and, of course everybody asked me "Do you have TVs?", "Do you drink anything other than vodka?", well, the usual. Everyone thought that we still live in a communist country, that everything is bad, that we have to queue for food, and that we are poor and miserable. As for the language barrier it was a bit hard only when talking with young people. Adults have a more understandable English but my peers often swallowed the whole phrase when speaking. First year I sometimes just smiled in response because I didn’t understand. I had to learn, it was difficult, I worked for hours.

- Had you had much experience of English before you went there?

- I entered the University, which means I passed the SAT test, but I didn’t speak very well. I could manage and I wouldn’t have died of hunger but seriously, of course, I didn’t have enough language skills.

- Are you trying to teach your teammates Russian, or to explain that Yekaterinburg has no relation to Siberia?

- I’ve already come to terms with everyone thinking that Russia is only Moscow and Siberia. I’ve tried to explain, but... there are people who are really interested, especially at first. When foreigners come here, they want to know everything, then eventually they lose interest. You only have two or three weeks ... What you manage to tell them while they listen stays there. Same about their Russian. First, they ask: "How do you say thank you, please, how are you doing?". And what they learn in these first two weeks they will remember for 5-6 years. There are people who take Russian lessons, for example, Sandrine studied Russian, and she can already understand and explain something. She can say: ‘I want another Coke’ in a restaurant in Russian. Actually, when somebody says "He's playing in Russia" (which today means that this athlete is really great) I feel proud because I’m Russian.

The best thing is to hear, "Oh, no, we are not good enough for Russia".

- Do you still feel this childish fear to screw up when your mother was sitting on the stands?

- Yes, of course. My mom is really great! She came to every game, never missed a single game when I was little. There was a time when I played in America - I almost didn’t see her. And now, when I'm playing in Russia, she always comes to see my playoffs.

- Tell us about your childhood, the first time you messed up, what you concealed from your parents, your first love, who taught you to ride a bike, did you believe in Santa...

- Ok ... first time I messed up... I remember we had a coffee table and my mother used to iron clothes on it sometimes. I was told to turn off the iron but I forgot. There was a big burn mark in the table. I was sitting there for a long time covering the scorched part with my hands. When they called me for dinner I just couldn’t walk away from the table. I put everything on this table - my toys, books, hoping my parents wouldn’t notice.

- What about your first love?

- No, I’m not telling, it’s a secret.

- I see ... Who taught you to ride a bike?

- When my elder sister was learning to ride a bike, she was 6 years older, I took the bike and just started riding. I adored my bike.

- Well, did you believe in Santa?

- I did but not for too long because once I saw my grandmother going into the kitchen and then quickly coming back dressed as Santa. In general, I believed in all those fairytales.

-You took part in the last Olympics. Do athletes have a chance to support Russians in other sports? If yes, then which do you prefer or maybe you have a favorite sportsman?

- It’s difficult because I can’t always do what I want. My schedule is very tight, you can’t be late for any event. Of course, when we could we went to see track and field, it was awesome, and fencing, oh there was a funny story. We were waiting for the fight of our friend Logunova. We got the tickets, came in but she lost in the first 10 seconds, and that was it. That was such a shame! Of course, I try to watch USA Basketball - it's very cool!

- I’ve seen fans vehemently supporting the opposing team and then running to ask the Russian team for autographs ... what do you feel when this happens?

- I can’t really say, it’s difficult. I always love fans. There are some people in America who annoy me. I think they are from LA.

- Are they the guys who hand you photos with their phone numbers?

- No, no, no, they cheer, ask you to come closer hold out their hands, but when you hold out your hand in return, they remove it and laugh. There is a group of nasty kids, and that’s the way they have fun.

- Your team is considered one of the most beautiful.

- (Smiling) Oh, here we go…

- Does it prevent you from doing your job as a basketball player?

- (Laughs) No, it doesn’t!

- How do you rate the work of the Russian Federation of Basketball? Can you compare it to the work of basketball federations in other countries? Is there anything you would like to see changed with how the RFB does its job?

- Comparing the work of our federation with European, I can say that we always have very good preparation for all competitions, the conditions for athletes are really good. But the Federation does not always do the same for club championship. The Federation should do more work in and on the Russian domestic championship. Clearly, now the championship is not interesting, there are no surprises, everything is decided by chance. I think they should either change it, or go away from the club championship and do as they do in America and focus on the Junior's teams and the National team. And if you want to cater for both then it requires much more enthusiasm and energy.

- There is no secret that sometimes the players are using dirty tactics on the floor and no action is taken against the winners. How do you think these actions affect the outlook on professional athletes?

- That's normal. We are all humans. There are players that you have known for a long period of time. You know what to expect from them. Yes, it is "unsportmen” like conduct, yet it is also part of sports. You just need to be alert

- To understand is one thing, but to do it yourself is another.

- I will not be offended, myself. I am sure that in my twenty years’ experience, that someone has crossed the line. You always understand straight away whether it was done accidentally or on purpose. There are accidents. Sometimes it seems I was hit on purpose, but I was not, but you know 99% of the time you are hit on purpose. I am not waiting for the moment, but if possible I will give one back to make sure they know not to do it again.

- In some sports athletes after their career move into amateur sports. Sometimes with a change of direction, such as from soccer to beach soccer. Knowing you as a person, leading an active life, will we see you in any amateur sports, such as streetball or beach volleyball?

- Haven't you heard we are going to take up curling!

- (Puzzled silence) No, I’ve never heard about curling ...

- The girls from the National team decided that the only team we can take on is the competitive curling because of basketball being a summer Olympic games.

- Train already?

- No, well, we have some acquired skills from basketball and the team... I'm an active person so ... Who knows? A little rest and then, perhaps, I’ll find something to do. But I’ll play streetball for sure.

- If you had the opportunity to delete one thing from your career, which one would you choose? And what experience do you remember with the greatest pride?

- Remove something, right? Probably the unfortunate defeats in the Olympics in Sydney, when I was younger, I was 20 years old and we lost a very disappointing quarterfinal. We had a great team! We were 2 points in advantage of the other team, but lost in the 4 seconds remaining and we were disqualified. It was a great opportunity, and I then, at the time thought that it was the end!!! We played with Zasulskaya, Sumnikova, Hudasheva – amazing team. It was their last year, and I felt for them and for myself, of course, it was embarrassing – we thought we had the Olympic medal in the bag and we lost for some stupid reason. Regarding the greatest pride… I do not know. There were many, I can’t choose.

- How do you feel about fan obsession? The fact that often, they lose interest in the game and only pay attention to a particular player, while the player is either on the court or on the bench, is it important for the fans to watch their idols with such intensity?

If a player is extremely talented and attract the attention of fans it is likely to happen this way. I don’t believe that people cannot love someone, who entertains them on the court. Of course there are some basketball phenomenon’s who play for one minute, but the fans keep on waiting for the player to do something funny or cool, and people love them because of it, therefore focus their attention on them. But most people love winners. For instances, Sue Bird and Candace Parker, when they first arrived here, the very well established fan club already knew who they were. Sue, for example, played against us a number of times before and we felt quite nervous before each game against her. The fans also know her for her performances in America. Therefore, it is perfectly natural for fans to focus on this kind of player

- In different cities in Russia there are creative and imaginative fans who unselfishly promotes women's basketball ...

- Yes there are!

…they write articles, post the games on the internet and actively participate in this process. Would you consider working in partnership with these fans and create, for example, a TV programme regarding women basketball in Russia in the near future? I believe the fans would be delighted with your cooperation.

- Of course! I think that no one cares about basketball in Russia, there used to be many programmes about this sport on TV which were taken off air. In an ideal world, yes, of course, I would love to get involved in such projects and I strongly believe that my contribution would be to bring people who I have known for a long time. However, to start creating these kinds of programmes is very difficult in our country. The reason being the channel NTV + Basketball doesn’t have any interest in buying NBA games, in this case what can I say?

- Before you were writing a blog, now you are active on twitter, I wonder whether you would be willing to write something more substantial, such as a book?

- I thought about it. But, I think, I'll wait until the end of my career before I reveal the stories which I know. There are things that fans want to know because most of them do not even realize what is going on in the locker room or what happens in our training sessions. I believe that if a sport person really loves sports, he or she would like to know some fascinating facts. But this is not just a dream - it's a real challenge for the future.

- That is, it will be something magical?

- No, it won’t be a "bestseller."

- In an interview, you said you prefer diving more than rock climbing, does this mean that sinking into something with your head is more important than to conquer the high mountains?

- I have never mentioned rock climbing before but somehow someone came up with this story. I like scuba diving but I am doing it less and less. I have already felt the thrill of diving and now I'm interested in other things.

- What kind of things are you more interested in now?

- I'm an active person in general. I want to continue windsurfing. I already have a certificate, but I would like to be a bit more confident on the board. I love boats, small yachts, and parasailing ... These are the things which I would like to do. So, when I am at the end of my career as a basketball player ... I’ll enjoy the water!

- Are you an impulsive buyer?

- Yes, I am. I am an impulsive person anyway. The phrase, "I have everything planned out" – is not about me.

- Something was written about you flying to Paris for breakfast, is it true?

- This was also a rumor, however, I am perfectly happy to fly somewhere to have dinner with a nice person. It has already happened to me.

- When you are out shopping is it easy for you to pay for your purchases without thinking about the money you are spending?

- I grew up in a very poor family. The way we dealt with money was: if we have it that’s great, if not it is ok too. I am very happy that now I have the opportunity to help family and friends. I'm not in any way tight with my money, but at the same time, of course, over time, I understood the value of money, and when someone buys, say, a designer bag, in my mind there is certainly an idea that the money could have been spent on something much more useful or beneficial . I think it will never go away, no matter how much I earn.

- Periodically basketball for UMMC holds a beautiful photo shoot, is there any desire on your part to try a career as a professional Model?

- It is good that they conduct such photo shoots. We need to develop women's sports, show that it is quite feminine and beautiful.

- Would you agree to be photographed naked for a magazine, as Taurasi did?

- For me, this topic is closed, naked - definitely not. However, we did a photo shoot for the National team recently.

- One more?

- Yes, we did ... Just wait, it’s coming soon! But a model? No, I'm not interested, I don’t think my age is suitable to become a model now. If I was younger, I might think again and consider it.

Photo: Pavel Zubkov
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