Polina Berezina sacrificed everything for the Olympic Games

Polina Berezina sacrificed everything for the Olympic Games

The Spanish rhythmic gymnast arrives at the Olympic event to get rid of her Tokyo 2020 thorn and will fight to win an Olympic diploma.

It's 10 A.M. Like every day, Polina Berezina walks out the door of the 'Joaquín Blume' residence, in the Madrid High Performance Center, with a smile. In a tracksuit, well wrapped up and with great spirits, she heads to Pavilion I, where eight hours of hard training await her.

He starts his day with a good thermos of coffee in his hands, headphones playing music to isolate himself from the rest. Both things cannot be missing in your daily life. Neither does the desire to improve oneself and achieve one's goals. The next? At least an Olympic diploma in Paris 2024.

Until reaching this opportunity, Berezina has not had an easy path. He has dedicated himself body and soul to rhythmic gymnastics since he was 7 years old, when his mother enrolled him in school in Guardamar del Segura (Alicante). Now he is 26, with many sacrifices behind him and the reward of having enjoyed his sport to the fullest despite having to fit the rest of the pieces of his life together.

«I have sacrificed everything and more to get an Olympic place. You don't spend as much time with your family, you see them little, maybe with your friends, you don't go out to party, you don't have as much social life and in studies you can't keep up with others, but you do it for your sporting dreams. «Rhythmic gymnastics has given me many more things than it has taken from me.»

Intensity from the first day defines rhythmic gymnastics. It has very little life and is much more of a slave than the rest of the sports. Those who practice it usually finish their professional career, generally at the age of 30 at most.

«From a very young age you get fully into it and train for many hours because you have to work on the artistic part, the apparatus, the music. Everything requires a lot of time and it's all very intense because you start early and finish early too,» explains Polina, already the oldest of the gymnasts of the national team and the CAR of Madrid.

Berezina's sacrifice throughout her career covers all aspects of life, including nutrition: «Before they were very strict with the issue of weight, but now more importance is given to eating healthy so that your body can perform well.» and endure training loads. We work with nutritionists because if you don't eat well and don't give the body what it needs, injuries will occur."

The long days of training often leave gymnasts with no time to use their time to train academically, Berezina's other objective.

Polina, a student of Audiovisual Communication at UCAM Murcia, wants to fulfill her dream of being a film or photography director. She demonstrates it with every step she takes while this report is being made. She directs the photographer to take shots, gives ideas and even makes it clear that she would already have a title for a film about her life because of the experiences she has lived: The darkness behind the shine. But the sports routine is making it difficult for him.

«The more you demand yourself in sport, the less energy you have to study. When I can I try to study, especially in the preseason, but when the season arrives you know that you have to focus a little more on the sport if you want to achieve great things.

Added to these difficulties are a series of strict rules that Polina must comply with at the CAR residence, from the established times for meals to the prohibition of arriving later than 2:00 a.m. on weekends and holidays in the case of students. of legal age, which limits the possibility of enjoying leisure like any citizen outside the sports world.

Such efforts are often not rewarded. The Tokyo Olympics were the great sporting blow that Polina had to go through. She stayed at the doors. And she is still hurting. It was her thorn… until now.

«I dreamed a lot about Tokyo, I was obsessed. She was really looking forward to it and I imagined that she was going to go. I got psyched that she was going to be classified and it was very hard. Until the competition started, I didn't believe it," she recalls with a certain look of sadness. He even states that this non-qualification jeopardized his continuity in rhythmic gymnastics: «I had doubts about whether to continue or not, but in the end I thought that two years later we had the World Qualifying Championship in Valencia, at home, and I don't regret anything because „In the end I have managed to achieve that Olympic dream.“

90 seconds. Minute and a half each exercise. It is the time that separates gymnasts from nothing to total success or goodbye. Everything happens through concentration. They know that one wrong move can ruin their years of effort. Berezina is clear that she takes this factor as a motivation to „do everything the best she can“, considering a competition of the stature of the Olympic Games as „a reward for all the effort of many years of work and sacrifice.“

Transcendental in the selection is Marta Linares, coach and psychologist: „You have to work a lot of psychology with them because in the end you are the one who lives 'in situ' their weak moments, their fears.“ Among them, due to her perfectionism, is that things do not turn out as she expects, which Polina herself considers harmful to her, but she also helps her „to continue learning and moving forward.“

And after all this effort PARIS. After 23 years, two Spanish representatives will compete in the individual form of rhythmic gymnastics at the Olympic Games: Polina Berezina and Alba Bautista. Their expectations involve overcoming phases until they reach their main objective: „Try to be at the top and fight mainly to advance to an Olympic final.“

In between training, Polina takes advantage of her free time by making plans with her friends and her boyfriend. Only she can talk to her family from a distance, since she is in Russia, where she comes from. Before she could travel there more when sport allowed it, now the situation due to the conflict with Ukraine has changed everything for the Berezina Ksenofontovas. With teary eyes and a broken voice, she recognizes that 2022 was her hardest year: „The most difficult thing I have been able to experience in rhythmic gymnastics is feeling alone. Even though I am surrounded by people, I have felt very alone.“

He doesn't like to talk about it. He does not want any more related controversies. She already had to face an ugly episode on social networks due to her Russian nationality. «I did a performance of Harry Potter and that is why my symbol is like a lightning bolt that I show to the public. In one photo it looks crooked and looked like a Z (symbol of the Russian army). People misunderstood it, they started to mess with me, to wish me dead», he explains even with teary eyes. Luckily, everything remained a misunderstanding after she clarified it with images and videos.

After eight long hours of training, 9:00 p.m. arrives and Polina Berezina, „super proud to represent Spain“ puts an end to another intense day. Like every day, she puts on her tracksuit again, puts on her coat, hangs her inseparable fanny pack from her and returns to Blume to have dinner and rest. In her dreams the Paris Games.

Valencian hoops: Polina Berezina

While the stands of the Valencia Trade Fair pavilion roared unconditionally, tears filled the face of a gymnast, who had just confirmed her passage to the place that will see her fulfill the dream of her life, that of being an Olympic athlete. Possibly, that day, Polina Berezina gave her best individual performance since she began practicing rhythmic gymnastics. A discipline that she fell in love with from a very young age, when she landed in Guardamar del Segura, arriving directly from her native Russia. A country where she came into the world 26 years ago and in which „rhythmic“ is almost like a religion for the little ones, who join in practicing it in multiple settings.

In Alicante she found her vocation, despite those who did not see her as having the necessary capabilities to reach the elite. Therefore, on August 23, 2023, those tears shared with his family and friends, who accompanied him on this important day, not only expressed the happiness of closing the ticket to Paris 2024, but also, possibly, they did so with a load of contained rage dedicated to those deniers, who fortunately, failed in their forecast.

And Polina has been a resilient person. Able to overcome adversity and the different bumps that have come her way along the way, some of which have seriously jeopardized her continuity in this sport. Thus, after the attempt to be in Tokyo 2020, which also vanished in a cruel way, since he was left as the first reserve, he once again got up and sacrificed himself again in the search for a goal that would finally come true, in the most ideal of scenarios.

A setback that made her mature and be able to show the best that she treasures within her. An elegance and plasticity that she was able to show off with the clubs and the ribbon, which enchanted a jury that took her to a brilliant sixth place in the World Cup event held in the capital of Turia.

A year earlier, together with the national team, he had already won the bronze medal in this same competition, which gave the Spanish team a pass to the Olympic Games. A success, which added to the bronze achieved with the hoop in the World Cup in Greece, a little over a year ago, glimpses a Polina who will reach, free of pressure, the most special moment of her career on the Porte de la tapestry. Chapelle Are, in the French capital.

Furthermore, she will not do it alone, since she will be accompanied by Alba Bautista, who also ensured her presence on that hot summer afternoon, returning two Spanish gymnasts to the individual competition, after not doing so since the Sydney 2000 edition.

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