Talking to RT Sport, Russian pentathlon star Uliana Batashova has opened up on the secrets of pentathlon and her ambitions as a designer, also describing her attitude towards revealing photoshoots.
At the Russian National Championships at the beginning of September, Batashova claimed three gold medals despite enduring a lengthy hiatus caused by the Covid-19 pandemic.
“It was very unusual to compete after such a lengthy break,” Batashova told RT Sport.
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“I was really anxious before the competition. But on the other hand, we have been training all that time, trying to find all possible opportunities to practice in lockdown. That’s why I was pretty confident that I would show good results.
“On the whole, I’m satisfied with my performance at the national championships, just I ran a little bit slower than my personal best result, but I’m happy to show decent results after the Covid-19 crisis.”
Modern pentathlon comprises five events: pistol shooting, fencing, swimming, horse riding and running. It is considered one of the most physically demanding sports with all five disciplines being held on the same day. Batashova, who is a world silver medalist in the team event, said that she has intense training sessions six times a week to improve all the skills required for a top-class pentathlete.
“Pentathletes train all day along, starting at 9am and finishing at 8pm with a small two-hour break at midday. We don’t practice all disciplines on one day: we have swimming and running training every day and rotate fencing and equestrian on alternate days. Some athletes polish their shooting skills each day, some don’t. Also, we include bicycle racing and body-conditioning routines into our training schedule. So, we’re pretty busy with a full day’s training,” the athlete said.
Horse riding is one of the most exciting events in pentathlon, where competitors are paired with horses in a random draw 20 minutes before the start. Talking about the unforgiving process, which can sometimes assign athletes to disobedient or stubborn horses, Batashova said that the final result will often depend on the rider who can “find contact” with their horse.
“Our Olympic champion wrestler Alexander Karelin once said, ‘Stay strong, because weak people are short of luck.’ That’s why you should be a strong athlete. I can’t say that the draw is some sort of a lottery. Yes, there could be some unexpected troubles with a horse, but this happens very seldom. Plus all horses chosen for the competition are basically of the same level.
“One day before the riding event our coaches can take a look at the horses, how they go through a bridle path being led by an equestrian. If a horse is resistant while riding and refuses to jump, it can be removed from competition. Sometimes it’s our fault that we failed to find contact with the horse. Anything can happen, we not robots after all,” the athlete said.
Batashova stressed that any ill treatment of a horse is strictly forbidden in modern pentathlon and an athlete who displays cruelty will be immediately disqualified from competition.
“Several years ago, a female competitor was disqualified from a local Russian event for brutally treating a horse. Sometimes a horse can be disobedient and doesn’t respond correctly to your cues. In that case you may not punish it, but scare it a bit by tapping your boot with a whip, so that it can hear the dangerous sound to realize it behaved badly. But some athletes really punish their horses sometimes going beyond the limits. So, yes, one girl was disqualified for cruel treatment. But of course this never happens at international events where top-class athletes are involved.”
The athlete revealed that she sticks to a special diet which cuts out meat and fish, but said she wouldn’t actively promote vegetarianism to her followers.
“I don’t eat any food of animal origin except for eggs. No bird meat and fish. I didn’t have any medical prescriptions to exclude these products. This was my own decision. We have many training sessions during a day and sometimes I started training feeling heaviness in the stomach. I didn’t recover from a busy day and always felt tired. So I decided to refrain from meat, it wasn’t difficult to do, by the way, I didn’t want to eat it. And I had positive effects after giving up meat, it was much easier to train and on the whole, felt much better. I have been sticking to this for two years already and everything is fine,” the 26-year-old explained.
“I think that everyone should decide what’s better for you. That’s why I’ll never talk about my food restrictions on social media. I’ll never promote it, because there are lots of kids and young athletes among my followers who could copy my habits and harm their health. I feel responsibility for that,” she added.
The world junior champion with model looks is often included in lists of Russia’s ‘most attractive’ female athletes, and admitted that she likes to receive compliments from fans, adding that she’d be happy if this helps to popularize pentathlon.
“I really don’t pay much attention to people’s appearance, soul and inner qualities are much more important for me. But it will be pleasant if people say that I’m beautiful. I would be happy if they notice me and learn about modern pentathlon because of me. I hope it will help to promote our unpopular sport,” she said.
Batashova has an active social media presence, including sharing pictures from professional photo sessions, and said that she’s not against revealing images, which she treats as a form of art.
“Actually, I think the human body, and a professional athlete’s body in particular, is esthetically beautiful,” she said.
“I look at female athletes’ bodies with pleasure, admiring their beauty. I don’t see any filth or vulgarity in nakedness. I treat it as art. We all admire Michelangelo’s David sculpture, these statues are also naked, but they are very beautiful. If some people see vulgarity there, it’s their own attitude and perception. The beauty is in the eyes of the beholder.
“There is an American magazine [ESPN’s Body Issue] which showcases world stars in nude and semi-nude photographs. Their pictures are very beautiful. I would accept an offer to take part in a revealing photo shoot, I see nothing bad in it,” the athlete noted.
The talented pentathlete said that her life has not been restricted by sport as she is taking first steps as a designer and sportswear maker.
“I had an idea to create something for pentathletes, because there are many sports-related accessories and jerseys, but it was impossible to find anything connected with pentathlon. And I also wanted to inspire young athletes who are taking their first steps in sport. So I decided to make sports diaries for pentathletes, where they write down their plans, goals and results.
“My friend who paints well helped me to design the covers for the diaries. I shared the pictures of them on Instagram and all the diaries were sold out. Then I came to the conclusion that we shouldn’t be restricted to the pentathlon and I decided to make diaries for fencers, swimmers, runners etc.
“In addition to diaries we also launched production of sports outfits. I’ve already chosen materials and created a design for a wide range sportswear and fitness clothing. Soon it will be available for purchase,” Batashova said.
The Russian champion complained that some people tell her that pentathlon “is not for women,” adding that she’s an athlete who manages to combine toughness with femininity.
“Pentathlon is a tough sport in terms of training and the load that we’ve been experiencing. Many people think that this sport isn’t for women. Rhythmic gymnastics and synchronized swimming are considered to be feminine sports, not pentathlon.
“Some critics say that it can badly affect your figure and develop some men’s qualities. I do think that you can be strong enough in sport and maintain your women’s nature at the same time.”