SAMBO Style. The Zhukovets sisters

Personalities
11 February 2016 Sergei Grishin

Belarusian SAMBO wrestlers Kristina and Diana Zhukovets not only successfully participate in major SAMBO competitions for their country, but also look great. The FIAS website invited the sisters to a photo session in a Minsk studio, and then bombarded them with questions. Here's how it went.

FIAS: Well, the photo shoot is finished. What were your impressions?

Kristina: This is our first photo shoot ever. A lot of new and interesting things. We felt kind of inhibited at first, but then we managed to open up and enjoy the process. I'm glad they filmed us together — I don't know how I would have behaved by myself.

Кристина Жуковец

Diana: I would have felt embarrassed, I guess. I'm still in shock! It was our first photo shoot, everything was strange, but REALLY interesting. We had to listen to the photographer, pose in different ways, smile a lot ... We learned a good lesson for the future — how to behave in front of the camera.

Диана Жуковец

FIAS: Did you prepare for it? Did you learn how to pose?

Kristina: I decided not to prepare...

Diana: ... I watched something on the Internet, especially videos of models walking on the runway. And the day before the photo shoot, I fooled around a lot in front of the mirror and entertained the girls who live with me at the training camps.

Диана Жуковец

FIAS: Did the photo shoot make you want to leave sports for modeling?

Diana: I wanted to become a sports model, to combine this activity with sports. Why not?

Kristina: We both agreed — we wanted to do this.

FIAS: How does a photo shoot compare with SAMBO workouts?

Diana: I think the workouts are easier — mentally easier. Physical training for SAMBO is harder of course ...

Kristina: I wouldn't say that. Just try to stand for hours in different positions in high heels, to keep calm and still smile at the same time. I still have a smile stuck on my face. It's like it was stretched on my face and stayed there. We smiled and laughed for the year ahead.

Сестры Жуковец

FIAS: Diana, you had an operation on your foot just before the photo shoot, is that right?

Diana: Yes, I had an operation for a torn medial meniscus. I had surgery at the Minsk Center of Traumatology; they cleaned up everything, and now I'm recovering. I exercise on an individual schedule, so I spend a lot of time at the gym, but with light loads.

FIAS: Kristina, you're probably more worried about your end-of-semester exams at university.

Kristina: Yes, I'm in my second last semester I'm studying at the Maxim Tank Belarusian State Pedagogical University for a degree in physiotherapy. But I should add that I'm not really planning to work in that field. I see myself as a coach, and I think the knowledge I've gained will be useful in the future in one way or another. Like therapeutic massage — if my students need it, I'll give it to them.

Кристина Жуковец

FIAS: Do workouts, training camps and competitions interfere with your studies?

Kristina: I'll say! But I have my priorities, so I have to catch up with my studies. I usually have to make up for a whole semester — I show up on time for all tests and exams no matter what. But students have fun from semester to semester.

FIAS: Diana, tell us about your academic achievements.

Diana: I'm in grade 10 at the Bobruisk State Olympic Reserve High School. I'm afraid I also have to miss a lot of classes because of the training load, but the teachers are helping me out: they give me lessons for independent study. So I always take books and notebooks to all training camps and competitions.

Actually, this kind of study is even harder, because you have to learn everything without explanations from teachers. But my average grade is 8 out of 10. After grade 11, I plan to spend another two years at my school to get vocational training. Then I'll probably follow my sister and go to Maxim Tank University.

Диана Жуковец

Kristina: They're already waiting for her there: they've been asking me when my sister's coming. When Diana won at the World Championship among Youth and Juniors in 2015, they congratulated her on the radio. We heard a familiar name at the university, and they began to ask me what her plans were, where she planned to study, and asked me to bring her to our university.

FIAS: Since childhood you've tried music, SAMBO, and art school... What were your favorite and least favorite?

Kristina: I also took dance lessons for a while. I hated them. I thank my parents for letting me drop that. But they told me to stay at the music school to the end.

Diana: Nothing helped, not even tears. I really disliked piano lessons I wanted to go out for a walk, to run around with the boys, and my mom wouldn't let me, she made me practice. She always told me: "Someday you'll remember my words and thank me." And it's true — I often thank her now for putting her foot down, so I was able to finish music school. Sometimes your mind is restless, or you're unsure about something, and you sit down and play — and you calm down right away.

Сестры Жуковец

Kristina: Some people say we had a difficult childhood because of this, but I don't think so. There's time for everything: for sports, music, school, to go out for a walk and read a book for pleasure.

Diana: By the way, when I was as kid I wasn't interested in playing dolls with girls or spending all my time doing my hair, putting on makeup and things like that. I liked to play catch, hide and seek and soldiers with boys. It's much easier to talk to guys, so I knew quite a lot of guys as friends.

Диана Жуковец

FIAS: What interested you the most?

Kristina: After grade 7 I had to decide whether to go to a music school or a sports school. My parents asked me where I wanted to go. I told them I wanted to go into sports. Music is just for my own pleasure.

Кристина Жуковец

Diana: I took a test in grade three at the music school, and a teacher from the Regional Conservatory came to us. She listened to me and said I should study at the conservatory. I told my mom right away: "I'm not going there!" Mom knew how I was doing at home and realized that away from her care, I wouldn't practice music. SAMBO and Judo are much closer to me — I don't even understand how other people live without it.

Диана Жуковец

FIAS: SAMBO isn't the most obvious choice for girls.

Kristina: It's totally different from weightlifting. Women's SAMBO is a beautiful sport. I don't know why some people say it's not for women.

Diana: Even though I chose sports, after graduating from music school in piano, I wanted to learn another instrument. It was a choice between the violin, which I love because of the artistry of Vanessa-Mae, and the guitar, which is always good in a crowd. I chose the guitar, I learned it, and now I'm teaching my older sister.

FIAS: Do you take your guitar with you to competitions now?

Diana: This summer, my teammates suggested that I take my guitar with me to training camps. I brought it with me, and the coaches found out and told me: we're going to have a meeting, so bring your guitar. I thought they were joking, so I came without it. They looked surprised and with the words "song in the studio," they sent me to the hotel for my guitar. As a result, all of us — athletes and coaches — sat around and sang songs together. You can't just do sports, you need to develop in different areas, at least for yourself.

Сестры Жуковец

FIAS: Who wants to be like who? The younger sister like the older sister or vice versa?

Diana: It's both. When Kristina first started going to competitions abroad, it was like she'd flown into space. I wanted to be like her, I thought she was the best. And when she won a gold at the World Championship among Youth and Juniors in 2010, she became like a goddess to me. Back then, I thought I would never be able to achieve this — that they would play the national anthem in my honor. But we always worked out together, and Kristina practiced her holds on me. I also watched closely how she performed and trained; I learned by watching her, so to speak.

Сестры Жуковец

FIAS: Do you often fight at home?

Kristina: The two of us usually fight with our mom at home. On the national team, it's like the trainers want us to put together, so that we push each other, but they still try not to do it. We give it everything we've got: if we love, it's from the heart; if we fight, it's also from heart. We can almost come to blows. This won't affect our relationships in the future, but if some injury happens, we'll blame ourselves.

Diana: I wouldn't want to fight against Kristina, because there might be an adrenaline rush, and I wouldn't want to fight full force against my sister. Once, after a long break, they sent us together to training camps in Staiki, and away we went. We fought like there was no tomorrow, and had a hard time stopping. So we try not to do it, because we care about each other.

Сестры Жуковец

FIAS: What do you mainly argue about?

Diana: We argue for no reason! When we're together for a long time and give each other a lot of attention, after a while, it can turn into strange arguments. Most of the time, it's still playful — we grip each other on the mat and start to beat up on each other. But we make up really quickly, and no matter what Kristina says, I'm the first to compromise. If mom says, "Shut up!", we also calm down right away.

Сестры Жуковец

FIAS: You both have another sister — the youngest. What is your relationship?

Diana: She has a very interesting and unusual character. She's a nice, sweet kid, but kind of cunning and incredibly smart. The way she talked when she was only 2–3 years old! She controls Dad in a way the two of us and Mom can't.

Kristina: She's "Daddy's little girl", as we call her affectionately. Diana and I look like our mom and dad about equally. But our younger sister looks like Dad. And he loves her like crazy.

FIAS: You have an incredible sports family. Your mother is a world-class SAMBO referee, and your father is an experienced SAMBO and judo coach. Are your parents an example for you?

Diana: Absolutely! Dad is an example of a real man, who makes a promise and keeps it, and of course he will always stand up for us. He loves us all like crazy — we feel it, see it and know it. Mom is always around to help us, we're totally surrounded by care. We have a really happy family! Our parents are an example for us in sports and work. We're always together at home and at competitions abroad.

Сестры Жуковец

FIAS: You said your father was an example of a man for you. Daughters usually look for a young man like their father ...

Diana: It's true, the first man for daughters is their father. He's an example for everyone, and I'd probably say for both of us, so consciously or unconsciously, of course we're looking for a man like Dad. A boyfriend or husband should be athletic, someone you can rely on and who would never abandon you, and also be a family man who loves his wife and children.

FIAS: Have you managed to find someone who meets these criteria?

Diana: No!

Kristina: In my case, I have a boyfriend, we're studying together in the same class. Earlier we lived in the same dorm, but now we live in different ones. It's all about having a personal life.

Кристина Жуковец

FIAS: Diana, will you look for a soulmate on the SAMBO mat?

Diana: The main thing is that he's an athlete; it doesn't really matter which sport. He could be a swimmer, a SAMBO wrestler, a judoka, or maybe even a weightlifter. But ideally still someone from the world of martial arts. Especially since I plan to be a coach in the future, and I'd like my husband to understand and share my interests. It would be nice to meet someone at training camps or competitions. I'd like him to be tall — 185 cm or more — and pumped, and at least we'd have common interests thanks to SAMBO.

Диана Жуковец

FIAS: Is having your parents at competitions more of a plus or a minus?

Diana: Personally, I go to most tournaments with my dad. He knows me, and I know what he'll tell me before, during and after the fight, whether I win or lose. But when I go with my mom, I'm always ashamed to lose or fight badly, so that she's ashamed of me. Mom's colleagues watch and judge, and then I understand that there'll be a discussion. So it's really difficult psychologically. But at the same time, when my mom is nearby, especially when my parents are together, it's incredibly helpful.

Сестры Жуковец

FIAS: Would you say you and your sister love each other?

Kristina: Everything we say to each other will always be gentle and kind. Even if we call each other a cow or a horse, it's sincere and affectionate. I love to call Diana Dragonfly, or Busya, Musya and so on.

Diana: I became Dragonfly for one reason. We were out shopping, and I liked some pale purple sunglasses. I tried them on, and my eyes looked like a dragonfly's in them. Kristina still calls me that.

FIAS: Where do you spend most of your time together?

Diana: We haven't seen much of each other recently, so the best thing is to be together at home with our parents. My favorite place is in the kitchen, chatting over a cup of tea.

Сестры Жуковец

Kristina: If there's a chance for me take a bus to Minsk or go on a trip with Diana, that's also a great way to spend some time, and you can't refuse. We're really connected to each other, and if we don't see each other for a day or two, I want go back. We run to each other, hug and kiss, and after a quarrel we make up.

FIAS: What is your relationship with social media?

Kristina: I used to be everywhere on all social media. My favorites were Facebook and Vkontakte. Now I've deleted my profile from everywhere, and only use Viber. You can subscribe to a group, watch the news, browse interesting posts, pictures, photos ... I sometimes throw in my own photos, but without being extreme.

Сестры Жуковец

Diana: She loves to photograph food! Especially something she made herself. Our generation lives in the age of social media, so of course I'm on them. Not because I have nothing to do. It's just a good opportunity to keep in touch with people you can't go for a walk with. Especially they're athletes from other cities and countries that you met at training camps or competitions.

FIAS: Has SAMBO rescued you in real life?

Kristina: Everyone knew from childhood that I did SAMBO, so no one even tried to touch me. Do you know how SAMBO helps? It gets rid of unwanted "admirers". When you meet someone, they usually ask: "So what do you do?" When you say "SAMBO", they immediately say: "Sorry, we made a mistake." But the right guys are well aware what kind of sport it is, so there are no problems with them.

Сестры Жуковец

FIAS: What are your plans for sports now?

Diana: I don't think I'll be returning to elite sports anytime soon. Of course I'll to try to recover, but I'll probably miss all of the key training camps. Right now, everyone's telling me, and I know for myself, that health is the most important thing. I have to improve it in order to return to elite sports.

Kristina: Right now I'm training hard for the Open SAMBO Championships for the prizes of the President of Belarus. It's the qualifying round for our team. Whoever wins first place or higher goes to the European and World Championships. The competitions should be really good this year. A lot of SAMBO wrestlers from different countries will be coming. We have to be ready for a real fight!

Сестры Жуковец

FIAS: Tell us about your achievements in SAMBO.

Diana: My best year was 2015. I became a European and world youth SAMBO champion.

Kristina: The most vivid and memorable experience for me was the 2010 World Championship among Youth and Juniors in Georgia, where I won a gold medal. I didn't think I could do it. Later, I won prizes at European and World Championships, and I was first in the 2012 World University Cup in Kazan. My best recent result was third place at the World SAMBO Championships in Morocco.

Кристина Жуковец

FIAS: What is your sports dream?

Diana: Probably every athlete's dream: to qualify for the Olympic Games and to be on the podium — preferably at the top. Ideally, I'd like SAMBO to became part of the Olympic family, and be able to win a medal for our favorite sport.

Kristina: We hope SAMBO will be included in the Olympic system. Of course, I really want to go to the Olympics. It really is the most important goal for every athlete. Not everyone gets there, but it's a great incentive! You have to win in Europe, then the world, and each time you realize that you're a step closer to the Olympics. Of course, everyone dreams of becoming an Olympic champion. God willing.

Сестры Жуковец

Photos: Valery Kartul



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