Ekaterina Barashchuk: From injury to victory

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Nizhnevartovsk climbing school student, now representing the Tyumen region, Ekaterina Barashchuk is the fastest climber at the European Rock Climbing Championship in Moscow. We asked the athlete several questions.

 

Text by Alexey Sergunin

Photo: Leonid Zhukov, Dmitriy Kornev, the archive of the interviewee

 

«I remember when I was 15 I came to Tyumen to prepare for another competition, and there was one athlete, much older than me, who told me: “There are athletes talented by nature, and there are capable ones, so Katya, talent is not about you,” reflects Ekaterina. – And probably, there is some truth in it; a combination of factors somewhat influences my career because I have never won easily.»

Barashchuk had never reached even the World Cup’s quarterfinals before the European Championship at home but won gold at once. How did it happen?

«I was in good shape before the tournament in Moscow. And I believe that after every defeat, there is a victory waiting for us, so I think this is an achievement that was waiting to happen.»

– Who among your family and friends immediately reacted to your victory? 

The first missed call was from my first coach Sergei Ivanovich. I called my mother: I shouted on the phone with joy, she shouted back, and no one understood anything, but everyone was happy. Sergey Sergeevich (current coach of Ekaterina. – Author’s note) hugged me, of course, and my little sister asked over the phone: «Katya, are you at least happy?» She didn’t even have time to notice my emotions after the performance because of my readiness.

In the final race of the last competition, Barashchuk ran against Elizaveta Ivanova from Sverdlovsk, as well as at the finals of the European Championship 2014 and World Championship 2018. And this third time, Katya was faster. Did they reflect on their past after another “tussle”?

«Lisa and I are the same age, and we often met in the arena. Moreover, we spent a quarter of this year in the same room at training events, and even before the start of the European Championships in Moscow, we slept in the same bed. We have a warm relationship; I am happy for her, she is happy for me, we didn’t bring up old times.»

– How has COVID-19 affected your life? Judging by Moscow’s results, the forced pause in performance has benefited you, hasn’t it?

You could say that it did. The most important change was the distance learning at the university and the immense amount of time spent at the closed training bases.

(Ekaterina’s first coach was Sergei Ivanovich Patuta, and now her coach is Sergeev Sergeev. – Author’s note).

– Who taught the European 2020 champion and what?

Both coaches are very competent and professional; I have great respect for both of them. Sergei Ivanovich made a little 8-year-old girl a World Championship winner, and Sergeevich molded her into a European Champion.

«Katya is talented, physically developed, and hardworking, at least when she knows what she is doing,” says Sergei Patuta. – But her main strong point is her character. She is quite severe. Of course, she is softer now, but she was very prickly, stubborn, and sometimes harmful as a teenager. But by setting the right goals and shaping herself as an athlete and a person, she has grown into a goal-oriented athlete who can control her emotions and knows what she wants in life.»

According to Sergei Ivanovich, the base for Ekaterina’s successful career was built at the Nizhnevartovsk climbing wall:

«It has a height of six meters, which means we have three parts of the speed climbing wall, no friction (homemade shields) and no overhang, – explains Ekaterina’s first coach. – So we had to compensate for that with a lot of climbing and OHP. I think this is paying off. Katya is used to difficulties and to overcoming them. She performed with a fever, intoxication, after surgery, after a broken finger, with a sore shoulder. And sometimes, it seemed that the more obstacles she faced, the more she resisted and revealed herself. In my eyes, she is a real fighter, a great girl, and a great athlete. I think that she will have many more opportunities to listen to our country’s national anthem at competitions of different levels.»

Ekaterina first defended her right to compete in all three disciplines:

«When Katya started competing for the Tyumen region, and I declared her for the speed competition, she immediately asked me a question: “What about the lead and bouldering?”» recalls Sergey Sergeev.

«I told her: “You’re pure speed climber now, the other disciplines will be detrimental.”

She was depressed, and at first, she was irritable, but then she calmed down and accepted it, and eventually, she even liked it. It took her six months to do it all. And after two years she said thank you. Since everything is decided by millimeters and grams in our challenging times, you need a narrow specialization to win.» 

Most importantly, Ekaterina is still working her way to the limit:

«According to our plans, Katya had to come up to the competition in Moscow with a better time than her 7.37 seconds in the final, Sergey Sergeyevich explains. – She understands that she didn’t finish as she was injured. Katya has a huge potential, and we can drop 20–30 hundredths without any problem. It’s important that she is extremely motivated and ready to move on. She will be warming-up at the European Championships, then the World Championships and the Olympics 2024.» 

– Katya, name the three most important events in your career to this moment.

First, of course, is the European Championship gold medal, the most important and valuable in my career.

In the second place, a fracture and rupture of my finger’s joint capsule in August of this year. This break helped me to move up to the next step.

In third place was the decision to move to Tyumen, to change the coach and team, which was not easy for me, but was necessary for my sport development.

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