Victoria Meshkova, a climber from Ekaterinburg, became a three-time European champion within just a few days. But it is fair to say that she had spent several years to reach this result. We talked to the athlete about life and sport.
Text by Alexey Sergunin
Photo: Leonid Zhukov, Nikita Tsarev, Dmitry Kornev, and interviewee’s archive
Victoria Meshkova was born on September 20, 2000, in Ekaterinburg. She is currently a member of the Sports Training Center of the Sverdlovsk Region team and competes for the Children’s and Youth Sports School of Mountain Sports in Russia.
Master of Sports, three-time champion of Russia in the lead (2016, 2017, 2020) and champion of Russia in bouldering (2018), three-time European champion-2020 (difficulty, bouldering, combined), holder of the Olympic license Tokyo-2021.
– Who of your relatives and friends was the first to respond to your victories in Moscow?
My dad was the first to call and say: “You got it! Well done!”
– Three gold medals at the European Championship-2020. Tell us, how did it happen?
It sounds like something unreal. It was surreal for me already to have gold at the European Championships in one discipline.
Bouldering was the first. The qualification and semi-finals, I climbed carefully, rationally dividing my energy and not shooting useless attempts; it was the fourth and fifth days of climbing after my illness. And my general stamina had not yet fully returned, plus there was a significant risk of overstretching my muscles.
In the final round, I was high, almost not worried, because I wasn’t expecting anything over the top from myself. On viewing the routes, I had a good idea of climbing them, and I could not wait to practice it.
On the second route, I was a little too cautious and made an extra shot. After that, I relaxed and finally stopped being nervous. The last route was the decisive one in this battle. I knew that dynos are not my strongest side. But why bother? I tried to relax: unnecessary stress would not let me fully realize myself, so I went to the start with a smile—the first attempt and. I was a little bit too cautious again—the second attempt. I jumped successfully; now, I only had to reach the Top. I was infinitely happy. Bouldering: ninth after qualification, but first in the end!
Lead. The main task was to get into the combined. I was tired after the bouldering. The coaches worried about my recovery and urged me to climb half-heartedly; I was not entirely happy with this scenario. We agreed that I would not have to endure it: if it became difficult, I would give up. It turned out, however, that getting off the route was not so easy. I could not stop thinking: “Letting go of my arms – it is too much for me!” I tried to climb in a relaxed and technical manner, and I did not get tired.
The semi-final went almost the same way; in the end, I listened to my coaches and wondered: “Is this enough for the final, or do I need more?” As a result, the Top and the final.
It’s impossible to cut corners in finals; you need to give your best. And I fully controlled my body, positioning it on the wall, and then the finish, my muscles were tired, it was uncomfortable to stand resting and wait too long, so I got a sloppy jump. The Czech athlete was behind me in time (she got to the same point). I was a little less excited about the lead’s results because there was only a little time left before the most important days. It was necessary to recover and accumulate energy.
Combined. The qualification of the combined was the most physically demanding day for me. I was exhausted, my muscles were not the freshest, it was quite stuffy to sit in the mask, and I was one of the last to climb. I did not perform correctly, but I worked out the speed well. On the bouldering, I relaxed, I needed to be a little more focused, and in the end, I missed one route. On the lead, I decided to deceive the route setters; I tried another moves sequence, but unsuccessfully. I remembered the previous days; I was afraid to admit that maybe the coaches had been right.
Dima Sharafutdinov said that everything was okay; the main thing was to get to the finals. And indeed, the results of the finals almost did not depend on qualification. Moreover, I had a perfect position in the speed, which guaranteed me at least 3rd or 4th place.
The final, the first run of the speed, comfortable, the main thing was to get to the Top. The second run was the most exciting and challenging. We often run with Alyona (Krasovskaya), and she, with a small difference of times, beats me. I need to work out the route clearly and make it a little faster—a tremendous control in the second part and a push at the finishing movement. I won. This run was probably the first time I got close to the feeling that speed climbers get when they run. Thanks to the therapist, he helped me get in shape. I ran relaxed in the last round because I could win only if my opponent made a mistake.
I do not know what happened in the bouldering. I was calm, I understood how to climb, but I could not make it work. I finished with the sixth result. I was not much upset. And I saved some energy (smiling). Ahead is my crown discipline, and I have all chances to do it in the right conditions.
I didn’t warm up much before the lead; my fingers were worn out; I didn’t do a complete climbing workout with different technical elements. I just made sure that I felt my body, my movements, and my feet. I liked the route, it started with passives, and I climb quite well with little holds; on the slab, it all would depend on the work of my legs and control. It reminds me of one route, where I had to catch my balance on my legs. I climbed steadily, at my own pace, paying almost no attention to the shouts from the arena. I heard them, but for me, they were somewhere out there in the background, and here I was alone with the route. I was wholly immersed in feeling the movements, controlling my pace. And I got the Top.
I did my best; I was satisfied; all I had to do was wait.
– Did the fact that Russia hosted the contest help or hindered you?
I think it helped. You could feel the interest and excitement in the crowd. I enjoyed the fun and inspiration of the audience. I could feel the feedback from the people. Plus, I didn’t have to worry about transfers and visas; I could always have a word with the volunteers and judges to take my mind off the competition and catch my breath.
– Name those without whom you would not have succeeded at the last European Championships.
Of course, it’s my coaches Vitaliy Pavlovich Primerov and Dmitry Sharafutdinov, they were the ones who did not let me give up waiting for the start and continued to believe in the success of our endeavor even in the most challenging circumstances.
The specialists who worked with us all these days in the isolation zone were a great help. Anatoly Kazakov, the team’s therapist, literally revived us after another hard day, once again getting our muscles ready and tuning them for work, as well as the team physician Lydia Smelova.
– Tell me how you usually train.
In training camps, we usually work out in the format “two days training, one day rest”; training about four to six hours on average, sometimes there are two sessions, but shorter. When I was teaching on the cliffs, the schedule was a little different. So it was the same “two-and-one,” but there was climbing in the morning (3 hours) and climbing + physical training in the evening (3 hours).
– What is your favorite discipline, and why?
I love the lead; I love the route’s challenge. It takes an incredible amount of attention and effort. I like to handle the task and then implement the sequence that I have in mind. Lead requires full concentration and intelligent control.
– How has COVID-19 affected your life?
In general, this whole year has consisted of unforeseen pauses, constant postponements. I was worried a lot about it. But Dima Sharafutdinov had a plan for every occasion: “If there’s no opportunity to climb, we’ll do special training.” We used every chance to train under any circumstances. Vitaliy Pavlovich spent the whole year looking for the best places to train. I think this year allowed me to look at rock climbing from a different angle, to meet new people, to experiment with my training methods, to improve my “strength skills,” which usually were getting worse at the end of the season after a series of spring and summer competitions. I managed to climb quite a lot outdoors, it recharged and supported me, and in combination with the physical training, it did not affect my form too much in the wrong way. It only improved my control and footwork in the lead.
COVID-19 caught up with me at the most inconvenient moment. I had to go to Switzerland to train. SDB Kontur helped me get a visa and sponsored this training camp. But at the last moment, I took a test, and it was positive. I was worried a lot; I didn’t know what to do and where to isolate myself. As a result, I chose St. Petersburg. I was symptomatically ill for five days, then only weakness. We waited until there were no symptoms at all. Then we had strict control over how we felt, and we gradually started to train. We began with physical exercises; slowly, we began to do power work out on the horizontal bar (pulling up with clapping, throwing out the hand over the bar, muscle-ups with the help of elastic bands). On November 15, we had a fingerboard. Hurrah! I managed to go only for two climbing workouts before Moscow’s competition: “speed plus bouldering” and “bouldering plus difficulty.”
The coaches had no doubts: it was necessary to participate in the competition!
I spent my coronavirus quarantine as focused as possible. I managed not to gain too much weight and recovered well. Besides, I was as calm as ever; it was not in my control to change anything.
It wasn’t easy to get a negative test; three or four times, I received a positive one when the tests were brought home. It was impossible to get an appointment at the lab; everything was booked up. Only on November 19 the team doctor Maxim Elizarov sent me to another place, and I finally got a negative test! I’m going to the competition!
– With three victories at the 2020 World Cup, how are you looking forward to the Games in Tokyo?
Despite such a great result, I understand that the line-up was weaker than usual. But I’m sure we are going in the right direction, and we can improve our performance because we already have experience. I’m ready to give my best and improve further. There’s no way out of this (smiling). You go to the Olympics for the medals!
– Who would you name among the favorites of the upcoming Olympic Women’s Climbing Competition?
Undoubtedly, the Slovenian Janja Garnbret has a great chance; she is often the lead and bouldering leader. The Japanese team is also powerful; they won Olympic tickets in the first qualifying stages—many strong girls.