2015 ICF World Championships Slalom

Canoe Sprint

Yuri Cheban’s mother claims her victorious son “…went to fight for his land”

canoe kayak sprint yuri cheban ukraine athlete interview icf sportscene olympian champion world ioc london games

Source: Odessa Life | Translator: Anton Knesis | Proofreader: Katie Ellis - The Sprint world championships held in Moscow ended with a triumphant victory for Yuri Cheban, an Olympic champion at the London 2012 Olympic Games and an ‘Honoured Sportsmaster’ in his home country of Ukraine. In the final of the men’s C1 200m Yuri was one thousandth of a second ahead of Russian Alexey Korovashkov, whose boat almost collided with Cheban’s at the finish line. The Russian home crowd prematurely celebrated, believing that the gold medal had gone to Korovashkov. Yet, after close examination of the photo finish, it was discovered that the Ukrainian had beaten his rival by the closest of margins – 0.006 seconds!

Yuri, you stood on the podium in Moscow, saw the rising Ukrainian flag and you were singing the national anthem.  What did you feel at that moment?

I had a lot of different emotions! The first was a sense of pride for my country. I wanted to help it in this difficult time, even with a small victory. My mother hoped that if I won this competition, the war in Ukraine would soon be over. I really hope that in Ukraine we can live peacefully once more.

Were you confident of victory in Moscow?

No. I'm only confident in my deodorant (laughs)! It is sport after all. Anything can happen…with my coach, we are collecting strokes that finally determine the outcome of the race. And, as you can see everything worked out well.  In 200 meters there is no time to decrease the power, it is necessary to paddle as hard as possible from the start until the very last moment. My coach asked me to pick off the rivals within the first few metres so I did everything within my power.

canoe kayak sprint yuri cheban ukraine athlete interview icf sportscene olympian champion world ioc london gamesBy the way, were there any offers to represent other countries apart from Ukraine like some other Ukrainian athletes have already done?

I must admit that there were offers, but there is one fact - I love my country, I love my home town of Odessa. I am going to competitions on my own expense for a half a year. I do understand that the country is now in a war so, people have to finance the army ... that is ok, and we will get through this. I believe in a bright future for Ukraine!

Yuri, I have heard that before the start, you sit alone, visualizing your race; imagining the start and the finish.  Is this a secret technique?

I don’t think that is the secret of my victories.  I have read a lot of literature on this subject.  It's just a mental run through of the plan. If you scroll the upcoming race in your head, then it will be easier to finish. I know this from personal experience.

Does the technical specification of the boat affect the speed? Maybe you have an unusual boat?

Lots of things can affect the result, but I have a standard boat weighing 16kg. It’s important the boat bottom is not polished. Also, 80 percent of the boat should be open and before going on the water, these standards are checked. It is impossible to get on the water with a boat that did not qualify.

How did you get in to this sport? There is a rumour that you had started with ballet?

Yes, I did. As a child, I tried a lot of different sports including boxing and karate.  My mother took me canoeing. She was always the one who pushed me to go further. She was the one who brought me to the canal one bright day. None of the coaches wanted to mess with me – I was spoiled. Then my mother took the boat, gave me the paddle and said: “Fight!”  And so I fought all the way to the Olympic gold.

Yuri, how do you evaluate your mother’s contribution to your training?

She contributes greatly and she is still my coach. That's why she always goes with me, takes part in coach meetings, watches my training regime and helps as much as she can to make suggestions.

canoe kayak sprint yuri cheban ukraine athlete interview icf sportscene olympian champion world ioc london gamesAre you interested in any other sport besides canoeing?

When I was a child I loved martial arts. Now I am interested in windsurfing and kitesurfing. I just do these sports for fun.

One final thing: Tell us more about your future plans.

Finish with this interview and rest for a while (laughs).  There is no age limit in our sport. I will be racing as long as my health will allow me to. 28 is not that old and there are athletes who have won medals even at 40. So, first of all, I would like to perform successfully at the Olympic Games in Brazil in 2016!

Lyudmila Cheban, Yuri’s mother:

“I have always believed in my son and I knew that he would win. I blessed him and I was sure that he would come back with medals. Why did Yuri win? He won because he went there to fight for his country. This victory in Moscow is very significant for me and my friends. I told everyone that if Yuri won then the war in Ukraine would soon be over! We will win in any case! His win in Moscow is a turning point! You’ll see, the war will be over soon. I was even happier with this victory than I was when he won the Olympic gold in 2012.”

Reference: Yuri began his Sports career at the Olympic Games in Athens, where he was fifth in C1 500m. After that there were wins on the world championships in 2005 and 2007, as well as triumphs in the World Cups and European Championships. He won the bronze medal in the 500 m at the Olympics in China in 2008. Yuri Cheban won the long-awaited gold at the Olympic Games in London in 2012. His first coaches were Yevgeny Lesjak and his mother Lyudmila Cheban. Now Yuri trains with the honoured head coach of the Ukrainian national team; Vyacheslav Sorokin.

Results 2014 World Championships Moscow: www.sportscene.tv/flatwater/canoe-sprint/result-archive