It finally happened. At the beginning of February, Ukraine got its first ever medal at the World Snowboard Championships – it was won by Annamari Dancha. In Park City (the USA), she qualified for the championship, won 1/8 final, quarter-final and semi-final. Dancha won a silver medal in parallel slalom.
It is the first such an achievement for the Ukrainian snowboard sport. It is the all-time record for the 28-year-old athlete. By the way, Dancha is a leader of the national team. Annamari’s medal virtually changed the history of the development of this young and incredibly spectator sport in Ukraine.
As soon as Annamari came back to Ukraine, Opinion talked to her.
Congrats on a historical result! In your opinion, what influenced your win the most?
Constant work on myself. I was preparing hard for the previous Olympics. You can’t even imagine how much I wanted to win, to show my best result. Unfortunately, I made some mistakes at Olympics… I had only one chance there, and I didn’t use it. This season, we started to train later because we didn’t have an Olympic program and enough funding. But the whole of January I was working hard on myself, by the way, I spent 23 days out of 30 outside, training or taking part in competitions. I knew what I wanted to achieve, and just was heading towards it. You know, I even put a medal as my phone wallpaper. Although, it was a gold medal. It motivated me every day. Well, I trained and visualized this win (laughs).
On the first day, I took the 6th place [Annamari was 6th in giant parallel slalom – ED.] but I felt that I could do everything or at least almost everything that I wanted to do on the board. The first day, I was snowboarding down with a Russian athlete and I… fell down. In snowboarding, only one mistake – and your competitor is at the finish, and you are somewhere far away. However, I was very pleased when my family, friends, and supporters congratulated me in 6th place. Journalists wrote that it already was a great result. In some regard, they are tight… Because before that, my best result at the World Championships was 14th place.
But this time you had a medal, not 6th place, as your wallpaper. And parallel slalom ahead.
Exactly so. I took myself together and felt that it wasn’t my limit that I want and, most importantly, I can achieve far better results. By the way, the piste was very unstable, many athletes fell down. I decided to go for risk – to move stable (confidently) but as fast as possible. The woman who ranked third fell down in each race. But then she stood up and caught up with competitors. We started to compete with her. Fortunately, she didn’t catch up with me and I started to compete for the first place.
Do you remember your first emotions as results were announced?
Oh, I do. I remember my emotions very well. I guess everybody who watched the stream also does. It is an incredible pleasure, adrenalin, and euphoria.
The medal motivates much, on the one hand. On the other hand – it is the level athletes don’t want to be under. What are your goals after you have gained the result which is a record for Ukraine?
On 27-28 February, the Ukraine Championships is taking place in the Carpathians. I aim at performing as great as I can. Then, we are staying there for some days to train. Before the season ends, we are having two more stages of the World Cup – in Switzerland and Germany. I want to get prepared well for these World Cup stages and show really a good result.
Actually, yes, the medal motivates. Moreover, I feel that now I am only at the beginning of my peak.
In your opinion, what are the perspectives of snowboarding in Ukraine? Is your medal consistency or the award gained despite all the conditions?
There is such a system in Ukraine: the better the result is shown by athletes of a certain kind of sport, the better it will be financed. It is clear that biathlon, for example, has shown stable results since the 1990s. Athletes have medals from the Olympics, world championships etc. Snowboarding is relatively young. It is young in the world, and in Ukraine particularly. It has five events. Our parallel slalom is developed the best but they are trying to develop others as well, snowboard-cross [is a snowboard competition in which four to six competitors race down a course. Has been an Olympic discipline since 2006 – ED.], slopestyle [kind of competitions like freestyle, snowboarding, mountbiking. Slopestyle is a winter sport in which athletes ski or snowboard down a course including a variety of obstacles including rails, jumps and other terrain park features. In 2012, snowboard and freestyle slopestyle were included in the 2014 Sochi Olympic program – ED.] The latter isn’t very popular in Ukraine. You see, in the USA, Europe, 2-year children train in special parks. We don’t have such conditions yet.
What concerns financing and support. The state does its best. I had a golden medal at the Junior World Championships. After that, we got good financing for two years. Now, we hope that after the championships, we will also get it. What concerns age, there is no problem. Everybody takes time to develop. I needed 10 years to get a medal. An Australian athlete won her first medal at the age of 35. Now she is 45 and she keeps on taking part in competitions. The man who won two gold medals at the World Championships is 19 years old. Getting your first win is very individual in regard to time. You just should realize one rule: it is a playoff, so you have to be ultimately focused at every start.
Are there any talented young athletes?
I am very happy about that. The more competitors you have, the better. Ukraine really has talented young people. But it is not the main thing. Coaches have become more professional, they know new training methods. Many athletes become coaches. An athlete can be talented but if you don’t teach them properly – they won’t perform well. I see talented young people in men’s as well as women’s snowboarding.
You gain a crazy speed in competitions. Is it scary? How do you psych yourself up to show the ultimate result?
To gain a proper and ultimate speed – you have to clear a psychological barrier. I had a 2-year break. I got married, gave birth to a daughter… After that, when I came back, that was my family who supported me. I attended competitions with my husband and child. Or with my husband, child, and sister. Then, my daughter grew up and I could leave her with relatives. After this break, I reconsidered many things. I realized how to stop fearing and clear this “speed barrier”, where I can take the speed I was lack of to win. I realized that many things are just inside our heads. If we are not ready psychologically to show a high speed, we won’t show it. I have talked to people about that, read a lot, I also have a good coach who was there to help me understand myself.
Will you have a bit of time after the Championships to have a rest or you will immediately start to train?
I won’t have virtually any time. All these desires to have a rest are also inside our heads. I used to pity myself often and wanted to have a rest after competitions. I am now super motivated, that’s why I don’t need any time for rest. I know my goal, and I know what I have to do to achieve it. The main thing is training, training and training.
I try to train at least four hours every day. However, working too hard is also harmful. In snowboarding, the key thing is to feel your weak sides and work on them. You can do 5-7 or even 15 lines. When it is snowy in Ukraine, I have little time to train at home. There are many competitions at that time. Yes, this year, we train in Bukovel, the Carpathians, we got such an opportunity. Actually, my mountain is Krasiya. When I was a beginner, I was constantly training on Krasiya. In summer, I trained in a stadium. When we have money and the Olympic program, we train in Switzerland: we go there in August and work hard.
Interview by Vadym Lubchak
Photo: Vadym Lubchak, Annamari Dancha’s Facebook