Five months after Summer Olympics in London we sat down with Aliya Garayeva, 2011 World Championship bronze medallist, to talk about her career, love for rhythmic gymnastics and the decision to leave competitive sports.
Right after Olympics the 25-year-old Garayeva decided to end her career. She feels it was a tough, but at the same time a necessary move. “Ending a career is always difficult and at first when I understood that soon it’s going to be over, when I had only few competitions left, I could come to training and just cry,” admits Garayeva.
The decision was especially hard because of Olympics where Garayeva ended with the fourth place. “Of course I would have wanted an Olympic medal. However I thought that I’m not going to pull through another four years,” she says. “If I would have aimed for another year or two, it wouldn’t have made any sense. So I decided to finish.”
Changing schedule and 7AM trainings
Garayeva thinks that being an athlete was the easy part. Finding her own path now for the future is more challenging.
“It is somehow difficult to comprehend that a completely different life awaits ahead,” describes Garayeva. “The easiest is to train. Even with the physical and psychological stress you still have a goal and you move towards it. You have coaches, doctors and choreographers helping you. When you end sports then you understand that you need to find a new activity and I haven’t made my final decision just yet.”
Nevertheless there are also good sides in not being an athlete anymore, for example no early morning trainings. “First and foremost sports is hard work and you definitely have to love this job,” says the Azerbaijani gymnast. “To start your workday every day at seven in the morning and to have such constantly changing schedule… You just have to love it. If you love the job, then all these difficulties and anguish becomes easier to bear.”
Garayeva says she loves to perform, even though she felt often nervous in big competitions . “It is alright to be nervous. However you should not be too nervous. You have to perform, be happy about the chance and give your best, not ruin your mood with nervousness,” Garayeva gives advice to future RG stars.
Second best in RG for her, next to performing, is the feeling she got in trainings. “It gives me big satisfaction when in training things start to go right. It makes me happy when lets say yesterday I didn’t succeed in my exercise, but today I’m doing great!”
Looking forward to performing
Garayeva has to thank her mother for not giving up when the gymnast refused to go to training in her childhood. After all, it paid off considering all the medals Garayeva has earned in the past six years.
“When I was little my mom had to drag me to trainings,” Garayeva admits laughing. “I told her I wont go! I don’t want to and I don’t need her gymnastics! However now I’m grateful to my mother that she brought me to training hall, that she gave me a chance to fall in love with the sports.”
Garayeva is now looking forward to the performance on Miss Valentine Gala on 10th of February. She says in few years the stars from the 2012 Olympics might be forgotten and she enjoys the performances she still has for a short period.
“I’m glad I’m invited, that I’m remembered. It will also be interesting for me to watch this tournament,” she adds. “The competition is going to be according to new rules and I’m looking forward to see the new interesting programs, interesting new elements. I’m also excited now that the music with words is allowed in RG.”
To all of the gymnastics fans gathering in Estonia in February, Garayeva wishes an interesting competition, splendid performances and, the most important, good mood.