How to support your child’s dream, how to maintain it and make everything possible to help your child to make the dream come true? Answers to these and many other questions you will find in our interview with the mother of three-time Olympic champion Darya Domracheva.
– Larisa, let’s travel down the memory lane and talk about Dasha when she was little. What was her character back then?
– She was very restless and active child. Our close friends very often called her little devil-copter (smiles) as she could not sit still for one minute. While a boy of her age was a laid-back and would steadily look upon something she managed to run around him 5 times or more, jumping up and down doing some stuff…
– Did this energy remain with the age?
– Yes, it did. It became one of her character’s traits. Obviously, the approach to solving problems in adulthood adjusts this restlessness; however the energy and the ability to manage many tasks are laid back in the childhood.
– Who does she resemble energy-wise?
– Our family has always been practicing the active lifestyle, curiosity and love for travelling. We love to discover and learn new things. While others may lie on the beach for a week we will walk around the most interesting places and enjoy sightseeing. It’s our way of living. No wonder the first Darya’s business card ever had «Darya Domracheva. Traveller.» written on it.
– Darya started skiing following her brother Nikita…
– When Dasha was 4 years old we moved to Siberian town of Nyagan. There was not much to do in the winter that lasted for many months, and as I was working a lot, and sometimes even on the weekends it was very important for me to keep the kids busy … I was always a fan of the idea that outdoor sports are way more beneficent than indoor. My kids were always tight-knit and Dasha who was 4 year younger than her brother followed him to the ski-school. After a couple of months Nikita lost interest in skiing whereas Dasha was drawn into it. There were no other girls of her age in the class (she was only 6 years old); the kids usually started to ski at the age of 8-10, so she was the youngest one; however she mixed well with everyone at once including her first coach Andrei Doroshenko. The first races Darya was competing in were with the boys.
– So we can say that Darya had all support she could from her family, her coach and even from her opponents…
– The strongest motivation for a child who went into sports is not the encouraging words from his or her coach, or parents but rather a dream that was laid in childhood. Surely you have to work and train hard, go through certain stages, keep winning again and again, and in the first place you have to win over yourself. Having the Olympic dream constantly on your mind helps you understand the reason you train so hard and keeps you moving towards it; the child’s dream that cannot be betrayed. We never talked about her dream out loud not to frighten it off (smiles), however everyone in our family understood what her goal was.
– When did you realize that Dasha was serious about skiing and then later biathlon?
– Every summer Dasha and Nikita used to come to Minsk to visit their grandparents. One day the coaches told her that she had to go to the summer training camp and not to Minsk… I think that was the moment when we realized that skiing for her was not just a hobby.
– How did you manage to bring up your daughter to be so independent and goal-oriented?
– Nikita and Dasha were both self-dependent since childhood. We didn’t interfere, but rather encouraged them. I believe that everyone has to learn to take responsibility for oneself and for one’s actions from childhood. If a child understands that, he or she will act the right way and if he or she makes a mistake it will be theirs and no one else’s. Now when I communicate with Xenia (one-year old daughter of Darya Domracheva and Ole Einar Bjørndalen – editor’s note) I realize that she already has a personality, and you need to support that but do it low-profile, so that she would think she makes a choice by herself. Dasha and Nikita’s grandparents played one of the major roles in their upbringing. They had difficult life, went through the war but they tried not to talk about it as even the memories were tough for them. They used to tell kids different kind of stories; moreover later I found out that some of them I never even heard of… Both Dasha and Nikita liked this kind of story-telling, and before going to sleep instead of reading the tales they asked me to tell them stories. Also my kids were always engaged into household duties: they did crafts, made home and school decorations for various holidays, cooked yummy things and they did it all with pleasure. Whenever I was coming back home from the business trips my kids always greeted me with delicious cakes. Dasha became a very good housewife – she can cook very well and fast as well as serve it in a beautiful way.
– You mentioned that Dasha while being a student very often went to2-3 weeks-long training camps. How did you cope with the separation?
– Obviously I was worried as at that time we didn’t have such means of communications as mobile or internet as we have now, so I had to search for the phone numbers of all the places where she went to so that I could call her and see how she was doing or wait for some news from her… I have recently found an old notebook with a bunch of numbers I penciled in: name of a town, name of a hotel, phone number and so it goes… (smiles). Whenever she was going away she would always take a photo album with her. I once asked her why as it was extra luggage weight (!), but it was important for her to have a connection with her home and family; it was as if she was taking a piece of home with her.
– Were there moments when your daughter told you that she was tired and wanted to quit sport?
– I do not recall Dasha saying she wanted to leave sport. Surely, after trainings she used to come home feeling very tired and I was worried seeing what kind of serious exercises she was withstanding. However she could switch to something else and recover quickly, but most importantly Dasha had a goal – her Olympic dream.
– It looks like you didn’t have to sensitize her to victories.
– True. It was important for me not to interfere. If you feel support and understanding from your parents you don’t need any other words or tricks; it could only get in the way. It’s essential to maintain the balance: to support but don't intervene.
– Most certainly to watch the races with your daughter as participant is not easy. How do you get ready before the start?
– I believe that thoughts can materialize, so before the start I keep on repeating in the affirmative form what we want and what we believe in. I don’t know whether it helps or not… It’s definitely not easy to watch competitions especially the shooting stand. Sometimes I’m even told to get away from the TV as they say that my look can stop a bullet! (laughs)
– Is there a race which you can consider as your favorite?
– I doubt there is one in particular…There are so many of them… Certainly the Winter Olympic Games in Sochi and three gold medals are absolutely mind-blowing! I will also remember her first victories forever – junior competitions in Nyagan and youth competitions in Khanty-Mansiysk where I rushed to from work… and of course her first race in the IBU World Cup. Back then I was working in Moscow close to the shopping centre «Gorbushkin dvor». I went to a store where they sell Tvs, and some of them broadcasted the sprint race. I was watching the race right there in the store. Dasha took 16th place which was a great result for the first race. She started the race in the first flight and was leading for a while. I told the guys who wanted to switch the channel that my daughter was competing, so then the staff and some customers gathered around me and we all cheered for Dasha!..
–Larisa, could you be so kind to give a piece of advice to parents who decided to engage kids into sport on how to foster interest for the chosen sport and help them to become champions?
–I would like to wish all the parents to be friends with their children, to understand them, to feel them and do not interfere. I really wish them to help their kids to find a dream. Let a child have a dream which he or she will try to fulfill; and remember that by winning over oneself one will get to numerous victories! Be proud of your children!
Asya Poplavskaya, Biathlon Magazine