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Latvia's Greatest National Asset: Jeļena Prokopčuka

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Plomb 
Male Admin 
#1 | Posted: 25 Dec 2008 11:50 | Edited by: Plomb
When Jeļena Prokopčuka won the 2005 New York Marathon her unexpected success helped inspire an entire nation. In this exclusive interview Justin Walley talks to the greatest Latvian female athlete of her generation, a young lady who is amongst the top long distance runners in the world.

This interview has been published in the free "Gateway Riga" magazine (Autumn/Winter 2008/2009) which you get flying out of Riga.
Jelena Prokopcuka on the "Gateway Riga" cover
Jelena Prokopcuka on the "Gateway Riga" cover
Justin Walley 
Guest 
#2 | Posted: 25 Dec 2008 11:51
Jelena, what was life like growing up in Latvia?
Jelena 
Guest 
#3 | Posted: 25 Dec 2008 11:52
I was born in Latvia in 1976. My childhood was happy. People will of course say negative things about Soviet times but as a child they were great times. I was a child with toys who had her mum, dad and brother near her. I had love. It was an interesting and unforgettable time. As Young Pioneers in the Soviet days we did a lot of things and it was free. In fact, everything was free and provided for by the state. I think it was much easier for parents in those days than it is today.
Justin Walley 
Guest 
#4 | Posted: 25 Dec 2008 11:52
What do you remember from the time of independence?
Jelena 
Guest 
#5 | Posted: 25 Dec 2008 11:52
When independence came I was fifteen years old. It wasn't a difficult time for me personally because I was a teenager. It was a different matter for my parents, because after independence the factory where my parents worked was closed. They both had no job after that. Of course, everything has changed since for my family, and now we are all ok and happy.
Justin Walley 
Guest 
#6 | Posted: 25 Dec 2008 11:52
Were there any noticeable day-today changes in life?
Jelena 
Guest 
#7 | Posted: 25 Dec 2008 11:52
I was at school. Previously we wore a uniform but that was abolished and we could wear what we wanted. It was then that you noticed who was rich and who was poor. After the uniform was abolished we were no longer equal. I think children at school should be worrying about knowledge, not about what they are wearing.
Justin Walley 
Guest 
#8 | Posted: 25 Dec 2008 11:52
When did you take up running?
Jelena 
Guest 
#9 | Posted: 25 Dec 2008 11:53
I began running at eleven. It was a great decision for my parents and for me. It meant they always knew where I was and didn't need to worry. It kept me out of trouble. I was always either at school, home, doing homework or training.
Justin Walley 
Guest 
#10 | Posted: 25 Dec 2008 11:53
Was it immediately obvious that you had a special talent?
Jelena 
Guest 
#11 | Posted: 25 Dec 2008 11:53
I certainly wasn't the best girl in my group then. I was probably in the middle as I was neither strong nor quick. I was just a girl who enjoyed running. My talent was my energy for the sport. This is very important and was the reason why my life changed.

Three years later I was the best female runner in Latvia at three, five and ten thousand metres as well as the half-marathon. I have five Latvian national records. I remember competing in three-day competitions where I ran every day: 800 metres, 1500 metres, the 4 x 400m relay... and even the 100m relay!

But the big improvement was after I came home from a Ukraine training camp and won the Latvian Cross Country. I beat some very strong girls.
Justin Walley 
Guest 
#12 | Posted: 25 Dec 2008 11:53
You were almost unknown when you won the 2005 New York Marathon. How did you pull off such an achievement?
Jelena 
Guest 
#13 | Posted: 25 Dec 2008 11:53
In New York I didn't think about the others, I just did my job. On that day I was simply the strongest. I realized it was possible to beat Paula Radcliffe and that she isn't a machine.
NY marathon winner
NY marathon winner
Justin Walley 
Guest 
#14 | Posted: 25 Dec 2008 11:54
And you became the first female runner in more than a decade to win back-to-back New York Marathons.
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