How did Zulfiya Gabidullina become the first Paralympic champion from Kazakhstan?

How did Zulfiya Gabidullina become the first Paralympic champion from Kazakhstan?

Zulfiya Gabidullina at 50 years old became the first Paralympic champion from Kazakhstan. Despite her age, she continues to work hard and is determined to set the world record again, which she also established.

- Zulfiya, hello! How are you doing?

- Hello! I'm fine, very good thank you. We are getting ready for Asian games, now I'm only training for 4 hours a day. 2 hours – at the gym, 2 hours in the pool.

- You have been doing sports for about 30 years. But I began to train professionally only in 2007. How did this happen?

- Back in the day, we did not have any clubs. We did it ourselves. But if a person wants to do something, then he does it. My rehabilitation has gradually become a sport. As I said, nothing happened in the beginning, but later we were allowed to go to the pool. Generally, I trained at home, on land.

- How is it like?

- At home I did swimming exercises, I trained my hands, I trained my back. Back then there was no Internet, I read books about swimming.

- But the conditions that we have now and that we had before are incomparable. It has been difficult to even move.

- Yes, it took me an hour to go to the pool from my house. And then again another hour back home. I swam for two hours. Then I came home and trained at home too. I set a goal and I go to it. And in 2007 we went to Taldykorgan to the championship of Kazakhstan. Sattar Ergaliyevich went with us - our curator, when he saw me he decided to train me. He trained me for free.  

- Is he your first coach?

- He is my first coach and he still works with me. He was a former boxer, studied in boarding school, played for the national team, but because of health problems he had to quit sports.

- What did he give you in the first place?

- He gave me the opportunity to believe in myself in what I am capable of. In 2007 he started to work with me, in 2010 we went to the competitions and I did not win there, and I said that I'm already old and I will stop training. He said are you crazy, we just started training. And back in 1990, I was asked what are you dreaming about. I said that I would like to get to the Olympic Games, I just said that knowing, that we did not develop the sport. I said that and in 2012, after 12 years I got to the Olympics. Then I remembered that that was my dream. And the coach said to me: you wished for getting into Olympics but not for the victory. You did not win, your wish was granted

- When you came to Rio de Janeiro, you came with the desire to win gold and set a record?

To be honest, no. I was third in the rating. I thought about how to get into the top three. We had a lot of training. We were trained very seriously.

- When did you start?

- Somewhere in 2015. At the time the head of Paralympic committee was Darkhan Kaletayev, then Kayrat Boranbaev took over. The Paralympic committee seriously took our training and we went to training camps.  We were in Colorado, the Olympic center. It would have been a shame to be there and not to win a medal. Many of our sportsmen improved their results. I myself won.

- The first feeling was a shock?

- Yes, it was a shock. I realized that I won. The fact that I became the Olympic champion I realized later. And I couldn’t understand, my coach was dancing. Everyone was taking pictures, my eyes started to tingle. Everyone asked me why I was crying? From happiness? I said yes. But I was crying from flashes of cameras. For me, it was such a pride that our flag rose. The national anthem was playing. I had tears in my eyes, not from the fact that I won, but from the fact that our flag was rising.

- Now you are a national hero. You are famous. But there was a period in your life when you needed money and sold newspapers.

- My daughter was very sick. She needed an operation. my mother died when my daughter was 9 months old. Of course, everything was done by my mother. My pension money was not enough. We went with my daughter to the kindergarten, I put her on my chair with me, I sewed a sack and sold newspapers. It became hard to move in my wheelchair, I was selling clothes, they were given to me for sale. For that money, I bought food. I knew that I would not be able to work like this in the winter, my pension money was used for medical treatment of my daughter.

- How much was your pension?

- 12 thousand, 14, and then 16 thousand. It gradually increased. But still, it was very small. I was selling things in the house. I advertised about it, people came, and I told them that I need money for the operation of my daughter, please do not bargain. People understood. Things were old, the furniture was old, but of a good quality. We stayed only with one piece of furniture. Now my daughter is fine. Gradually, I bought everything that is needed at home. And I always met good people. I bought a couch and I could slowly pay off my pension.

- And how do you manage to stay in good physical shape and at the same time improve your results despite the age?

- In my situation, you need to exercise constantly. If I won’t train, my hands will start to hurt. Therefore, I need my muscles to be in good shape. If they are relaxed, I won't be able to hold even a spoon. I won’t be able to ride my wheelchair. I have to train for at least an hour to keep my muscles in tone. I started training only at 24, not since I was a child. Maybe that’s why I can do a lot of things.

- Will we see you at the Paralympic Games in 2020?

- I plan to get to these games. I plan to even win.

- In this case, you will already go as a favorite. This will not put pressure on you?

- Yes, this is a great responsibility. I'm an athlete of a respectable age, but I'll try.

- And after that? Have you thought about coaching?

- I thought about that. But I think the consultation is more appropriate for me. Where can a child go? What kind of sport will be suitable for him for health reasons? I like children very much. They like me. Parents who have a disabled child, they come to me for advice, what kind of sport he should do. Now everything is open, you just need to do it and help a child to attend those classes. Even at home, you can do sports. In fact, that’s how I began. I want to advice parents don’t overprotect your children. Don’t protect him from the things he will benefit from, if he will fall down, let him fall, he will rise and will become stronger. I also had many obstacles. I did not immediately become a champion.

- When you were 5 years old, as a result of a terrible accident, you became disabled. Since then, you are moving in a wheelchair. Where did you get the strength to move forward?

- Thanks to my parents and relatives. Thanks to my uncle, my aunt. Of course, I was spoiled but did not take much care. Only when my daughter got sick, I understood my mother how hard it was for her. She saw with her own eyes how I was hit by a car. It was so hard. And my mother has aged in an instant. She got thin. We do not appreciate our parents while they are alive. Only after we lose them we start to appreciate them. Now I tell everyone, give love to your parents while they are close to you. At the time I  offended my mother. I said why you saved me after the accident. I'm so tormented, I do not want to live. She was hurt and left. I was very angry at the time I didn’t want anything, I was in pain. When I gave birth to a daughter, I understood my mother. I hurt her. When I was pregnant I was told to have an abortion. I said that I don't want to. And doctors said that I was selfish that I thought only about myself, I didn’t think about what will happen when I will get old. They said she will want to have a lot of things and I won't be able to give it to her. I said that I will give her everything that I could. Now my child has everything.

- I am very glad that we managed to talk. Thanks for the interview!

- Thank you so much.