x Abu Dhabi, UAE Friday 21 July 2017

Mother of three goes for fourth

The Russian athlete Irina Privalova is back after an eight-year hiatus to go for gold in the 100 metres at the Beijing Olympics.

Irina Privalova training in Moscow last month.
Irina Privalova training in Moscow last month.

MOSCOW // The former world and Olympic champion Irina Privalova is back after almost eight years away from athletics, hoping to qualify for the Beijing Games. The Russian, who turns 40 in November, has not competed on the big stage since winning gold in the 400 metres hurdles at the 2000 Sydney Olympics.

After testing herself against some of the country's top sprinters at a local meeting last month, Privalova has decided to try her luck at the July 17-20 national championships, setting her sights on her fourth Olympics. Privalova has chosen to go back to her first love - the 100 metres. She won the first of her four Olympic medals, a bronze, in the 100m and then added a silver in the 4x100 relay at the 1992 Games in Barcelona.

"Honestly, after all these years I still have the hunger to compete," the mother of three children, Alexei, 20, Maria, six, and two-year-old Katya, said in an interview. She said she also wanted to show that women could be successful at combining top-level sports and motherhood. Privalova's husband and coach Vladimir Parashchyuk called her comeback a test of the human potential. "Being the mother of three, I don't think it has been done before, at least in athletics," he said.

Fanny Blankers-Koen, a 30-year-old mother of two, won four gold medals in the 100, 200, 80 metres hurdles and the 4x100 relay at the 1948 London Olympics. A world record holder in the high and long jump, the Dutchwoman could have won six but Olympic rules at the time allowed women to compete in only four events. "I don't think it's a fair comparison. It was a long time ago. The competition is a lot tougher now, especially among women," said Parashchyuk

She still has a lot of work to do to catch up with her younger rivals after clocking a modest 11.64 seconds in her first competitive 100-metre race last month in Moscow. It was almost a second slower than her personal best of 10.77, which she ran in 1994. "I need to drop some four-tenths of a second to have a realistic chance of making the Olympic team," she said. If she does make it to Beijing, Privalova may not be the oldest women sprinter there.

That honour could belong to 48-year-old, Jamaican-born Merlene Ottey, now competing for Slovenia, if she can achieve the qualifying time. Ottey has taken part in every Olympics since the 1980 Games in Moscow and her tally of nine Olympic medals is higher than any other woman has ever won in track and field. * Reuters