Stefania Elfutina: "I still can't believe that The Windsurfing Youth World Championships will be
held in Russia"
The bronze medalist of the 2016 Olympics and the ambassador of the Windsurfing Youth World
Championships in the RS:X class - Stefania Elfutina has talked about her path in windsurfing. She
gave advice to the participants of the World Championships in St. Petersburg and uncovered her
preparation plan for the Olympics in Tokyo.
You have photos on your Instagram, where you windsurf together with your mother. Share with us, please, how did you become interested in sailing and what was your mother's role in it?

These photos were taken in 2008 I was eleven. I had been already quite good at it and
participated in some competitions. I took up windsurfing when I was six. My cousin was the first to
join the sports section and I started to attend it right after him. We were very close, wherever he
was going, I was going too. At first I was too small, but then I started to reach after the boys, who
were training there. My Mum brought me to the station but she started to windsurf herself after
me. In these photos I'm teaching her, how to stay on board. We used to spend all day outside in
the sea. From the early morning till the late night. In winter I usually attended music, dance, art
and swimming lessons.
You've inherited love of the sea from you father too: you used to go fishing together. Tell about your biggest fish strike.

When we went fishing with my father he usually caught the fish and I freed it. He was angry with me (Laughing). I felt pity for it. If I see fish alive at the supermarket, I won't eat it. Frankly speaking,
I'm not a good fisherman. When we were fishing last time, I caught the far bank on the hook because I waved throw-line too much. Perhaps, that was my biggest strike.
You started windsurfing in Yeysk. What were the conditions at the surf-station back then?
There are great conditions for the children's training there, because the sea is warm and shallow,
but the situation with the equipment wasn't as good. In 2003, we used to sail the Windgliders
made in 1984 The real old school.
You've told that when you were thirteen you took an aim to win the 2016 Olympics. How could the ordinary girl from Yeysk dream about winning the Olympics?
Looking back, I don't understand, how I could believe in this. In grown-up life we quite often limit
ourselves. We tell ourselves that something is impossible to reach. In childhood, on the contrary,
there is no prejudice. In 2010, I went to my first Youth World Championships. I really loved that
atmosphere. I understood that I'm ready to fight really hard to get to Rio. Why is it Rio exactly? I
assumed that during the London Olympics I would be 15 and that's maybe too early and by the
time of the next Games I would be already 19 I didn't share these thought with anyone, because
people would laugh, but every morning I woke up with the idea of Rio. Each year this dream was
becoming more and more real and was turning into my goal.
Was there a moment of uncertainty when you wanted to give it all up and to do away with windsurfing?
Such thoughts came to my mind in the beginning of 2016, when the major preparation challenges
have started including intense training and long trips. First of all, it was morally very difficult. I was
ready for the physical load but not for the moral pressure. There were moments when I thought
that I couldn't bare it any longer. I missed my parents and my home badly. I never wanted
partying, I just wanted to have rest, because the rhythm of life was really crazy. On the other
hand, I couldn't stop. At that moment my parents, my coaches and my mantras about Rio were of
great help, I managed to stay calm.
At the age of 16 you made your debut at the The Windsurfing Youth World Championships in RS:X class, where you took the fourth place. What do you remember from those competitions?
The World Championships was held in Civitavecchia. In Italy, I realized for the first time that I can
perform much better. Before this tournament, I just started to sail RS:X - I did not have much
experience. Nevertheless, I was able to take the fourth place. I was getting better with each day.
This made me very happy. At that moment, I realized that I like RS:X Olympic class and the dream
of winning the Olympics became more real. The Youth World Championships jump-started my
future career.
Could you imagine back then that someday competitions of this level would be held in Russia?

Even now I can't believe that the Youth World Championships will be held here. It is very cool! It's
unfortunate that I am no longer a junior and won't be able to participate. It would be nice to
compete in St. Petersburg, but I hope that someday we will host the World Championships among
adults too. Windsurfers have already seen all the places in Europe -They must finally come to us!
It's great here!
What advice would you give to the participants coming to St. Petersburg for the World Championships?
St. Petersburg is a beautiful city. If the guys have a free evening, I highly recommend them to have
a walking tour around the city. This will help them to concentrate before the races. I also want to
wish the participants not to be afraid to set big goals. You have World Championships for adults
and the Olympics ahead of you. Do not be afraid and go for it!
Windsurfing is also a good way to explore the world, to travel and to find out about the new places. What is the most exotic corner of the world you've been able to visit thanks to windsurfing?
What could be more memorable and exotic than Rio? We spent a month and a half there.
Sometimes it can be very annoying, but not this time and not for me. I prepared myself for this
wild Brazilian mentality and merged with this crazy city. I really loved Rio.
Your bronze at the Olympics led to an incredible sensation, recognition and popularity. How did you manage to pass this popularity test at 19 and keep your head on your shoulders?

This excitement slept pretty quickly. I was so tired. When the camera turned on, I needed to smile,
but there was no strength for anything anymore. How to set next goals for yourself? It's complicated. It's still hard for me to talk about Rio. You must decide for yourself whether you want to go further or not. At some point I asked myself this question every day. The difficulty is that
before Rio I lived just for these competitions, and when the Olympics came to an end, I was
shattered. At first, I was aimed to repeat the Olympics preparation cycle, but it was impossible.
Another "me" with completely different strengths and weaknesses is now preparing for Tokyo. But
at the end of the day it gave me additional motivation and powers.
There is a quote from Lord Tennyson's poem "Ulysses" on your Instagram: "To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield". What does this phrase mean to you?

It's a very cool phrase! I read a book "Two Captains" by Veniamin Kaverin. The whole novel is built
on this quote. Firstly, I enjoyed Kaverin's novel itself, and then this quote stuck in my head and
became a life credo. At first you really strive to achieve something, and when you reach the goal,
you understand that this is not the end and you need to go further.

This is very similar to my story of the Olympics in Rio de Janeiro. It seemed to me that if you had won the bronze at the Olympics, you had already achieved something. I hadn't thought that after that there was still some life, but it turned out that it was necessary to "find and not yield" exactly in the same way.
Judging by the photos of the book pages on your Instagram, you read a lot. What books do you bring with you to the numerous competitions?
I love major pieces, but I read rather slowly. If I suddenly get lost in my thoughts while reading, I
will definitely go back and re-read. Reading a book is like watching a movie in your head.
Therefore, the process is going rather slowly. I really like Russian classics. Unfortunately, we have
lost that old Russia. It is preserved only in books. I miss the times that Tolstoy, Lermontov and
other Russian classics once wrote about. I don't know how many times I've already re-read "The
Hero of Our Time". In fact, I read the books from the school curriculum. Although I didn't
appreciate it at school, now I can re-read it endlessly.