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We have a habit of adopting people as our own, especially if they excel in their chosen field. Anyone from New Zealand suddenly becomes Australian if they achieve international success, and anyone dating a famous Aussie becomes, if we like them, an honorary Australian.
Well on Monday night at 8:45pm in the Women’s 1500m heats, get ready to add another name to the list,: Aussie Katya.
Back at the 2008 Olympics at Beijing, in between winning gold medals, our own Cameron Ling impersonating pole vaulter, Steven Hooker, was introduced to beautiful Russian 800m runner Yekaterina Kostetskaya by their respective Russian coaches. A romance started that continues to this day.
Katya (as she is known to all her friends here in Australia), started her athletic career as a 400m hurdler for Texas State University and stepped up to the 800m in which she specialised until four weeks ago when she unexpectedly and unintentionally turned into a 1500m runner.
Katya represented Russia in the 800m at the 2008 Olympics, where she made the semi-finals, and at the 2011 World Championships, where she finished fifth overall. This year at the Russian trials for the London Olympics, in the 800m she ran the fourth fastest time for the year in the world while winning her heat (1:57.46) and finished third in the final.
Despite this the Russians selected the first two place-getters for the Olympic team, and after adding in the World Champion from Daegu, Mariya Savinova, Katya missed out on a place in the 800m at the Olympics.
The next day was the 1500m. Despite Katya only having run three 1500m races in her life, she won her heat in a 4:09 and then won the final in her first ever sub four minute time of 3:59.28, and was selected in the Olympic team.
How she will go at the Olympics is anyone’s guess. She is currently ranked sixth in the world on times in the 1500m in 2012 but with her 800m speed, combined with her lack of tactical racing experience and the fact that even she probably doesn’t know just how fast she can run over that distance, she could become a national hero and win the gold medal or not make the final.
My opinion is that she can only get better the more she runs over this distance and should be someone to look out for to challenge for a medal. In fact she probably has a better chance of medalling in the 1500m than she would have had in the 800m.
Let’s look to the future: Katya’s mother Olga Dvirna’s PB is still the ninth-fastest in history over 1500m; Steve Hooker’s mother Erica represented Australia at the Munich Olympics in the long jump; and both their respective fathers were 800m runners with PBs around 1:46.
If Katya and Steve ever settle down and have children, they are going to be some athletic babies! And hopefully, after we adopt Aussie Katya as our own, their offspring will be future champions for Australia.