Athlete of the Month – December 2012

Name: Tatyana Ryabkina

Country: Russia

Discipline: Foot orienteering

Career highlights:

World Championships silver medal at Middle Distance 2004 and in Relay 2008, bronze at Middle Distance 2006 and 2012; European Championships gold medal in Relay, silver at Long Distance in 2008 and 2012, in Relay 2008, bronze at Long, Middle and Relay 2004, and at Middle Distance 2012.

Our athlete of December grew up in Moscow and got involved in orienteering from an early age. “Both my parents are orienteers, so I started very early with a map”, she says. “At the age of 13 one of the orienteering coaches working in Moscow, Vyacheslav Kostylev, discovered that I was talented in orienteering and invited me to join his group”.

Many successes

The 32-year-old athlete has won a lot of medals in international competition. At this year’s World Championships in Switzerland she took the bronze medal at Middle Distance, and earlier in the year she ran the Russian team into gold in the relay at the European Championships in Sweden. Altogether she has four medals from World Championships and eight from European Championships; just an individual gold is lacking. In the 2004 World Championships in Sweden she was just 11.8 seconds behind Hanne Staff in the Middle Distance final. “The biggest moment ever for me is that second place. I was so close to the gold”, she says.

The medallists in Middle Distance at this year’s World Championships: Tove Alexandersson, Sweden (left), Minna Kauppi, Finland, and Tatyana Ryabkina, Russia.

She was second overall in the World Cup in 2004 and third this year. She is currently fifth in the IOF World Rankings. As a junior, she won four Junior World Championship golds – two individual and two relay. Tatyana, or Tanja, as she is called too, was a member of the winning team at Tiomila in 2007 with the Swedish club Hellas – she ran the anchor leg on that occasion, just as in the European Championships relay this year.

The Russian is working hard to raise her standard yet further. “I train to be better in reading the map, understanding the terrain, running in the forest and running on roads. There are a lot of things I can improve”, she says.

New life as a mother

The 31st of August, 2010 was a very special day in the life of the Russian star. On that day, she and her husband Maxim Ryabkin’s Ilya was born. From then on, Tanja has had ‘mother power’! “It is much more challenging to go orienteering when you have a baby. Ilya gives me a lot of energy for practising my sport. A baby makes any woman happy, and that includes sports women as well”, says Tanja.

Just like other mothers among the very best in the world like Simone Niggli and Anne Margrethe Hausken Nordberg, Tanja has no thoughts about stopping her career. “I don’t know how long I will carry on, life itself will tell me”, she says. “My goal now is to be well prepared for the coming season and avoid injury”.

Her husband is also an orienteer and works in the sports equipment field.

Tanja Ryabkina and Ilya.

Home is in Moscow

The family lives in the southern part of the Russian capital, close to one of Moscow’s biggest parks – Bitcevskij park. “It’s about five minutes running from my home to the forest, but I don’t do my main training in Moscow. I travel a lot”, the full-time orienteer says.

– How much do you train with a map?

“Five to ten training sessions a week are in the forest. How many depends a bit on which part of the season it is and what it is I am trying to improve”, she says. In winter-time she does two training sessions a day, around 2 hours in all.

The athletes’ questions

The athlete of October was Marit Wiksell. Her question to Ryabkina is: What is your main goal for the future and what do you have to improve to get there?

“My main goal is to continue to be one of the six best in the world. I believe I can improve my orienteering technique and speed of running”.

Next month, ski orienteer Staffan Tunis from Finland will be the athlete of the month. Tatyana’s question to him is: What do the other skiers have to do to beat you, when you are racing at your best?

Text and photos: Erik Borg


Previous Athletes of the Month


January 2012 Alison Crocker (USA)
February 2012 Morihiro Horie (JPN)
March 2012 Polina Malchikova (RUS)
April 2012 Ionut Zinca (ROU)
May 2012 Tobias Breitschädel (AUT)
June 2012 Ivo Tišljar (CRO)
July 2012 Matthias Kyburz (SUI)
August 2012 Marika Hara (FIN)
September 2012 Lizzie Ingham (NZL)
October 2012 Tonis Erm (EST)
November 2012 Marit Wiksell (SWE)


February 2011 Olga Novikova (KAZ)
March 2011 Olli-Markus Taivainen (FIN)
April 2011 Emily Benham (GBR)
May 2011 Søren Saxtorph (DEN)
June 2011 Tove Alexandersson (SWE)
July 2011 Olav Lundanes (NOR)
August 2011 Thierry Gueorgiou (FRA)
September 2011 Erik Skovgaard Knudsen (DEN)
October 2011 Lauri Kontkanen (FIN)
November 2011 Annika Billstam (SWE)
December 2011 Anna Füzy (HUN)


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