Despite facing an almost uncatchable goal gap, confidence reigns in the Belarusian camp ahead of the qualification match against Polans as top scorer Karina Yezhikova explains
'The girls really want it'
After beating Lithuania on Wednesday, Belarus' women's national team still has the chance to come first in Gand roup 3 qualify for the Women's 2013 World Championship Play-Offs.
But to do this, they have to beat Poland and overcome a 10-goal-gap as they lost the first leg against Poland 19:29.
So all the hopes lie on Karina Yezhikova who scored 32 goals in five qualification games and is the group's top scorer. Eurohandball.com talked to the 22-year-old player from BNTU Belaz.
eurohandball.com: Is there still a chance for Belarus to take the first place?
Karina Yezhikova: It will be very hard to beat Poland with a big goal difference. But if I didn't believe in our chances, I wouldn't play for the national team. We play at home, and hopefully that helps. I don't give up.
eurohandball.com: Is it important for you to become the top scorer of the group?
Karina Yezhikova: I can't say that it's my objective. Of course, it's always nice to score, but all games are different. It also depends on the opponent's defence, if you get the chance to score a lot of goals or not.
eurohandball.com: You are a quite new to the Belarus national team. Was it easy for you to become a part of the squad?
Karina Yezhikova: I had known most of the girls before, as many of them play in the Belarusian league. So I didn't have any big problems. I was nervous before my first game against Lithuania, but everything went well.
I can't say that I am a team leader but it's pleasant that I get the chance to play and prove myself. I hope to continue this way.
eurohandball.com You are not the only athlete in your family, right?
Karina Yezhikova: Yes. My mother Irina was a handball player. In fact she was my first coach. My father Alexander was a basketball player. He still plays at the age of 45, but not as a professional.
And my aunt, Marina Bratenkova, was a well-known goalkeeper for the Belarus national handball team. She played in Germany for many years. So I have sports genes. Probably I was destined to become an athlete, I just couldn't avoid it!
eurohandball.com Is it true that when you were a kid, you trained with boys, not with the girls?
Karina Yezhikova: That's right, I did it for two years. There were some girls in my home town Bobruisk who played handball, but they were younger than me. And my mom proposed this experiment.
Our handball teacher was Anatoli Filkov, a well-known youth coach in Belarus. Trainings with the boys helped me to strengthen my character. Previously I had played tennis and could get really upset if I lost, I started to cry.
But with the boys, I didn't want to show my tears. So that also was a motivation. I always smile when I recall those times. Even now I keep good relationships with those guys.
eurohandball.com: You played for Russia's junior national team of Russia. How did it happen and why did you come back to Belarus?
Karina Yezhikova:Well, I moved to Russia when I was 15. There I was offered the possibility to change the citizenship and play for the Russian junior team. I took part in two European Championships and missed World Championship only because of injury.
But when I was 19 I was diagnosed with some heart problems. It was strict in Russia because a well-known hockey player Alexei Cherepanov had just died of some heart disease. So I didn't play for one year, I found a job and didn't even hope to play handball again.
But Konstantin Sharovarov, the 1988 Olympic champion and head coach of BNTU-Belaz, contacted me and offered to join his team. I agreed — so I came back to handball and to Belarus.
Now I regularly do medical tests and my heart is OK. Maybe those problems were due to my young age or because I had been exhausted during the season.
eurohandball.com: What would you like to achieve in the national team?
Karina Yezhikova: It would be great to play in some major tournament — World or European Championship. The girls really want it! A good cooperation between the coaches, the federation and the players is needed. The main thing is to work together, and then sooner or later we will do it.
TEXT: Sergey Nikolaev / ts
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