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EHF Champions League

Mikhaylichenko: “I still take things too emotionally”

EHF / Sergey Nikolaev

For Elena Mikhaylichenko, who is seen as the next big star in Russian women’s handball, CSKA’s opening match against Györi Audi ETO KC on Saturday was a debut in the DELO EHF Champions League.

And two days before her 19th birthday, the left back did a great job, scoring seven goals in the game where the European debutants CSKA earned a 27:27 draw against the current title holders.

Now CSKA are getting ready for the match at Buducnost on Saturday (at 18:00 CEST live on EHFTV).

In this Interview of the Week, the Russian prodigy, who moved to the Moscow-based team from Lada Togliatti this summer, speaks with eurohandball.com about:

eurohandball.com: How does the DELO EHF Champions League taste for you?

Elena Mikhaylichenko: My emotions were very intense, just exorbitant! It was a debut not only for me, but for the whole team. To be honest, I wanted to play that game as soon as possible, because I was full of emotions. The Champions League has a very high level, there are no weak teams in the competition. And it was special to make a debut against Györ, because everyone knows how strong they are.

eurohandball.com: A draw against Györ was an outstanding result for a debutant, yet CSKA were very close to winning. What were your feelings right after the final buzzer?

Elena Mikhaylichenko: They were a bit unclear. I would say we were happy to take a point against such a strong rival. It was a very good result. However, when the emotions subsided, we realised how close we were to winning, as we were leading by one goal just a few seconds from the buzzer. So, it was quite frustrating to let the victory slip.

eurohandball.com: Probably such a debut helped CSKA to get more confidence. How far can your team go in the current campaign?

Elena Mikhaylichenko: I don’t like to make predictions. But the opening match proved that we are able to compete with any kind of opponents. I just hope that we will continue to do it in future, and that we will further improve.

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eurohandball.com: You turned 19 on Monday. Can you say that you made yourself a nice birthday present by scoring seven goals against Györ?

Elena Mikhaylichenko: I think so. However, my team’s victory would have been an even better present…

eurohandball.com: Was an opportunity to play in the DELO EHF Champions League one of the biggest reasons for you to move from Lada Togliatti to CSKA this summer?

Elena Mikhaylichenko: Certainly it was one of the reasons, yes. With Lada, I had participated in the EHF Cup, but the Champions League is quite a different level. I had a big desire to play in that competition.

eurohandball.com: Was it a hard decision to move from your home town Togliatti to the huge Moscow?

Elena Mikhaylichenko: It was an insanely tough decision, and not just because of moving to a larger city. The thing is, I couldn’t imagine myself playing for any team other than Lada. Luckily, I have adjusted quite well. The atmosphere at CSKA is very good, and now I already feel like home. And I don’t actually see ‘the huge Moscow’ a lot because I live outside the city, in a place which rather feels like Togliatti, and spend little time in the capital proper.

eurohandball.com: With many of your new teammates you had already played before at Lada or the Russian national team. Did it help you to settle down?

Elena Mikhaylichenko: I am sure it helped a lot. I didn’t move to a completely new team, because in fact I had known most of the girls. Daria Dmitrieva, Polina Vedekhina, Polina Gorshkova are my friends, I had played with them at Lada. And I knew some other girls from playing for the national team. In fact, only the foreign players were new to me.

eurohandball.com: CSKA coach Jan Leslie is also a foreigner. What are your impressions from working with him, and do you feel the language barrier?

Elena Mikhaylichenko: Our coaching staff is very nice, I have only good words to say. Regarding the communication, I wouldn’t say that the language is a big issue. Even though my English is not good, I’m always trying to understand Leslie’s message to me. And if I want to tell him something, other girls or our interpreter are always ready to help.

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eurohandball.com: At 19, you have already played for the Russian national team at the World Championship, and now you made a debut in the DELO EHF Champions League. Do you feel that you are already quite an experienced player?

Elena Mikhaylichenko: Not at all, especially when it comes to psychology. I still have a lot to learn, especially how to behave at some important moments. Too often I don’t behave like a mature player – I make a lot of stupid, childish mistakes because I take things too emotionally. I need to work on that.

eurohandball.com: What are your expectations from the match against Buducnost?

Elena Mikhaylichenko: I hope we will show the same emotions and commitment as in the match against Györ. But probably it will be an even more difficult game, as Buducnost will play at home, where even the walls help. All the teams in the Champions League are good. And even if Buducnost now are not as strong as Györ, it doesn’t mean that we should be less committed than in the first game. We want a good result.

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