Vyakhireva: “On a scale of one to 10, I’m now at seven”Article
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FEATURE: Having recovered earlier than expected from a severe elbow injury, Rostov’s leader Anna Vyakhireva is not yet in her best shape, but hopes to perform well at the DELO WOMEN’S EHF FINAL4
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Vyakhireva: “On a scale of one to 10, I’m now at seven”

For Anna Vyakhireva, this season has been quite difficult. In December, the Russian international was elected MVP of the EHF EURO 2018, but her team could not win the title, losing against France in the final.

In late January, the universal player, who can perform on both the right back and ring wing positions, badly injured her elbow and missed more than two months on the court.

It seemed like her season was over, but the 24-year-old managed to recover as early as April, and now she is looking forward to her second participation in the EHF FINAL4.

“At the moment, winning the Champions League is the biggest goal in my career, especially because the FINAL4 is coming very soon,” Vyakhireva told ehfCL.com.

During her career, she has claimed quite a number of individual and team trophies, including the 2016 Olympic gold medal with Russia and the Women’s EHF Cup in 2017 with Rostov. The Women’s EHF Champions League is still a dream, yet Vyakhireva thinks that Rostov now have a better chance than last season.

“The team hasn’t changed a lot, but now we have more experience. Besides, we have a new coach: Ambros Martin,” says Vyakhireva.

Similar to many other Rostov players, she has a very high opinion of Martin: “Ambros is our motor. He gives us motivation and confidence. His experience is huge, and I think it’s a factor that gives us a big chance to win the title.”

Toughest moments in her career

The semi-final against Metz appears to be a big challenge, but Vyakhireva believes in her team: “They are one of the strongest teams in Europe at the moment, and it will be very tough, but still possible to beat them. I think our attitude and morale will be key factors.”

Rostov lost against Metz twice in the main round of the current season. The first game in France was especially unfortunate for Vyakhireva, as it was then she hurt her elbow.

Following a surgery in Spain, she was sidelined for a long time, which was both physically and mentally difficult. “Such moments are the toughest in my career. But the main thing is not to give up and to work even harder than when you are healthy,” says Vyakhireva. 

Some reports suggested that the season was over for the Russian, while others expected her comeback in May. Yet Vyakhireva was ready to play as early as mid-April.

“I managed it thanks to our wonderful doctors and coaching staff. We’ve done a great job together with our physiotherapist and conditioning coach,” she says.

Surprising comeback in April

On 13 April, Anna made a surprising return on the court, playing a few minutes and scoring once in the second leg of the Women’s EHF Champions League Quarter-final against FTC-Rail Cargo Hungaria, won by Rostov in a spectacular manner, 33:22.

“If fact, I was not supposed to play in that game. The doctors didn’t support the idea, yet they didn’t rule out that option either. We took all the risks, and actually I expected to sit all 60 minutes on the bench and not to play,” says Vyakhireva, who is still Rostov’s top scorer in the current Women’s EHF Champions League season, with 52 goals. 

After the match versus FTC, Vyakhireva helped her team reach the final of the Russian Super League. In the semi-final series, Rostov beat Zvezda Zvenigorod twice, with Vyakhireva scoring three and four goals in those matches. 

Her condition is not yet perfect, but Vyakhireva hopes to be fully prepared for the showdown in Budapest.

“On a scale of one to 10, my current shape is at seven. But I still have some time, and I’m working on it,” she concludes.

TEXT: Sergey Nikolaev / cg