Russia's best medal snowboarding hopes are in Tudegesheva's favorite disciplines – the parallel slalom and the parallel giant slalom. Source: RIA Novosti
Alexander Yerastov, special to RBTH
Katya Tudegesheva, the “Russian torpedo” is one of the world’s most decorated snowboardists. The overall World Cup holder, and world champion in the parallel giant slalom and parallel slalom, Tudegesheva is the Russian team's main snowboarding medal hope at the Sochi Olympics.
Tudegesheva was born in Kemerovo region in 1987. After her mother died when she was five, Tudegesheva and he sister moved to live with their aunt in the Siberian town of Tashtagol. In this mountainous region, which locals jokingly refer to as the Siberian Switzerland, Tudegesheva joined a ski school. When she was 11, after several seasons on skis, she swapped them for the snowboard, which was just beginning to gain popularity.
Tudegesheva’s first international competition was the FIS race in 2003. At the subsequent world championships, she came 16th in the snowboard cross. Her first victory came in 2005 when she won gold in the parallel giant slalom at the Junior World Championships.
Tudegesheva’s poor performance at the 2006 Turin Olympics encouraged her to up her game. In 2007, Tudegesheva became the first Russian woman to win a medal at the World Snowboard Championships; she took gold in the parallel giant slalom.
The collection of medals that she put together between Turin and Vancouver made experts consider her a serious medal contender in the 2010 Games, but a poor performance in the last round kept her off the podium.
Tudegesheva took the loss hard, but eventually worked past this failure. “I found the inner strength to overcome myself and the situation I was in,” she said. “I also gained a lot psychologically from my win at the World Championships the following year.”
Russia's best medal snowboarding hopes are in Tudegesheva's favorite disciplines – the parallel slalom and the parallel giant slalom. Apart from Tudegesheva, the Russian team includes Yekaterina Ilyukhina, Natalya Soboleva and Alena Zavarzina. Iluykhina's silver in Vancouver was Russia's first-ever Olympic medal in snowboarding. The team hopes to benefit from being on home soil.
“You can feel the support and that people are anxious for you to do well,” Tugedesheva said. “You don't feel their expectation of victory as pressure and it even encourages you. Our sport does not draw a huge amount of media attention, so if there is an expectation of medals in this event, then they will broadcast more of the competition.”