Russian cyslist Kalentieva eyeing Olympic gold

By Xinhua,

Beijing : Four years have passed since Russian cyclist Irina Kalentieva made her poor Olympic debut. She was placed 13th at the Athens Olympics.

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Now, she is 31 years old. “I have a dream for 2008 Olympic Games,” said the world’S second-placed rider and gold medallist at the 2007 World Championships.

Born in a small town about 150 km from Cheboksary city east of Moscow on the Volga river, Kalentieva lived her childhood with pigs, cows, geese, ducks and sheep in her parents’ small farm.

The little girl used to climb trees and at the weekend play football in the street against the boys.

“My father was a cross-country skier, he ignited me and supported my passion for sport,” said Kalentieva, “I ran 800m, 1500m and 3000m races. I was always placed first in my age group.”

In 1993, she began her cycling career after Russian coach Vladimir spotted her among eight candidates at her sport school.

Despite the poor equipment available in Russia, she managed to work her way to the peak of international competition, where she got to know riders from all over the world.

“They all have their own stories and problems. They all have their own strengths and weaknesses. They all have their own highs and lows. By getting to know so many different personalities and characters I learn a lot, both about other people and about myself,” she said.

Kalentieva admitted it wouldn’t be easy to beat other strong riders such as world number one Sabine Spitz of Germany, Olympic silver medallist Marie-Belene Premont of Canada, but she hoped for a good podium finish at the Beijing Olympics.

“If you take your heart in your hand and believe in yourself, you can achieve more than you could ever hope for,” she said.