Anastasiya Merkushyna: In Her Parent’s Footsteps
Family determines a lot in life; education, views, hobbies, interests and career choices. Ukraine’s Anastasiya Merkushyna did not have to think too long about what to dedicate her life to. She became a biathlete, following in her parents footsteps and continuing the family tradition, where her mother Iryna was a professional biathlete and her father Oleh Merkushyn a coach. Of course, it often happens that children of the talented parents never match their parents. However, at age 21, Anastasiya has already topped her mother in the medals and awards category.
The young Ukrainian won her first international medal at age 16, in the relay at the IBU YJWCH, with the trophy case rapidly filling up from that point on. She now has four YJWCH medals (including 2 individual) and five medals at the Open European Championships (including the 2015 sprint and pursuit titles). Her early successes sometimes put the National Federation in a tough spot. In November 2010, she was on Ukrainian team for the first IBU Cup at Beitostolen. At that time she had no right to compete because of her age, but nevertheless she received permission to start due to her abilities. Now Merkushyna is an IBU Cup regular and has made a few World Cup starts.
The young biathlete believes that the co-authors of her victories are her parents and coaches. The well-known coach/father and 2003 IBU WCH Silver medalist mother took Anastasiya to camps and competitions from the time she was born in 1995. Her mother retired from competition in 2004, ending a 12-year career and soon gave a birth to another daughter, Alexandra. Since then, the elder Merkushyna has devoted her time to coaching.
Work With Parents
Merkushyna admits that it is not always easy to work with her parents; it has pros and cons; "They continue to be coaches even at home. Sometimes it is difficult. But I understand that my parents want only good for me. At times I even think that I started doing biathlon not 21 years ago, but 9 months before, when my mother was pregnant. I started learning to ski when my peers were just starting to walk." Although her biathlon career started 10 years ago, she still remembers her first competition. "I remember the first start, it was a cross competition with shooting; I was alone on the track, because there was no one else to compete with; I was the youngest by far. I do not really remember how I shot in that race, but I tried my best." With great pride and warmth Merkushyna also remembers her first victory at the Ukrainian Championships; "The weather was so horrible that day; my mother even suggested not starting. However I did; it was the first competition where I carried the rifle. I remember that victory and that competition; it was the day I became a professional."
More Than Enough Motivation
Merkushyna is a very serious, reasonable person; she is always responsible in the things she does. Despite her youth, she has the ability to make the correct decisions. When she loses heart, she always remembers the words of the Ukrainian Olympic Committee President, the legendary Sergey Bubka. "As long as you have at least one more attempt, you haven’t lost!" Merkushyna believes that her strongest traits are stubbornness, persistence, and the ability to bring to finish what she started. Still, she says that in her essence she is a "jim-jams"; she worries a lot and likes to start in the first group so she is less nervous. Her favorite competition is the relay, because it gives plenty of inexpressible emotions. She never has problems with motivation. "The motivation is always present, even more than enough! I understand that you cannot win everything, but I think that you need to strive for it. I see mistakes in every competition and try to correct them. "
"As long as you have at least one more attempt, you haven’t lost!"
Eat Something Sweet
Sometimes, the results do not reflect an athlete’s ability or preparation, so she thinks it is very important to "reboot" and re-adjust for the next competition. Reading helps Merkushyna in such moments; she especially likes fantasy. She also loves to cook, and in her spare time to do some shopping, but she never forgets to call her family. Her feminine motivational skills show up at times during competitions when she thinks to herself "Nastya, if you run quickly, I'll let you eat something sweet."
Her younger sister is also a biathlete and that makes her happy. "I also want Sasha to follow my mother's footsteps because biathlon is not only about medals; it is a lifestyle. On one hand, we are older than our peers because we recognize the value of work and are not lazy. On the other hand, we are also still children." She proved that by graduating from high school at 15, ahead of her age and entered the Ternopil National Economic University at the Faculty of International Business and Management.
She has always had an independent streak. Once, she made a list of goals, put her books in a travel bag and went to Norway to see how a biathlon legend trained. Ole Einar Björndalen made a great impression on her and even took more than a half hour out of his training schedule for Merkushyna. The famous Norwegian not only watched her standing shooting, but also gave some advice. Naturally, the young athlete was in the seventh heaven. That moment has been a great motivator for the future.
Main Career Goal
Merkushyna finished last season, her final one as a junior on a high note; she won the individual competition at the Junior European Championships at Pokljuka and a small globe in the IBU Junior Cup Individual score, then added three medals at the IBU SBWCH in Otepää.
She is reluctant to share her future plans and goals; she has many. Her “want” is so big that she fears if she shared them all, they may not happen. However, Merkushyna does reveal let one slip out; her number one career goal is…an Olympic medal.