Russian synchronized swimming legend Angelika Timanina has discussed life in her new sport of surfing, saying she still harbors dreams of Olympic success while also opening up on her social media popularity.
Timanina, 30, was one of Russia’s golden girls in the pool as she captained the team to Olympic glory at the London 2012 Games in a career which also saw her amass an incredible 11 world titles.
She eventually left the sport in 2016 after battling injury and what she says were personality clashes within the Russian team, but has since found a new passion – and another chance of Olympic glory – in the form of surfing.
Such has been Timanina’s ascent that she landed a place on the Russian surfing team for the Tokyo Games this summer, where the sport was set to make its Olympics bow.
But that dream was placed on hold for the time being at least when the Games were postponed to next year due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
Despite the delay, Timanina told RT in a recent interview that she is still dreaming of making the Games next year.
“I ended up at my first World Cup last year almost by accident, I went there as a reserve,” Timanina said.
“In the end I was selected for the national team in first place, despite the fact I was competing with people who had been surfing for 10 or even 20 years.
“If it wasn’t for the coronavirus, it’s uncertain how everything would have turned out.
“Of course I’d like to get to the Games – I’ve always dreamed of going to Japan,” Timanina said.
She also revealed she had longed to swap the pool for the expanse of the ocean during her synchronized swimming days.
“When we worked hard in training, I always said that as soon as my career was finished, I’d leave for the islands and lay on the sand…
“Surfing has opened up a whole new world for me: freedom, the ocean, the sun, you're on the wave, alone with nature.
“No one is standing above you with a stick [like in synchronized swimming]. I realized that this is exactly what I needed.”
Beyond the surfboard, Timanina is riding the crest of a wave through her social media following and online popularity.
The photogenic blonde said that she had always planned to capitalize on her striking talents after her swimming career, and worked on becoming more PR-savvy.
“Initially, I understood that in life there should be something other than synchronized swimming,” said the Sverdlovsk-born star.
“So I thought in advance what I would do when I finished performing."
“When I left the sport, I began a much more active public life and socially. I graduated from commentary courses at Ostankino [TV center in Moscow], hired a PR representative and set out to be recognized in Russia.
“I wanted to become a media personality so I could make money from it. It worked. Now my main income is advertising shoots and Instagram.”
Indeed, Timanina has a growing following of 115,000 on Instagram and has featured in the pages of the likes of socialite bible Tatler.
Much of her social media output features her surfing exploits, but there’s also a liberal helping of modeling pics – including some revealing snaps.
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But while Timanina revealed that he is often asked to strip off for photoshoots, she cautioned that it would damage the image she is striving for.
“Of course [I get asked to take my clothes off]. But my goal from the very beginning was different.
“I wanted to become like the ‘Maria Sharapova’ of synchronized swimming, cover the luxury sector, brands like Dior and Armani.
“But luxury brands will never work with a girl who has done naked shoots for the cover of Playboy,” Timanina said.
The Russian synchronized swimming icon is clearly a woman who knows what it takes to secure success, whether that's in the pool, on a surfboard, or adorning the pages of a glossy magazine.