Margarita Mamun, the former Russian gymnast of Bangladeshi descent, is now in Dhaka to inaugurate the Bangabandhu International Central South Asian Artistic Gymnastics starting on Wednesday. Margarita, who was a gold medalist in the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, feels a close connection with Bangladesh and wants to do something for the country in the field of gymnastics.
In an interview with The Business Standard's (TBS) Shanto Mahmud, Margarita spoke about how she feels about Bangladesh and Bangladeshi people and a few other things.
The Business Standard: How does it feel to come to Bangladesh? How much do you know about the country?
Margarita Mamun: I am very excited to be here. I was here the last time when I was 10 years old. So it's been almost 16 years. Of course, I am happy to be here with my family and my husband. He's here for the first time and I want to show him my second homeland.
TBS: How did your love for gymnastics grow?
Margarita: Sports used to attract me when I was a kid. I used to leave my studies and sit in front of the TV when rhythmic gymnastics were telecast. I have come a long way from there because of my resolve and the support I got from my family.
TBS: Is there anything that makes you proud as a Bangladeshi?
Margarita: Of course, I am very proud to be a Bangladeshi. In my school, I was the only kid who was half Bangladeshi and half Russian. I have always kept that in mind. Bangladesh is always in my blood and my mind.
TBS: How do you feel when you see Bangladeshi people praising you?
Margarita: I've always been grateful for the support I received from Bangladeshi people before and after the Olympics. Whenever I see Bangladeshi people in Moscow, my heart is filled with love for them. During the opening ceremony of the Olympic Games this year in Tokyo, I was waiting for the Bangladeshi delegation to appear. I always love to see and meet the people of Bangladesh anywhere in the world. People, say for example in Canada, walked up to me and said that they knew me and my father.
TBS: Your father died a week after you won a gold medal in the Olympics. How big a loss was it for you?
Margarita: It was a tough time for our family. When I came back from Rio de Janeiro, he held the medal in his hand so lovingly. He always believed that I would be able to win a gold medal. But I used to lose my self-confidence quickly. He was the one who always helped me restore that.
TBS: How much do you love Bangladeshi cuisine?
Margarita: When my father was alive, he used to cook Bangladeshi foods at home. I used to roam around with him and buy spices for cooking those foods. He used to cook chicken and beef biryani very well. Among Bangladeshi foods, I love eating parathas and sweets.
TBS: Do you have any plan to do something for Bangladesh in the field of gymnastics?
Margarita: I don't have an exact plan. I've just come here. But I'm sure it won't be the last time and my association with the country has just begun. I know that artistic gymnastics are played here but I particularly want to initiate rhythmic gymnastics in Bangladesh.
TBS: Do you expect to get a coaching offer from Bangladesh Gymnastics Federation?
Margarita: Right now, I cannot become a rhythmic gymnastics coach here. Because I have to go back. It's a very slow sport. My coach in Russia used to stay with me longer than her kids. That's how time-consuming it is. But let's see what happens in the future.
TBS: You already are a big inspiration for the gymnasts in our country. Won't it be more encouraging to them if you stay here?
Margarita: Now that I have my passport and Visa, I can come here more often.