Dubai: It has been quite a journey for Natalya Pankina. From being a 25km open water swimming champion to becoming the operation coordinator of the Dubai 2010 organising committee of the 10th Fina World Swimming Championships (25m), the 27-year-old Russian has seen life take a 180 degree turn, as she likes to put it.
Speaking to XPRESS, Pankina, who shifted to Dubai in January this year said: "I was given the offer more than a year before I finally took it up and it took me that long to decide. It was a tough decision to make, moving from being a professional swimmer to an administrator. Even though I am at an age when most swimmers peak I don't want to go back to my old profession."
And the Russian, who was an open water Grand Prix winner in 2008 besides just missing out on a medal at the 2007 world championship, says her decision has to do with the distances she has had to cover over the years. "The mind and body didn't want to swim that long any more. I was basically tired, of having to wake up every morning and swim such distances and eventually I lost interest," she said.
Pankina isn't new to Dubai, having finished third in the open water World Championship in 2004 having also swum in Abu Dhabi, Sharjah and Fujairah. "When I landed here in January, it was raining and I was shocked. Although I miss the season changes back in Russia, I love my job and the life here," she said.
Talking about the upcoming mega event, Pankina said it would give people here a chance to see world-class swimmers in action. "We plan to invite local children to be part of the event and see the best swimmers in action. That way, we hope to get them interested in the sport," she said.