Twin sisters Tanya and Natasha live in Zaporozhye, a city in southeast Ukraine. They are in the seventh grade. And both of them can easily lift a 100-kilo barbell. It seems incredible but it is true. Their amazing achievements have been entered in the Guinness Book of Records. The sisters with pigtails caused a sensation on a tournament for weightlifters in the age group under 15. “Don’t you feel a little bit afraid?” said the coach Nikolai Dubov while gently tapping Natasha’s shoulder. “Nope,” said a tall girl who looked really built. Then a broad smile crossed her face. She had a spring in her walk as she approached a 100-kilo barbell. Natasha picked up the weight and lifted it up to her chest level. A moment later, Natasha raised it easily above her head. Several minutes later she lifted a 105-kilo barbell.
In the meantime, Natasha’s twin sister Tanya was warming up to break her own record. Her time has finally arrived. The girl placed a 130-kilo barbell over her shoulders and squatted elegantly. Then she stood up. Tanya eventually lifted up a 140-kilo weight in her second attempt.
Nikolai Dubov, an honorary coach of Ukraine, could not hold back his admiration. “Bravo!” he shouted out loud before making a sentimental confession to journalists: “These girls are the most talented and hardworking kids I’ve worked with during my 25 years of coaching career!”
The sisters began playing with dumbbells and barbells after they turned 9. It must be running in the family: their father is Yakov Sirota, a power lifting athlete. The girls are Yakov’s most ardent fans. From their early years, they watched and admired the training sessions of Elena Zinovyeva, the European champion in female weightlifting.
“I just grunted and scratched my head when they told me that they wanted to lift barbells,” says Yakov with a smile. “You know, they weren’t asking permission, they were simply informing me. Well, I gave it a thought and reckoned that they will be okay if they have a knack and determination for weightlifting. Their mom didn’t mind their intention either. Sure thing, we had a word with doctors to find out whether the weightlifting will have any negative impact on the girl’s health. On the other hand, my wife and I had to fool our parents for quite a while – we’d tell them that their grandchildren attend some modern rhythmic gymnastics classes. These days they’re very proud of the girls. The granddad and grandma go to every weightlifting event in our town. The weightlifting really pays off – the girls now stay healthy throughout the year. They’d catch cold or flu regularly in the past,” says Yakov.
Tanya and Natasha Sirota will turn 13 next April. Notwithstanding their tender age, they’ve already won 18 medals (18 gold medals and 2 silver ones) and 2 cups. After Natasha turned 11, she became qualified for the title of Ukraine’s Master Sportswoman in weightlifting. Tanya met all the requirements at 12.
Lyudmila and Yakov Sirota share a dream. They want their little ones to perform in the 2012 Olympics. The girls also dream of winning the Olympics. But their athletic resolve does not keep them from behaving like every other girl does at such an age. They like to be coquettish. They also like dancing and wearing fancy costumes.
“Don’t you think you might scare off your future boyfriends? Boys would rather hang out with girls who look slender and weak. Neither of you looks that way,” I ask the girls.
“On the contrary, the boys do like us,” says Tanya. Incidentally, my sister is dating a 19-year-old boy. He’s a weightlifter too.”
The interview is drawing to a close. “What is your most cherished dream?” Tanya takes a moment’s pause and says: “We want to win gold medals at the Olympics and earn a degree in law.” Her elder sister cuts in enthusiastically: “We also want our mom and dad to stay young forever!”
Translated by Guerman Grachev