Double Olympian Ekaterina Avramova who competed for two different countries in her tow Olympic Games participation shares the story of how she was about to quit her sport, and the one reason why she continued to ultimately compete in 2 Olympic Games.
Ekaterina explains what helped her to take her swimming to the next level, how she uses setback to come back stronger and why she believes giving back is important.
Furthermore, we discuss
- Her darkest moment
- Her best moment
- Her advice to a younger Ekaterina Avramova
- The person, who inspired her to start swimming
- Her success habits
- Her morning routine
- How to prepare for important moments
- How to overcome setbacks
- Her role model
- The best advice she has received
- The reason, why she changed nationalities
- A typical training day in the life of an Olympic swimmer
- How she combines being a full time athlete, influencer and motivational speaker
- Her interview nomination
- Where can you find Ekaterina Avramova
- Her upcoming book
Part 2 of the interview with Ekaterina Avramova
Christian: In today’s interview I’m joined by Ekaterina Avramova. Ekaterina is a double Olympian and interestingly, Ekaterina competed for two different countries. In the London 2012 Olympics, she competed for Bulgaria and at the Rio 2016 Olympics for Turkey.
Next to being a double Olympian, Ekaterina is a European championship finalist and World Championships semi-finalist.
Ekaterina: Hello, and thanks for the invitation.
Christian: You are originally from Bulgaria, however, you compete for Turkey and you live in London.
How does that work?
Ekaterina: Absolutely. Many people ask me where I’m from. I tell them that that is the most difficult question they can ever ask me.
I was born in Bulgaria, in Sofia, and then when I was 15 to 16, my parents decided to move to London because of my swimming. Down the line in my career as you mentioned, I started swimming for Turkey.
It has been a very interesting journey so far and a lot of changes, a lot of people that I met along the way and many lessons that I learned. I’m sure you’d be very interested to hear about it.
Her darkest moment
Christian: Let’s start with the first lesson, what was the darkest moment in your athletic life?
Ekaterina: As athletes we go through a lot of hardships and a lot of tough moments, but also some great memories and experiences. I couldn’t choose between the darkest moments. There were two moments in my career and one was recently.
The first one was in 2008 when I couldn’t qualify for the Beijing Olympic Games. It was my dream as a little girl ever since I was 11 years old to go to the Olympics. And 2008 was my first goal and I couldn’t, simply because I was coached by a guy who almost made me quit swimming.
It was my dream ever since I was a little girl to go to the Olympic Games.
He was at the time, the national team coach of Bulgaria. Very unfortunately, he’s still the same guy and still the national team coach. His way of coaching was somehow to push you down and to make you feel worthless, thinking that this somehow would bring something out of you.
Well, of course, every person is different. It didn’t work for me. And that was one of the main reasons why my parents decided to move from Bulgaria to London.
So in 2008, in the few months before the Olympics, we had a World Junior Championship in Mexico. Over there I was going with the idea that I’m going to be a finalist because the times that I qualified with to go there were at the top level of the juniors, especially on the 50 meters backstroke.
Going over there, he completely ignored me for the entire travel. He took away my phone and my computer and every connection that I had with my family and friends. I didn’t swim very well at that competition. I almost came last on most of the events.
When I did swim bad, he turned around and said it’s my fault and he completely just put all the responsibility on me. When I got back to Bulgaria, I sat down with my parents and I told them this was it, and that I don’t want to swim anymore if he’s the guy that I have to work with.
Unfortunately, there was not many swimming pools or coaches that could’ve then actually coached me. Now it’s a little bit better. So I told my parents that this was it and I was done and that I didn’t want to do it anymore.
I sat down with my parents and I told them this was it, and that I don’t want to swim anymore.
And then it came to tough decision for my mom to sell her business and to just move to London for a better future for me and my sister. This ended up completely changing my life and taking me to two Olympic Games, seven World Championships, 14 Europeans and so on. I also met the greatest person ever since I moved to London, which is my coach.
The second darkest moment was this summer  going into the World Championship in South Korea. I can honestly say that I was at the best shape that I’ve ever been. I trained extremely hard for the last three years, but especially the last 10 months.
I spent some time in Canada swimming with a new group of people. I traveled a lot. I raced in America for first time in my career and all of that brought me into being at the best possible shape for me.
Going into our training camp just before flying to South Korea, I got eye infection. Unfortunately, it was handled very badly by the doctor I was seen by. He thought it was a viral infection and he gave me antibiotics to fight a viral infection.
Once we got to South Korea, my eye was at a point where I couldn’t see anymore. It was just all bloated. It was horrible and the pain that I experienced through the flight from Istanbul to South Korea, I’ve never, ever had anything like that before.
I was literally ready to just say that I’m not racing. I couldn’t even put my goggles on. It was so bad when we got to South Korea, the doctors over there, thank God, realized that it wasn’t a viral but a bacterial infection. So they gave me another set of antibiotics, which started working for about 48 hours from the day I started.
So I managed to race. I managed to help my team with the relays. But of course, as you all know, once we start taking antibiotics and the moment that we are tapering and most vulnerable, then all the work you’ve done pretty much is gone.
I didn’t perform as well. I was hoping to do the A cut for the Olympics there because I was just a second away from it three weeks before we went to South Korea. So that was a moment in my career where I started thinking that you spend so much energy and time, you sacrifice so much and you’re away from your family and at the end, something as simple as that could turn everything around and you can lose everything.
You sacrifice so much and you’re away from your family and in the end, something as simple as that could turn everything around and you can lose everything.
So don’t take anything for granted. That’s what I realized out of this then.
Christian: What did you learn from both of these moments in terms of how do you recover from moments like that?
Ekaterina: What I learned is that so far nothing can touch me. You know when a bad situation occurs, you think that this is the end of the world and that nothing can help you. But if you sit back and you think about it, there is a lot worse moments than this.
I believe for an athlete, it’s very difficult to sit back and say that your health is more important than qualifying for the Olympics. Or that your health is more important because you have another 10 months to work twice as hard and to be able to qualify.
If this situation happened on my last possible competition to qualify for Tokyo 2020, probably I would have felt differently. But because I have all that 10 months ahead of me from today to be able to qualify and to try again almost seven more competitions that I’ll be able to do, I learned that my health and well-being is better than anything.
I think it’s the same thing with the first bad situation where I had the problem with the coach. It taught me that the connection between an athlete and a coach is the most important one. You have to trust each other and you have to work together.
The connection between an athlete and a coach is the most important one. You have to trust each other and you have to work together.
It is not every time that things come out the way we all want or we trained for or we thought it would. Then, you just have to analyze to a point where you sit down and say that this is it. We move on and it’s just an experience that you learn from.
Her best moment
Christian: What was your best moment?
Ekaterina: Oh, I will never forget this one! It was when I qualified for my first Olympic Games. In March 2012 we had the Olympic pool and British swimming organized a championship to try the pool and also it’s a pre-Olympic event.
So I went there to race with my club. I was close to the qualifying times, but to be honest, it was a goal for us, but it wasn’t at any price. It was like, if it happens, it happens. I was just little. I was 21 at that point and I think that was why actually it happened so easy because I was just relaxed and I did my job. I did what my coach said I have to do and I did what I’ve trained for.
It happened so easy because I was just relaxed and I did my job. I did what my coach said I have to do and I did what I’ve trained for.
I swam the hundred [meters backstroke] and on the hundred, I was 0.5 seconds away from the A cut. And I always thought that the hundred was my main event. Unfortunately, through the years, I started realizing that the 200 [meters backstroke] is my main event as much as I do not like that.
So the next day I was swimming the 200 and in the morning I swam all right, about two seconds away from the A cut, but it was very close to my best time. So I was happy. And in the evening of the final, I just raced the people around me, and the moment I touched the wall and I saw the time. I started crying. I couldn’t stop crying because I realized I am going to my first Olympic Games.
As I was walking back to the tribune where the team seats where my team and coach was sitting, I picked up the phone and I called the coach from Bulgaria, who told me that I would never be an Olympian and that I would never ever make it to the big swimming.
I said, “You know what? I just qualified for my Olympics and you were wrong.” And I shoved the phone and then the whole evening was just unforgettable. I cried and I laughed and I smiled. That was the best moment ever.
The moment I touched the wall and I saw the time, I started crying. I couldn’t stop crying because I realized I am going to my first Olympic Games. That was the best moment ever.
Christian: If you reflect on the qualification for London and the qualification for Beijing- you said in London you were much more relaxed. In retrospect, do you think, if you could have been more relaxed in the qualification for Beijing 2008, you could have made it?
Ekaterina: I don’t think so. For Beijing, I was very, very young. As I said, the training that I was doing in Bulgaria were just completely wrong and I wasn’t fast enough. Beijing was a dream that I wished I could achieve. London was a reality that I knew I can do it, as long as I did everything correctly.
Beijing was a dream that I wished I could achieve. London was a reality that I knew I can do it, as long as I did everything correctly.
The four years’ difference, I trained a lot more, a lot better with the coach that I simply loved. It’s just a connection that as long as you have a person next to you like this, you understand what it means because he’s just incredible. He is amazing.
I think if it wasn’t for him and the way he made me realize that I have the potential to do it, I wouldn’t be swimming anymore and I wouldn’t be getting to the competitions that I’ve already done.
Her advice to a younger Ekaterina Avramova
Christian: If you could go back in time, 10 or 15 years, what advice would you give a younger Ekaterina?
Ekaterina: If I was going back 10, 15 years, I would say move to London earlier or move away from Bulgaria earlier. Believe in yourself and that the young Ekaterina needs to be tough because in front of her, a lot of obstacles that will come her way, but she shouldn’t be scared, and just face them and go for it. And everything will be better.
Believe in yourself and be tough. A lot of obstacles that will come your way, but don’t be scared, and just face them and go for it.
Christian: And move to London refers to just getting to a different training location or is it also getting out of your own country and the culture and your network?
Ekaterina: I think getting out from Bulgaria in general.
Christian: Why is that?
Ekaterina: Bulgaria is a lovely country, in terms of nature and history. It’s amazing and I love going back there to see my friends and my family, which I still have. But the infrastructure of support, health, education, unfortunately, it’s getting worse and worse every year.
The sport doesn’t have enough money to support their athletes and all the facilities. We have only few very good pools in the whole country. It’s very difficult to train the way you should there.
The support is not great compared to other countries with probably the same amount of talented kids. Bulgaria is full of talented athletes, not just swimming, but the lack of resources makes us choose to go out of the country.
The person, who inspired her to start swimming
Christian: I’ve read in an interview, you were inspired to take up swimming by the only Olympic gold medalist from Bulgaria. I have two questions, who was it? And you also said in that interview, that she outlined her ups and downs. What did she or he outline?
Ekaterina: So the only gold Bulgarian gold medalist, it’s Tanya Bogomilova [Dangalakova], she swam hundred meter breaststroke in the 1988 Olympics in Seoul, Korea and she won the gold medal.
I was a little girl and I was watching an interview with her and she was talking about all the injuries she was going through and the different hardships she had to battle. I was so inspired by her.
And I was just listening to the whole story of her first competition, of the Olympics, of how she went there, how she was pregnant and all of this. She went through it no matter what came in front of her. She just went through it.
I was so inspired by her, she was talking about all the hardships she had to battle. She went through it no matter what came in front of her.
Later through the years, I had the great pleasure to work with her because she was our boss. She was the Federation’s President until recently when she resigned and somebody else took over her place. Even though I left Bulgaria and I changed to swim for another country, we still respect each other because we had a good connection and we still talk to each other from time to time.
I hope she understood the reasons why I changed then. It’s not because I don’t like Bulgaria or I don’t feel Bulgarian. It’s just because I have better opportunities to work in a better environment, swimming for Turkey.
Christian: That is interesting.
Her success habits
Christian: What are the habits that make you a successful personal athlete?
Ekaterina: I believe determination is one of them. You have to be determined. You have to be hardworking. You need to be disciplined. This is one of the top reasons and you have to be able to dream because when you dream, most of the times the dreams come true.
You have to be hardworking, you need to be disciplined and you have to be able to dream. Because when you dream, most of the times the dreams come true.
Christian: I also read, and I misquote you here maybe a little bit. “Because of the sport I grew up in, I learned to be determined, to never take shortcuts and to dream because dreams can come true when you put in the effort.” Can you elaborate on that?
Ekaterina: I truly believe that sport should be clean and that we all have to do our best. Of course, recently in the last few years we’ve had a lot of doping scandals and to be completely honest with you, every time I give doping sample, I’m worried.
I’m worried, not because I’ve taken something. I’m worried because nowadays you don’t know what you eat. You don’t know what you’ve taken with your normal protein shake or your normal vitamin supplements.
It says something on the label. You believe, you check everything and at the end, simple things like the meats that I ate in China or Turkey or London could have been contaminated and given a positive test and then the whole world of an athlete just falls apart. I’m not talking to the people that actually know that they’ve been wrong and took the things that they are not supposed to.
But for me the shortcuts are that you’re not supposed to cheat in training. So in Bulgaria, I remember when I was little, we used to receive our training session. For example, for the 800 [meters], we would say that we can do 600 and he’s not going to realize. If it says 1000 [meters], we say we can do 800 and he’s not going to realize.
But actually the coach sees everything. The fact that he lets you off some things, doesn’t mean he doesn’t know. Through the years and especially when I came to London, I learned that it’s for my benefit. If I cheat in training and I don’t do what is supposed to be done, it will only have impact on me.
I learned that it’s for my benefit. If I cheat in training and I don’t do what is supposed to be done, it will only have impact on me.
That taught me how to think of what I’m doing. My coach and I have challenges because I would ask why I am doing something. Then he explains to me. And then if I still disagree with him, I would just say it and then somewhere in the middle we’ll find a middle point and we’ll just carry on. But yes, the hard work and the shortcuts, they don’t go together.
Christian: And I also believe swimming is a very tough sport because you’re just by yourself and just swimming up and down, right?
Ekaterina: Many times I say I chose the wrong sport, because for the amount of time that we put into swimming and training and the amount of time that we actually race, we spend probably 98% of the time training and 2% of the time racing. And for that one minute or two minutes that we race, we train for hours.
We spend probably 98% of the time training and 2% of the time racing. For that 1 minute or 2 minutes that we race, we train for hours.
My season is 11 months long and it has been for the last 20 years. I don’t feel tired yet, but one day when I decide that enough is enough, it will be the day that I retire.
Her morning routine
Christian: That brings me to the next question, I used to study in my early days in Berlin. There were also quite a lot of high profile swimmers and I remember some days in the university we started at eight in the morning and I was dragging myself to the lectures, because I thought it was early. But then I pass by the swimming stadium and the swimmers have finished their first session.
So the question is what’s your morning routine because I know swimmers have early mornings?
Ekaterina: Oh, yes, we do have early mornings. So most of the mornings, I wake up at 4:30 AM and I’m at the pool by 5:15. At 5:20, we jump into the water. We swim sometimes until 7:00 or 8:00, sometimes until 8:30; depends on the session and on the time of the year.
I wake up at 4:30 AM, I’m at the pool by 5:15 and at 5:20, we jump into the water.
In the winter, normally we swim longer at the beginning because it’s the beginning of the season and you have to build up the capacity of everything. And also the kilometers. Then after swimming I go up to the gym. I do either dry land or gym session, which is weights. I do stretching afterwards for sure.
This is one of the things that I learned the hard way when I had an injury. And after that I come home, it’s probably 10:30, sometimes 11 o’clock. I have breakfast, which is between breakfast and lunch and then I go to sleep. I am extremely lucky to be able to have about four, sometimes five hours of sleep during the day.
In the afternoon, my training session starts at 6:00 PM. So I go at the pool around half past five to do a little bit of mobility. I swim from 6:00 PM to 8:00 PM. After that, I go back home, I have dinner and I’m in bed by 10:00 PM because the next morning we start again.
Christian: So if you count it together, you get enough sleep, at least?
Ekaterina: Yes. With the morning, the sleep during the day, I think I do get enough sleep.
How to prepare for important moments
Christian: How do you prepare for important moments?
Ekaterina: For important moments, the whole preparation is mental. As long as I know that I’m healthy and I don’t have injuries, everything is in my mind. Through the years my coach made me learn how to be able to go to big competitions and not have him by my side.
I trained in a club that is not a professional club so not all of us are like me, then that makes it a little bit harder when we have to travel away. My coach sometimes needs to stay with them because they have other competitions here in the country and I have to go on the other side of the world to race. But through the years he taught me how to deal on my own.
And, of course, I have made so many friends along the way and anytime, if I need any help from other coaches, they are very happy to help me and just be there. But the mental preparation is the most important thing. I need to feel confident and confidence comes from the competitions that you’ve done before the big one.
So if you know that you’ve done all your times through the year and progressed or you’ve twitched little things and you feel confident, the confidence gives you the boost to win. That’s the most important thing.
The whole preparation is mental. As long as I know that I’m healthy and I don’t have injuries, everything is in my mind. If I know that I’ve done all my times through the year and progressed, I feel confident. The confidence gives you the boost to win.
Christian: And then what do you do if you don’t make your times? What does it do to your confidence?
Ekaterina: Well, people say fake it till you make it. Even if it’s not there, you have to keep telling yourself that everything’s going to be all right. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. And when it doesn’t, you just move on and learn from it.
People say fake it till you make it. Even if it’s not there, you have to keep telling yourself that everything’s going to be all right.
You take the points that you made mistakes or it didn’t go well and you just have to move on because otherwise you start digging a hole and it’s very difficult. Once you get to the bottom, it’s very difficult to come out.
Christian: Tell me about the immediate preparation. You’re just entering the stadium and within a few minutes you’re going to start your race. What do you do?
Ekaterina: I talk to myself. Normally the night before competition, I like to fall asleep with meditation music. I do that quite often. It just makes me relax better and I know that I’ll have a good sleep because we travel a lot. We’re changing a lot of hotels, pillows, beds and everything can have an impact on you.
When you have a little routine that you can actually take anywhere with you, like the music that you listened to or a certain food or a drink that you like to drink. It just makes you feel a little bit more content and that you are in a safe place.
When you have a little routine that you can actually take anywhere with you, it just makes you feel a little bit more content and that you are in a safe place.
So when I go to the pool, I first warm up for the race about an hour and a half or two hours before the race. And as I go to the call room, which is normally 20 minutes before the race starts, I talk to myself.
I tell myself that I’ve done the work that I just need to do the tactic of the race and not think about the time. This is one thing we should learn how to do is not think about the time. Think about the process and if you do the process of the race correctly, the time will come. So that’s very important.
When you have confidence in yourself thinking about the process, it’s easier. When you lack the confidence of the whole season and previous competitions, then you have to put a little bit more effort thinking about the process and not just thinking that you need to go a particular time.
Christian: People have said that before about the process, so you’re not the only one. That’s interesting.
- Also check out the interview with double Olympic Champion Mariana Pajón and Olympic champion 2010 Mark Tuitert, who both speak about the importance of trusting the process.
How to overcome setbacks
Christian: How do you overcome setbacks?
Ekaterina: I’ve had few setbacks through the years. As I mentioned, I had a knee injury which occurred twice in my career and touch wood, hopefully never again. I managed to overcome setbacks with my loved ones, my family and my biggest supporter, my mom, by my side.
She’s always there for me along with my friends and my family. They’re the most important thing. And I know that if I ever feel like I’m lost they will be there.
I’m sure along the way through my career so far, I probably have been depressed. But I haven’t realized it because I always had the right people around me to talk to. It is tough for an athlete to not perform well, especially when he has been at the top.
I probably have been depressed. But I haven’t realized it because I always had the right people around me to talk to.
I believe our journey, it’s not just straightforward, going up and being the best. Only a few of them, like Michael Phelps or the best of the best and even they suffered through the journey in the years. So I just surround myself with people that I love and people that I trust and we go through it together.
Her role model
Christian: Who’s your role model and why?
Ekaterina: My role model is my mom. I’m not saying that only because she’s my mother, but she is a very, very tough lady. She had me when she was very young. She was only 21 when she had me.
Unfortunately, she divorced from my father when I was two years old and then the whole responsibility about looking after a baby fell on her. So I remember I was growing up and she was working in four places and I was barely seeing her.
My grandparents were always there to look after me while she was working. But as a child, I never missed anything. I would always be dressed nicely. I would always have all the books for school. I would always have the bag and we’ll always have food in the fridge, which was the most important thing.
We lived a simple but very comfortable life when I was a baby. And then my mother decided to open her first beauty salon in Bulgaria. Then she opened a second one and then she opened a third one.
Then she decides to just sell them all and move to London without even speaking a single word of English just because of me and my little sister. And then she felt through all the difficulties here, learning the language, opening a salon, bringing clients, looking after two kids, having the house all by herself.
So I believe that’s something to be inspired by because even though now she’s happily married to a lovely guy, she is still as independent as she used to be. And she just inspires every single person that she manages to meet through the day and stuff.
She’s a lovely person. So she’s my role model and many times I said that one day when I get to her age, I would like to be at least 50% of what she is because she’s just unbelievable.
When I get to her age, I would like to be at least 50% of what she is because she’s just unbelievable.
Christian: That’s good to hear. I thought about that earlier and wanted to mention that I think she deserves a lot of respect also for selling her business for you to fulfill your dream.
Ekaterina: Absolutely. And the funny thing, a lot of people ask me if my mom came to every competition to watch and support me. I told them that she didn’t. The first competition she ever came to watch me was 2012 Olympic Games.
Christian: Because it was London.
Ekaterina: Exactly! Oh my God, you’re the first one! Because it was London! Otherwise she wouldn’t have come. You know how many times I tell her that we should fly and go there so that she can watch me. She would always say that she can see me better on the television.
The best advice she has received
Christian: What is the best advice you received and who gave it to you?
Ekaterina: The best advice that I received was by my coach and he said to me, “Katie, the final destination doesn’t matter. The journey that you take, it’s the most important thing and it’s what you will remember and you will be talking about.”
My coach said to me, “The final destination doesn’t matter. The journey that you take, it’s the most important thing and it’s what you will remember and you will be talking about.”
Christian: That’s a powerful one. How does it work? As an athlete, you are very much goal-driven, right? It’s always a balancing act between enjoying the journey and focusing on the end goal. How do you do that?
Ekaterina: To be honest, I don’t know how I do it. It just comes natural. There are days when I don’t enjoy it. There are days when the alarm rings at 4:30 AM in the morning and I wonder why I am doing this.
Then I wake up and I get to the pool, jump in the water and I feel like I’m at home. I’d then tell myself that this is the reason why I’m doing it. Recently, especially when I go to competitions little kids come up to me and say, “Oh my God, you are Ekaterina Avramova and you’re an Olympian.”
When you see the spark in their eye, you remember how you were going as a kid to those big guys saying the same thing. And it keeps me going. It keeps me going to know that perhaps I inspire somebody else to be like me. Like the moment when Tanya Bogomilova inspired me to be like her.
When you see the spark in their eye, you remember how you were as a kid, and it keeps me going. It keeps me going to know that perhaps I inspire somebody else to be like me. Like the moment when Tanya Bogomilova inspired me to be like her.
The reason, why she changed nationalities
Christian: I know there was a guy, his name was Naim Suleymanoglu. He was also Bulgarian and he became Turkish. To the best of my knowledge, he changed nationality for political reasons. Unfortunately, he’s not with us anymore.
You touched on that earlier a little bit. What was the reason for changing nationalities?
Ekaterina: Unfortunately Naim is not with us anymore. He was, God bless him, amazing person. He’s the star and many, many Turkish people know him and he’s the star. And every time I say that I’m from Bulgaria originally, but I swim for Turkey. They go, “Oh, you are like Naim!” Everyone remembers him because he was just amazing athlete and person.
My reason was different to his. I was just fed up of the way we were treated as an athlete. For me, we give our health, we give our time and the least we can receive is respect and some kind of a support. It is not support to become millionaires, but support enough to be able to continue doing this for our country.
As an athlete, we give our health, we give our time and the least we can receive respect and some kind of a support. Enough support to be able to continue doing this for our country.
So in December 2012 after the Olympics, I had my first injury, which I mentioned previously. I went to my Federation at that time and I told them that I would like to be treated. I told them that I wanted them to cover my expenses because I need a physio and a doctor and not an operation, but mainly physio and some treatments.
I said that I was even willing to go back to Bulgaria for the amount of time that I needed to stay to recover because I do understand London is an expensive city and perhaps they don’t have the budget for that. At that time, they refused to support me. They refused to cover my expenses.
My family and I worked together and funded my recovery which in summer of 2013, we had the World Championship in Barcelona. Turkey got in touch with me and they said that they want to build up a strong medley relay team for 2016 Olympic games because Turkey has never been to the Olympics with the relay.
So they were looking for a backstroker and a breaststroker. We sat down, we talked about all the support and everything that I need. And for me it was very important to continue living in London and swimming with my coach. They agreed to everything and then I changed my nationality.
To be honest, you are probably the first person that I talk so openly about it with. When I was asked by the Bulgarian media why I betrayed my country and why I decided to go and not just swim for any other country, but Turkey, because the history between Bulgaria and Turkey 500 years ago was, of course, terrible.
But we live in 21st century. Things are different. We have to move on. We have to just accept people as they are now and not live back in the history. I tell them that they look at me as an athlete, but I look at my swimming as my job. Even though I’m enjoying it and I’m doing it because of the love of swimming, it’s still my job.
I still put all my health and all my time in it. So when you work somewhere and you’re not happy with the conditions, you just go and you find yourself another job. You don’t stick to the same place just because you have to. So it’s the same thing. I just went and I found a better job.
Christian: Very clear. Now I was thinking sometimes you will have the idea of patriotism and for your country. I think I can relate to that somehow because I’ve also worked for different countries in my life.
Ekaterina: I will always be Bulgarian, but I’m also for the last five years, Turkish and I also live in London. So I feel very international. I cannot say that I am a patriot about Bulgaria or Turkey or Britain.
I am a woman of the world and I travel a lot and I meet lot of people. So I really feel like I can live anywhere in the world and feel happy and I am extremely thankful to the Turkish Federation for what they’ve done for me for the last years.
A typical training day in the life of an Olympic swimmer
Christian: We talked a bit about your training day before. How does a typical training day look like? And then can you outline a little bit the difference between pre-season and in season?
Ekaterina: My season is 11 months long and normally we get the month of August off. It depends when the last competition in August finishes and until first or second week of September. So now, because my competition finished on the 6th of August, I will get around three weeks off.
But even though I’m off, I still go to the gym. I still go to swim a little bit on my own and keep myself fit. We don’t really have preseason. We start on the 2nd of September with mostly land work and dry land and perhaps a little bit of swimming, but it’s drills and skills.
Even though I’m off, I still go to the gym. I still go to swim a little bit on my own and keep myself fit.
Then a week later, we pick up a little bit more and by the end of September, we already have our first competition and we already are full time on double sessions with gym and everything. It roughly takes us between two and two and a half, sometimes three weeks to go back to full intensity.
Christian: I know the tournament schedule or competition schedule is determined by what the Federation or whoever organizes it. Would you think you could get to a higher performance level if your season would be a bit shorter?
Ekaterina: I don’t think so. I think as we said, swimming takes a lot of time to train. If the season is shorter, we wouldn’t be able to actually do the blocks of work that you’re supposed to do and race. The winter season, is actually shorter than the summer.
We start in September and then normally the most important competition for us in the winter is December. So that gives us only about three full months to train. And after having three or four weeks off, three full months are normally not enough. And then the summer season starts from January and then ends in August.
The difference between the winter and the summer season is that the winter we race mostly in short course, which is 25 meters’ pool. And from January onwards we start preparing for the summer because normally the summer is the Olympics every four years or the World’s. And its racing in a 50 meter’s pool and mostly training long course 50 meters’ pool.
How she combines being a full time athlete, influencer and motivational speaker
Christian: We have spoken about your long training days. I also saw you are a motivational speaker and an influencer. How do you combine all of that?
Ekaterina: I believe that giving back to the society is important. I love to spend my little free time that I have to go to schools or clubs or companies and to share with them my experience and my story. But my favorite part is to actually go to schools and spend time with kids.
I believe that giving back to the society is important. I love to spend my little free time to go to schools, clubs or companies and to share with them my experience and my story. But my favorite part is to actually go to schools and spend time with kids.
As I mentioned previously, looking at the kids eyes so pure and just with no bad intentions and looking at them, seeing that spark, it’s what gives me the energy and it fills me up. And talking about that actually, I will be running my first training camp in October this year. It will be in Bulgaria with some kids from UK and Bulgaria and it will be one-week long. So that will be my first long time spending with kids and hopefully I’ll be able to just inspire them.
Christian: That’s nice.
Her interview nomination
Christian: Do you want to nominate someone to be interviewed?
Ekaterina: I would like to nominate a very, very good friend of mine. She is the fastest white woman in Europe. Her name is Ivet Lalova. And she just qualified for her fifth Olympic games. She runs for Bulgaria.
I would love to see her in an interview with you because she is very inspirational. She went through a lot to come out to her fifth Olympic games, but I’m going to let her speak to you about it.
Christian: I believe that. It sounds interesting.
Where can you find Ekaterina Avramova
Christian: Where can people find you?
Ekaterina: People can find me on Facebook under my name. I have a page there or on Instagram, or they can find me in the pool here in London.
Christian: I also saw you have a website, right? A Life in Water.
Ekaterina Avramova’s social profiles
Her upcoming book
Ekaterina: A Life in Water, it’s a project that I’m working on in my spare time, mostly now. I am writing my own book, which it will be called a Life in Water and that’s why the website came first and then hopefully the book will be out by the end of the Olympics next year.
Christian: What’s the book about?
Ekaterina: About me, but it wouldn’t be just a book about my life. I want to write it in a way so people that work in the city can read it, read all the lessons that I learned and all the experience and relate to them.
But also I want kids or normal people out from the streets to be able to read it and relate to it and learn and perhaps use some of the things that I used in tactics and everything. So it’s not going to be just an autobiography.
Christian: Ekaterina, thank you for your time.
Ekaterina: Thank you so much for the invitation.