On October 8th at the Wizz Air Kyiv City Marathon 2017 the seven-year-old Nicole Knyazeva set the record of Ukraine. Presently she is officially recognized as the first Ukrainian who at the age of 7 overcame the course of 21,0975 km within the framework of the running competition. It was Nicole’s 14th sports record, and in the history of Kyiv marathon – the first case of participation of a seven-year-old child in a half marathon race. According to Wizz Air Kyiv City Marathon 2017 regulations, a person under the age of 18 is not entitled to participate in marathon or half marathon races, but the organizers, Run Ukraine, have made an exception to the rules for the first time. The girl participated in the competition with permission of the head sports doctor of the country, director of Ukrainian medical center for sports medicine, Yuriy Dekhtyariov. We asked Yuriy why is this girl so unique and whether physical activities will not harm her health?
How long have you known Nicole and her family?
Yuriy: A few months ago father and at the same time Nicole’s trainer came with the girl to see us. At that time Nicole had already set records in workout. We are acquainted for not so long, but I had enough time to make the conclusion that Nicole is a special child. In all my research and medical practice I have never met children with similar physical abilities. She became the first athlete who at the age of 7 received permission from the Center for sports medicine to participate in the half-marathon race. Yes, we made an exception, and I personally, as the director of the Center, became responsible for her state of health at the competition. Why have I done this?
The method and approach used by Nicole’s trainer is truly unique. These exercises allow to achieve high sports results even at the age of seven. Employees of our Center and me are convinced of this now. We saw Nicole’s video from trainings and competitions, saw how she runs and performs power exercises. She not only easily overcomes long distances like 10 km or 21 km, but also perfectly performs a number of gymnastic exercises. In addition, Nicole went through a standard medical examination at our Center.
How was Nicole’s examination conducted? On which basis was the permission to participate in running competition at a course of 21,0975 km granted?
Yuriy: First of all, we evaluated athlete’s general state of health, confirmed that there were no infectious diseases, pathologies of the cardiovascular system, etc. We performed a general test of blood and urine, a diagnostic cardiac ultrasound in a state of rest and after physical activity. We recorded how work of the heart changes after the following tasks: 30 sit-ups, running for 15 seconds, running for 3 minutes. Girl’s state of health is good and meets all the standards in her age category. No pathologies, no morphological changes in the heart muscle or suspicion for diseases have been detected. However, my permission to participate in the competition was based not only on the results of our examination. I had confirmation of the sufficient level of her training. It is important that during the training she has already overcome the course of 25 km. Only after that was she allowed to participate in the competition. Moreover, her father is coaching her, who more than anyone wants his child to be healthy. I am sure of that.
Will not such intensive trainings harm the further physical development of the girl? What might the consequences be?
Yuriy: We discussed this issue before and after the race with Nicole’s coach. Now her health is in norm. She has no overload during trainings and competitions. Her body responds normally to the exercises she performs. These are not only cyclic sports but also acyclic. She perfectly performs gymnastic exercises. Nicole does 5,000 push-ups in 2 hours and 6 minutes, 500 pullups in 37 minutes. It is incredible. The only thing I recommend is to limit exercises with weight. For example, when Nicole sits in a split with weights it looks spectacular, but it is better to do these exercises carefully, because it can lead to the rupture of adductor muscles. The coach heard me and took it into consideration.
Now the girl is absolutely healthy, she is very well developed not only physically. She studies well at school, is engaged not only in sports, but also in music and chess. However, there are distant consequences, and the coach knows about them. He takes them into account in his program, so that not to harm his child’s health. What can these consequences be? For example, when girls engage in artistic gymnastics, this leads to a delay in hormonal development. However, Nicole is involved in everything. Gymnastics exercises are only part of her overall physical training. She will still be formed as an athlete, and her physical development is and will be conducted under medical and pedagogical supervision. We do not know exactly for now in which sphere she will perform best.
There may be psychological consequences, like fatigue, among the remote consequences. Athletes who began to work out at an early age are not protected from it. But I emphasize that Nicole does not have an early specialization.
Now her health is not endangered by overload. This is not only my opinion. My colleagues, specialists in sports medicine, who examined Nicole, agree with me.
How does Nicole feel after a half-marathon run?
Yuriy: We met her after the finish in the cafe. She was cheerful, ordered fresh juice, talked to me. She said she was a little tired, but overall was satisfied with participation and with results.
Run Ukraine’s position
Ivan Tretyakov, Managing Director of Run Ukraine: For the first time our team made an exception to the rules – officially allowed the seven-year-old athlete to take the start of the “adult” course of 21,0975 km. Before allowing parents to register Nicole for the race, we met with her coach, confirmed that she really passed examination at the sports center, is trained and ready for such a challenge. Prior to this, on September 10th, Nicole participated outside the competition at the Intersport Run UA racing event. Then she overcame 10 kilometers, but her race was not official and we as organizers did not control her participation. At Wizz Air Kyiv City Marathon 2017 Nicole was already an official participant in the half marathon distance. From the start to the finish line she ran accompanied by an ambulance. An instructor was with her along the track. We had connection with ambulance and with the instructor during the run, controlled her condition and informed parents. At the finish Nicole impressed everyone. She has overcame the course of 21,0975 km, and only 10 minutes after her finish she was awarded the diploma of the National Register of Records of Ukraine. Her participation in the Wizz Air Kyiv City Marathon 2017 has inspired many spectators to do sports. With her example, she confirmed the fact that training and preparation are the key to a successful finish.