Winning an IFMA gold medal, and doing it while caring for a young child might seem impossible but not for Irina Larinova.
The Russian world champion and her 14-month old son Fedor are a regular sight at IFMA muaythai championships. Last year she claimed the European title when he was just seven months old. And at the World Championships in Minsk she took 75kgs gold as the little boy watched from the stands.
Asked how she combines motherhood and muaythai, she said simply: ‘I’d like to say to all the girls from all national teams: please don’t be afraid of giving birth to children. It’s not an ending for your sport or career perspective. Trust me. Your child will be your inspiration and motivation to succeed and pursue your goals. When there are people who have your back and support you, you can do anything that’s on your mind.’
The 27-year old started muaythai in 2012, and immediately fell in love with this ancient sport.
She said: ‘Muaythai is not just my favorite sport, but all my life is somehow connected with it. Firstly, I enjoy training and the effort is worth it because of the result. Secondly, I like the environment: my coach, my friends from the gym and the national team.’
She praises her coach Alexey Motorin as ‘the world’s best’ saying his support was crucial in helping her continue after becoming pregnant.
Irina had early success with amateur muaythai, qualifying for the national team by winning the Russian Cup in 2015. She went on to take bronze at the IFMA World Championships that year.
Shortly afterwards, Irina became pregnant. A hugely exciting event, it could have signaled the end for her muaythai.
She said: ‘I never thought about abortion, but neither did I think about leaving muaythai. I felt I just started, and taken the first steps towards being a world champion. That’s why I decided to come back as soon as I could after giving birth to my child.’
Of course it’s one thing to make that decision, and another to make it happen.
She said: ‘I do have less time in the day now, and training became harder to cope with. Sometimes my body seemed to belong to someone else, and I was sore.
‘Even simple exercises were tough but practice makes it easier. Since I’ve had Fedya my schedule has to match with his timetable, and that doesn’t always agree with my training process. So I’ve got to miss workouts sometimes.’
And when they say it takes a village to raise a child, you can add it takes a national team to raise an athlete’s child! The progressive attitude of Irina’s coach, and support from the national team and Russian Muaythai Federation are crucial to her success.
Dmitry Putilin, head of the RMTF said he’s proud to have such a great role model for young women on his team, and constantly impressed with Irina’s dedication to winning gold while caring for her little boy. Sue Glassey, head of IFMA Female Commission said she hopes Irina can inspire other women to mix motherhood and muaythai!
And of course Irina has extra motivation when facing the best female muaythai athletes in the IFMA rings. She said: ‘Being a mother gives me great motivation in the ring, that’s for sure! Sometimes when I’ve no energy to continue the fight, my coaches say to me: “Why did you come here? You left your son for this” or “Your son is watching you!” It’s really motivating!’
Irina just laughed, saying: ‘That’s awesome! Yes, many coaches and athletes from different countries come to me saying: “You are so cool! And Fedya is too” It’s enjoyable, pleasant and really awesome experience to be someone’s inspiration.
Irina added: ‘I’m in love with muaythai, enjoying competitions and the unique atmosphere, I adore my teammates and coaches as well as Pavel Sergeevich and Natalia from the Ukrainian team, I think there is no place for politics in sport. And all Thaiboxers are nice, smart and excellent persons.’