Already a record-breaking athlete, Ivan Kireev (Alpina, Year 13) wants to see just how far he can go.
Ivan Kireev (Alpina, Year 13) was already a veteran of the discipline, hard work and stamina required to succeed in sport at the age of just 10. He started ballroom dancing when he was three years old, and achieved considerable success in his seven-year career. But, at 10, he decided he’d gone as far as he could on the dancefloor, and swapped the tango for the track. Now, he’s got his sights set on the most iconic athletics event of them all – the 100 metres.
It’s not surprising, as sport is part of Ivan’s family heritage. His grandfather was a professional football player, his father is a professional ice hockey player and his uncle is a professional swimmer. “I play everything – football, basketball, ice hockey. Sport is something that’s always been there. But when I was a child, I had heart problems – which are now cured – so there were some things I couldn’t play for a time, like football.”
He started to focus on athletics four years ago – “I just tried everything!” – and immediately showed natural talent. High points so far have been breaking the Middle School record for the high jump (180cm) and, last summer, the school record for 100 metres (11.34 secs). “But this year, in training, I achieved 11 seconds. So, I can see that I’m improving.”
In March, Ivan decided to get serious about is athletics training, and asked sports teacher Mr Deon George for help. “He put together a training programme for me, which was really helpful. He’s been incredible, a real inspiration, and I credit him with starting me down this training road.”
He wasn’t deterred when the Covid-19 pandemic hit, either. “I didn’t want to spend quarantine just sitting around becoming more unfit. So, I also spent time with a professional coach. I did three days a week training with him – it’s important not to train every day because your muscles need a rest. I’ve also learned about the importance of diet and upper-body strength and being healthy overall. Of course, there is such a thing as natural talent and genetic advantage. But you also have to be incredibly determined and train hard. This was my first professional training experience and I loved it.”
He loves the camaraderie that comes with being involved in sport: travelling to events, spending time with friends and making new ones. But he’s also driven by a desire to win. “I’ve won a lot of times, but I’ve also lost a lot of times,” he says. “But I hate to lose!”
And he loves the adrenaline that kicks in as he comes off the starting blocks. “It’s funny, because I hate that 10 seconds just before you start a race,” he says.
“My heart races and I get butterflies in my stomach. But when I get started, it’s the best feeling in the world.” School, says Ivan, will always come first. Balancing training and work is a challenge but he’s eager to see how far he can go in the hyper-competitive world of athletics. To that end, he’s applying to Babson College in the United States, which has a renowned athletics programme and has already shown interest in him.
“I’m excited to train in the US. Everyone is really competitive and the coaching standard is incredible.
It’s a whole different world over there. People love sports: they live and breathe them. I just want to try my best and keep improving, every single time I train. I always want to be better than I am.”
Words Lucy Jolin
Photography Joe McGorty