Liliana Georgieva: "The Kenyans and Ethiopians are not untouchable"

Grosseto 2017 European Athletics U20 Championships women's 1500m medallists including Liliana Georgieva (left)
European Athletics

Grosseto 2017 European Athletics U20 Championships women's 1500m medallists including Liliana Georgieva (left) .

Liliana Georgieva may not have won a gold medal at the Grosseto 2017 European Athletics U20 Championships this summer, but the Bulgarian middle-distance runner still made a big impression.

Despite having just turned 17 three days before the 1500m final, and racing against women up to two years older, she hung on down the home straight to take the silver behind Great Britain’s Jemma Reekie in a national U20 record of 4:16.73. 

It is worth noting that she has two more years in the U20 ranks to reduce it further.

The Bulgarian athletics federation magazine Atletika recently ran a long interview with the talented teenager from Plovdiv and, with thanks to the editor Anton Bonov, an abbreviated version is presented here.

What is your assessment of this season?
It was a successful season for me. It started with a record (having won the national indoor U20 1500m title in a Bulgarian U20 indoor record) and finished with a record. It started with a gold medal and finished with a silver medal from the European U20s.

Of all your successes this year – records, wins, medals – which do you value most?
My medal from Grosseto a it was a very difficult road to get there. I had an injury which disrupted my preparation. For one month I was immobilized then I had some heavy workouts to get back into shape. I very much appreciate this medal.

When did you realize that you would take a medal?
I was quite confident of my finish but when it was 200 metres to go, I knew I would get a medal as I still felt strong.


How did you start in athletics?
I started seven years ago (when she was 10). I took part in a race in the centre of Plovdiv, the distance was 300m and I came fourth. Up until 50 metres before the line I was first but I had no experience and became tired. A teacher called Atanas Barev came up  to me and said he liked the way I was running. He suggested to me that I should come to a cross country race and I won that. He then introduced me to my current coach Radmila Stankovic, telling me that she has many champions. When I heard the word ‘champions’ I already decided that one day I want to become a champion as well. In 2010, a few months after that cross  country race, I started training twice a week under the direction of Radmila Stankovic.

What is your favourite training session?
I love fast work, the sprint drills, 300m and 500m at different speeds.

Why did you turn to the middle and long distances?
It was my coach's decision. My body structure is such they often compared me to the Kenyans. Besides, I'm very tough.

What is your daily routine?

I am in a sports school, Vasil Levski in Plovdiv. I am getting up early, at 6 o'clock. I'll have breakfast, then from 7:30 to 10:00am I am at school. There is then a workout until noon, I eat lunch and from 1:40pm I am back to school until 4 or 5pm, according to the program. I train again and then I go home between 8 and 8:30pm. I have dinner and then I'm early to bed.

What is the relationship like between you and your coach?
Our relationship is perfect, we get along very well. She's like my mother. At the same time she is very strict coach, but it is worth it. She tells the training, gives instructions, and I do it.

Do you not miss what other teenagers are doing?
It does not matter to me because I know what I'm doing. The regime has become my natural way of life. When I get back from the second workout, I only have time to have a shower, have dinner, and almost immediately go to bed to have at least eight hours sleep, which is a must for an athlete.

When you are on holiday and you have more free time, what do you like to do?
Sleep late and relax. I really do sleep a lot, 12 to 16 hours a day. I do not have many friends but, on the other hand, those that I have I believe are real friends.

Who do you see as your main competitors?
The Kenyans and Ethiopians. Although they seem untouchable, I think I can beat them. My results are strong, although my mental toughness is important. The world U18 champion (Ethiopia’s Hailu Lemlem) took the title this summer with a slower result than I ran in Grosseto. I finished sixth at these championships (held a week before Grosseto) but they were at high altitude (in Nairobi) and I did not have enough experience for such a race.

Do you plan to compete professionally after you finish school?
I intend to train and compete for a very long time. I also want to learn and to become one day become a coach and prepare an athlete like me.

Why do you think young people not want to train or be involved in athletics?
Nowadays everyone is in front of the computer, in front of the phone, with earphones in the ears. They only want to go for coffee! But you make your own choices. Personally, I do not like such a life.