The Black Swan Trophy was created to reward the athletes of the IFBB bikini fitness category that stand out on stage for their personality, charisma, charm, elegance and stage presence, something whose importance is clearly mentioned in the IFBB rules but some of what almost nobody talks about …
You can read more about the concept of the black swan in an article I wrote earlier, but we call black swans to athletes who have these characteristics and who leave their special stamp on stage, they are athletes who do not go unnoticed because they are different and they have something that is difficult to learn if it is not within you. It is something that has nothing to do with the physicist, but with what they convey on stage.
Welcome to you too Juan and welcome to all the readers! Hope this interview would be a nice and enjoyable reading for everybody. I’m grateful to you for this opportunity – it’s always nice to reflect your inner world a little bit more.
Almost 100 bikini athletes, the best in Europe, participated in the selection process that I used to choose the winner of the Black Swan Trophy, all the finalists in junior, master and senior bikini fitness categories. In my opinion, your I-Walk was the one who deserved this award, your performance was really impressive. I’m sure it was a surprise to you. What did you feel when you received this news when the championship ended?
Oh yes it was! I had absolutely no idea that I would even be nominated among all the best athletes in this stage. I’m sure you will agree with me – athletes on the European Championships stage are beyond amazing and among them are very well known and experienced athletes too. Therefore, being compared with the women whom I look up to and whom I’ve been admired for so long is truly humbling and amazing.
I remembered that You wrote to me that I won Your special trophy late at the Sunday evening when I stepped of the awarding ceremony and had already packed my belongings backstage and was waiting for the transportation in front of the venue. I was so surprised! At that moment all the emotions from my placing and from the whole competition day whirlwind in my head and this news was like a cherry on the top 🙂
I was super happy! I had seen your stories circulating in the Instagram about this trophy before and my win was super unexpected for me.
What is the value for you of receiving a prize for the best I-Walk in a championship where the best athletes in Europe competed?
As I briefly mentioned above also and in addition as you very accurately said, the lineup on European stage is basically best of the best. You get to share the stage with athletes who inspire you and with whom you compare yourself to get better and be more. With women who’s posing and I-walks I have looked and saved and analyzed to perfect mine. And therefore, being compared even with the super names and very experienced athletes is great honor.
This prize means to me that when you go and show that you enjoy what you do and really work to show it naturally, how this comes within you, then it shows and is visible to everyone. I had felt so many good emotions backstage before doing my I-walk that I just purely enjoyed that with all of my heart. Because simply just walking on that stage was like a dream come true to me because of my so called “history” on Europeans.
This first part of 2019 has been full of success for you, you have been the Overall winner in the Swedish Grand Prix, Diamond Cup of Malta and in the Estonian Cup, you won the gold medal in the Diamond Cup of Budapest, Bronze medal in Tiger Classic in Romania and 4th place in a very hard European championship, with 30 athletes in your category and where several important athletes were out of the finals. Could you imagine all these successes when you started preparing this season?
Absolutely no! Even in my craziest dreams, no. Of course, I have always wanted to give my best but each trophy has brought so much fulfillment and happiness I can’t describe.
When I started my prep for last season, all that was in my head was to be better than I was last time on stage. Nothing more. I’m not talking about placements but being better than last version of me on stage. Show development and better presentation. Every step forward, even if it’s a tiny one, is good.
Reading all these awards from your question still amazes me. I’m beyond grateful for these and all the emotions I got to feel during this spring. This season was long but gave me so much experiences and taught much about me to me. It gave me self-belief and made me feel proud of myself – it is very powerful and empowering feeling in every aspect of life, not just in competing field.
I have been able to see images of some of your victories and I saw you very excited when you won in Sweden and Malta, where you also gained the possibility of having the professional card. Do you feel that this year you are finally receiving the reward for all your years of hard work?
Yes, I feel that the work has paid off but no, I do not feel like settled down, overconfident or like I have received everything that is possible. In no way! I feel super humble and grateful for all this. This season gave me faith in myself and that I’m doing the right thing. I wish to feel those emotions again and for that, I must continue to work on myself.
What do you think has been the key to this year getting these excellent results?
Also, it all had not been possible with right trainer, my family and supportive people around me. My warmest and cordial “Thank you!”-s belong to them. Of course, I have to mention the chosen competitions being right and the judging panel being favourable at those moments where my form and conditioning were suitable for bikini fitness being judged there. And everything needs just a bit of pure luck too I think 🙂
These victories will have been a great motivation for you. Have you planned new goals to continue growing as a bikini athlete?
I agree with you. Self-development, seeing changes and at the end to experience success by good placings are motivating. How can they be not?
My main goal is to keep going, keep doing. Keep feeling of the passion and thrive to be an athlete and live this lifestyle. And when I wish to compete, I do it. But all those things can be inside my even if I do not compete and that’s the principal. You can still live fitness lifestyle even off the stage.
But still, yes, I’m dreamer too and I have some smaller and some bigger dreams inside me regarding to the competitions. But as they say, you should not tell them easily because then they might not come true. And that’s the risk I can not take. 🙂
Every success story has a beginning and I would like to know yours. People start at the gym for different reasons. What was your reason for getting started in fitness and weight training?
My reason was quite sad and unfortunately quite common reason for many girls – I was not in a happy place and in a happy relationship with my body and my body image. I lived in an endless pursuit for skinnier body and thinner look. Sad, but true.
My eating habits would be …let’s say – not okay for a long time by then and I discovered running. I trained my stamina and runned 10 km per day, each day. It lasted for some time when in 2012 I became coworkers with my trainer Ramil who was also a group trainings instructor back then and a personal trainer. He insisted that I should give a try for BodyPump as I was never attended any and I was addicted! I did classes basically every day, some days even two group trainings per day.
Then I felt that I can do even more and started to discover gym. Sometimes by myself, sometimes with my (girl)friend. It was at the autumn of year 2014 when I told Ramil that actually, I wish to be like fitness women from the magazines and pictures, I wish to look so different from the way I looked at that time. And he didn’t laugh about my thoughts and dreams, he did my first gym plan (and also, he’s first gym plan for someone who should compete), taught me in the gym about movements, sets, reps etc. and I started to work. And work hard from the very first day. With the additional meal plan from him, the changes begun to be noticeable.
That ended up with me doing my very first competition in our national beginners competition in April in 2015 where I placed second by 1 point lost in my height category. And the path was laid 🙂
And what was the reason you started to compete and to be a bikini fitness athlete?
The other reason besides the body image was something I could see only after I started with this career, I could never have seen it before. It was simply deep wish to be good at something and I hadn’t found that “something” before. I needed to pour my passion into something and needed to feel I am good at this. And this is it. So glad that I found it.
Speaking of sport – many people find their passion in a very young age, some try different things and change the sport they what they do, some compete, some do all this just for fun and for better feeling. In my case, it all took place in my adult years and I have not played any sports before on a level I could call “doing sports” or even competing in anything.
Oh, those memories are so special for me and they will remain with me always.🙂
Everything was so exiting and frightening at the same time. I had so many questions about everything – posing, bikinis, tanning, jewelry …etc. Tried to gather all the information I needed. Back then all the competitors used tan applied yourself or by helper, we had no spray-tan possibilities. Tanning was the main concern, how should I do it perfectly if I have never tried it? Luckily everything was figured out and my look for the first stage presence was excellent.
To describe the feeling on the stage first time – blackout. Really, I could not remember basically nothing from the stage. No quarter turns, no T-walk (back then, the walk was called T-walk). When I saw the pictures then it came back little by little 🙂 Nerves were so tight and fear so big. But I was happy to see that I smiled and looked confident and what is most important – first competition left me with a sure feeling that I want to do it again!
Yes, even before I came up with an idea that I want to compete one day I had seen some pictures from our Estonian bikini fitness athletes and those women would be mesmerizing. I remember pictures about Egle Eller Nabi and Reet Reimets and wondered “wow”. Reet has been my biggest inspiration, she has the body, the look and is super nice person. At that time when I started, the social media was not as big and powerful as it is now and this fitness, bodybuilding and competing theme would not be in your news and in your everyday as much as it is now. Magazines and newspapers were the main places, some websites reflected the fitness news also in Estonia.
Many athletes get discouraged quickly if they don’t get good results in their first competitions. You have been working for several years, improving your physique year after year and surely now you are at your best as bikini athlete. What has been your motivation to move forward every year? Did you lose motivation at some time or did you think you would not be a good bikini athlete?
Motivation…hmm…this word is so multifaceted. When it comes to motivation or my acquaintance persons or friends ask me “How do you stay motivated? How you bother doing this every day” – I have very simple answer. Am I motivated every day? – oh no! I’m full of determination in the gym every time I go there! – of course not!
You shouldn’t name something that keeps you going at all costs or name it with kinda heroic expression. I say, whatever makes you do something – it works! If you go work out because you are determined to have a good session and you feel yourself powerful – great! If you drag yourself to gym because you just don’t know how to rest – great! If you go to gym because your day has been stressful, or you are stuck with your thoughts – great! Is it stubbornness, anger, disappointment etc. – if it makes you move and go, you will do it. Your inner motivation is the thing that makes you do something. In the end all that matters is just getting things done and that’s it.
I haven’t lost my inner motivation or stopped training never luckily. But yes, I have felt myself not good enough or felt like all the other athletes are better than me. And I find it to be natural – it is sometimes easy to forget that you should compete with yourself, not with others. Self-criticism is good and bad at the same time. It pushes you forward, but sometimes holds you back. So the formula is finding balance.
Actually, you named all the main things in your question which can be hard sometimes. Of course, trainings are hard sometimes, even during offseason. During season certainly when your energy levels are down and you just feel like “Did I do enough? Could I have done more or better?”. Sometimes you have to sacrifice the time with your family and friends or sometimes even your own time, your “me-time”.
Surely you have had many experiences in competitions. Could you tell me some funny anecdote or a beginner’s mistake that you remember especially in one of your competitions?
Of course there have been mistakes with make-up and mishaps with tan, I’m sure that basically every beginner has done them. Too dark eyes so you look like a panda form stage… Bikinis breaking right before stepping on stage and then panically looking for a needle and thread. And of course the glamourous moment when you see yourself turning into Shrek and can not help it in any way…
Speaking of tan and make up, I remember also so clearly when I saw one of beginner bodybuilder and his trainer who applied tan to him. The trainer had to go to the bathroom and said to his trainee that he should “do his face” while he goes to bathroom. When the trainer came back he saw the trainee rolling the same tan onto his face as was rolled on this body, while face make-up (foundations, powders etc.) being just next to him. And he rolled it thick on his face until he was basically with pitch black face… I heard the trainer screaming in anguish when he came back and saw how he washed the poor boy’s face with soap and water.
Agne tell me a secret. What is the forbidden food in the diet of a competitor who is more difficult to resist you?
I always try to say that there are no forbidden foods, whether you are competing or not, are you an athlete or just regular person. It all comes down to quantities and thinking about what you put in your mouth. Keep it simple, there is no need to go crazy about everything.
But I must say that when I’m on prep and diet, I do it with zero tolerance about falling off my plan about foods, calories, macros. It is 110% or nothing, nothing can be even 1 g more or less. It’s just me, my style of prep and therefore I can resist everything I need.
I tend to think about food often when I’m on prep, I’m honest. Whether I think about the food I’m gonna eat after the competition or about the stuff I’m going to cook after the season. From salty foods I like pasta, pizza and good burger with super fine quality meat, from sweet things I like biscuits, ice cream and halva/chalva.
Of course, I would like to ask you some questions related to your great staging, a very important part for a bikini athlete and the reason you won the Black Swan Trophy. How much time do you spend practicing your quarter turns and the choreography of your I-walk during the season?
You can never overpractise, practice makes perfect and that’s just the way it is. Posing and walking are very important and play a huge role in your presentation. You don’t want to ruin all your hard work by not showing it in a best possible way.
Honestly, I do not enjoy posing during offseason, really. You can yes, still practice movements or transitions but it is hard for me to do it when I’m not conditioned and can’t see specific muscles. Your posing should enhance your best features and disguise things which are not best.
But slowly, as I’m prepping and seeing my body change, things change and I discover myself posing in every mirror, window etc. Sometimes publicly small things like hand movement, gathering hair or so. During competition period I practice posing every day by myself, multiple times during the week with my trainer too just to check conditioning and reassuring everything is going fine.
Thank you for nice words! It’s always so nice to hear compliments about something you have practiced and where you have invested a lot.
Your posing should evolve with you as your body changes. I love when competitors find their unique way, their own sass. They make a little tweaks here and there in each season, but the presentation in whole says the same. Being on stage is hard and I most definitely understand that this can be very difficult for someone who has just begun.
My presentation has changed very much during these years as a competitor. The mandatory poses have changed too so I have done several posing styles on stage, in quarter turns and in I-walk. Speaking of my I-walk, it has changed a lot!
Main thing that has changed it is that the fear of not knowing what to do is gone. Yes, I still get nervous before every competition and feel like I’m frightened to step on stage…but when I step there, I know exactly what to do there now and give always 110%.
You had already competed in several European and world championships, but this year was the first time you entered the final. What did it mean to you and how did you feel entering the final of a great championship for the first time?
The Europeans have been a tough competition for me I must say. I haven’t had no luck there before and I was firmly believing that Santa Susanna is doomed place for me.
Before this year’s Europeans I had promised myself that I’m not going to Europeans any more, possibly never. I have competed there in years 2018, 2017 and 2016 and each year I had done exactly the same result in very stressful way – I was in a tie-break for semifinals and was out of it for three times. Three years exactly the same emotions – going to the elimination round, then hearing the tie-break word and going up on stage again fighting for the semifinals but staying out. It was hard for me.
“Is it happening again? Please, I wanna break the curse so much”.
When I heard my number was called to semifinals, I felt like I had already won everything I wish for. Before going to back on stage on semifinals, I said to my trainer that…
“I just wanna do my I walk on THIS stage so damn much!”.
And when really going to the I- walk – indescribable feeling. When I waited the placings being told at the awarding I thought by myself that for how long and badly I have wanted to take a photo with Estonian flag in this venue after Europeans? And I can do it today?! And I finally did it 🙂
You are an athlete with a lot of experience, so I would like to ask you to give advice to girls who are starting now or who want to become good athletes in the bikini fitness category.
You have to do the work and contribute to this but with right guidance, it’s a journey what makes you an awesome person and athlete. I advise all the girls who are thinking about starting or are already started to be determined and do it with passion. Don’t settle for being mediocre, want more. If you put your heart and soul into this, magic can happen. 🙂
Developing your body and muscles is one thing but you have to see the bigger picture also. Not everybody with better form wins, bikini division is versatile which means so many factors are considered when judged. And that’s why I advise to learn, improve and practice all of them – your form, presentation, stage look, poise etc. Visualize! Visions have a super power.
Before I asked you about the key to your victories this year. What do you think you have to improve to be a better bikini athlete?
Oh I am most certain that I have room to improve and a lot! Bodybuilding and fitness are marathons, you can always strive for progress and better you. It applies for everyone, are you competing or not. Of course I wish to develop form and different body parts like shoulders, glutes etc. I can definitely still improve my presentation and confidence and I could get better with finding balance between my doubts and confidence.
No one can predict the future, but when you are no longer on stage, would you like to continue helping other competitors with your experience and continue working in the world of competition?
I feel myself passionate about this lifestyle and sport and that’s why I hope that yes, I would like to be involved in this fitness world and world of competing even in the future. Whether I am competing or not. If my experiences would help someone of I can give someone some kind of valuable information or advice – that would be awesome!
What is the best thing that has brought you personally these years in the world of fitness?
Personal growth and learning about yourself. I have learned so much about my body and human mindset, how the two together work and push you much more forward than average people.
I have learned that I can do very much, I can handle very much and that the routine might be very progressive power. Competing has brought me possibility to travel and see new places. Meet new people and to cope in different situations. It all has given so much to me as a person. It has given me an output to fulfill myself as a person on different level, on individual level.
If you want to say anything else …
First of all I want to say thank you Juan and TC10 for coming up with this trophy idea! What a wonderful way to present the athletes of different level which plays a big part of their whole competition presentation. This trophy stays close to my heart always and it’s been a wonderful opportunity to answer your questions. I truly hope all your good wishes come true!
What I would say more to readers… simply one thing. Share more positivity and good words, even if they are small and simple. You will never know how much just the act itself gives to other and how much it can change for other.