Liudmila Litvinova wins silver with the Russian women’s 4x400-meter relay team
As a teenager in Lipetsk, Russia, Liudmila Litvinova ran with her parents. As a college student in San Marcos, she ran with her teammates on Texas State’s track and field team. Then in August 2008, Litvinova ran with the Russian women's 4x400-meter relay team in Beijing, China, winning a silver medal at the Olympic games.
Now an MBA student in the McCoy College of Business Administration, the former Bobcat student-athlete already had a slew of medals before going to the Olympics, starting with being a four-time Russian junior champion in high school. Litvinova’s numerous academic and athletic achievements at Texas State led to her being named the Southland Conference Indoor Track and Field Student-Athlete of the Year in 2009.
Born to Run
“Running is something I’d wanted to do since I was a kid,” Litvinova says. “I guess I was inspired by my parents, and I’ve always loved the feeling of competition.”
Her parents, Tatyana Litvonova and Anatoliy Litvinov, both were members of the USSR National Track and Field Team. “I started running with my parents, more as a hobby, when I was about 15,” Litvinova says. “When I graduated from high school I started running more seriously.”
After graduating at age 17, Litvinova attended Moscow State University for three semesters, where she worked with a track coach. In 2003, she and her parents received a visit from Texas State’s head track coach, Galina Bukharina. Bukharina, who coached the USSR National Track and Field Team in the 1980s, had heard about the 18-year-old athlete from Lipetsk, 300 miles southeast of Moscow.
Litvinova says she wasn’t making as much progress as she had hoped with the coach at Moscow State University, so she was receptive to Bukharina’s recruitment efforts. “She helped me with the paperwork and sent me all the brochures,” Litvinova says. “I found out that Texas State has a very nice business school, so I came here.”
Life in Texas
As an undergraduate accounting major at Texas State, Litvinova racked up numerous medals during her four years of NCAA eligibility. She won an individual Southland Conference (SLC) championship or was on a winning relay team for each of her four years. She won the 400-meter run at the 2009 SLC Indoor Championship and was a member of the 4x400-meter relay team that won back-to-back SLC indoor championships in 2006 and 2009.
“I went into every meet with a great desire to improve my performance,” she says. “Even though it's a hard work, it gives me satisfaction when I accomplish something.”
Litvinova excelled academically, too, maintaining a 3.77 GPA and membership in Beta Gamma Sigma, an honor society for business students. The McCoy College selected her as a McCoy Fellow, a distinction that was accompanied by a generous scholarship provided by the McCoy Endowment. Litvinova also received the Oak Farms Dairy Academic Award, which honors achievements of student-athletes, for each of her four years; and in 2006 she received Oak Farms’ Cream of the Crop award for maintaining a 4.0 GPA.
By the time Litvinova received her bachelor’s degree and entered graduate school, the 2008 Olympic games were on her mind. After one semester she took a break in her studies to return to Russia to train.
In July 2009 she competed in the European Under-23 Championships in Debrecen, Hungary, anchoring a Russian relay team that set a championship and meet record in the 4x400-meter relay. And in June 2008, she posted the world's ninth-fastest 400-meter time in Zhukovskiy, Russia.
“I really wanted it,” Litvinova says of the Olympics, “but I didn’t really dream about it because it’s tough to make the team, especially in the 400s.” But make the team she did, after months of strenuous training.
The Russian team traveled to Beijing four days before the August 23 event. Then, on Saturday evening, deep in the National Stadium (known as the Bird Nest Stadium to Olympics television viewers), the women's 4x400-meter relay final began. “I was a little bit nervous,” Litvinova says. “When you run individually you’re responsible for yourself. But on a team you have a different responsibility; you have three other people running with you. So you have to be fast to make sure they do OK.”
Litvinova ran in the second position. “When I saw the other runner coming toward me I just concentrated on little details,” she says. “Because I was running second we had the exchange in our own lane. After the first 100 I had to get in position, so I was just thinking of not stepping on the outside line or inside lane.
In the ceremony that followed the race, Litvinova and her teammates received silver medals. “I felt sort of relieved that the race was over and had ended up pretty well,” she says. “But on the other hand, it was a feeling of frustration that the games were ending, because it is like a festival for every athlete.”
Less than two weeks later she was back in San Marcos, ready to resume her studies toward her MBA.
Although she’s a 15-hour flight from home, Litvinova enjoys attending Texas State. “I’ve had a really nice experience here,” she says. “I really like how the university education is set up in the U.S. You get to choose your own schedule, so I can combine school work with track practices.” So what are her future plans? “I don’t know,” she says. “Maybe a PhD.”