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Russia’s Maria Balikoeva taking on dual role
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Maria and her daughter, Maria

Combining motherhood with a full-time job is a notoriously difficult task, particularly when you are a professional sportswoman, but try telling that to Maria Balikoeva (maiden name, Verchenova).

The Russian golf star became famous for putting glamour on the fairways, blending sport with modelling commitments in a similar fashion to tennis stars Anna Kournikova and Maria Sharapova. She continues to do so, despite the arrival of her first child.

Her daughter, Maria, was born on 18th September, 2012 and Maria posed in a bikini for the Russian version of Maxim looking immaculate just six weeks later.

She came back from maternity with a tie for 54th place at the 2012 Omega Dubai Ladies Masters in December and started her first season back this March when she played in the Lalla Meryem Cup in Morocco, where she missed the cut.

She is currently in Antalya, preparing for the Turkish Airlines Ladies Open, the next event on the 2013 Ladies European Tour schedule taking place for the fifth time at National Golf Club, from May 9-12.

In a recent interview, the 27-year-old offered an insight into what life is like as a globe-trotting professional golfer with a young child in tow and how she aims to get physically stronger this year.

“I probably will play a little bit less from now on because I have a baby and I want to spend loads of time with my family as well. I want to play quality golf,” she said.

She married Russian businessman Valery Balikoev in 2012 and added: “I was happy because my husband can travel with me as well, not loads, but most of the time and I can take my baby and be mommy as well. I’m going to put loads into my golf but I still want to keep my family around me.

“When I gave birth I thought it was going to be easy because I was back in shape pretty much straight away but I didn’t realise that I got really weak and started practising again a lot after Dubai. It really hurt my back and I was struggling with my back quite a bit.

Maria loves to cook!

“My first priority is getting stronger and changing my swing, because in the past I was swinging it good, but I need something more that I can do every day and recuperate from really well.

“When I was pregnant I played until six months and I did yoga classes four times a week up until the last day. I think when I delivered, I was the same size pretty much after four days and I even had a photo shoot a week later and I was still looking good. But the muscles just went, everything protecting your back, that’s more important. You look okay but more important is the muscles and it was so hard to put them back. I’m actually trying to put on weight and get stronger, that’s my main goal for now.”

Balikoeva was the first Russian to join the Ladies European Tour (LET) full-time for the 2007 season. She began playing golf by chance at the age of 12 after her father took her for a coffee at a golf club in the Czech Republic. She returned to hit balls the following day and was hooked, later signing up at Moscow City Golf Club. Her career highlights involve finishing 5th in the 2008 Tenerife Ladies Open, when she finished 55th on the money list.

Maria on a Russian cooking show

Despite more Russian golfers on the women’s tours, such as Anastasia Kostina, who made history by winning the GolfStream Ladies Open at Kiev Golf Club in Ukraine on the LET Access Series last May, and LET rookie Galina Rotmistrova, whose sister Ouliana played on tour briefly in 2004, Balikoeva says that golf in Russia is still largely unknown. She is trying to raise awareness through her media appearances, which have included a number of cooking programmes on Russian television with other celebrities over the past few years and for her, cooking is a passion.

She said: “Throughout my pregnancy I was just trying to entertain myself. I was taking cooking classes, mostly I do baking, making cakes. You’ve got to do the cooking! On one hand there’s a baby and the other hand cooking, so it’s putting it all together.

Maria in Russian Golf Digest

“I was still trying to do all this when I was pregnant. I did a shoot and this and that. I’m trying to help Russian golf a little bit, to grow. Hopefully we’ll get the right coaching as well.”

Balikoeva will have taken inspiration from Scotswoman Catriona Matthew, who returned to competition 11 weeks after the arrival of her second daughter to win the Ricoh Women’s British Open at Royal Lytham in 2009.

She was the first Scottish woman to win a major championship and will be among the favourites when the championship returns to St Andrews for only the second time this August on her home soil.

So what does the future hold for Maria Balikoeva… perhaps a maiden professional title this year?

“I’m missed being a competitive golfer, being out here competing and being able to do what I love,” she said. “Now I feel relaxed because I have a daughter and family around me. I just feel relaxed and do what I love to do.”

Maria with her daughter, Maria and husband, Valery

 

 

 

 

 

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