Being a mother is the hardest job Ekaterina “Barbie” Vandaryeva has ever had. But it is also the most rewarding.
The 30-year-old Belarusian striker, who returns to the Circle in a strawweight Muay Thai clash against Supergirl at ONE: HEAVY HITTERS on Friday, 14 January, feels like she has been made whole by her 4-year-old son, Timurchik.
It can often be difficult for a female fighter to raise a child while developing a sporting career, but this was never a problem for Vandaryeva.
The urge to start a family was strong in her. So strong, in fact, that she felt it was holding her back from truly committing to her career – even though she had already made significant strides by the time she decided to have a baby.
“I used to have an issue when I was about 20 when I wanted to have a child badly. It was such a strong woman’s instinct that I started noticing I was taking too much care of myself in the ring and training,” she explains.
“It didn’t prevent me from winning titles, but it hindered me.
“And after my child was born, it was a huge relief instantly. Living became so much easier. I felt a desire to live and achieve something for somebody.”
“Barbie” put her fighting career on hold from 2016 to 2019 to give birth and raise her son. She admits it was a tough task, but she has gained immeasurable benefits from it overall.
“Even in my student years when I studied, worked, trained, lived far from the capital in a village, and slept four hours at most, it was still much easier than after I gave birth to a child,” she reflects.
“A child is a great responsibility, especially without a grandmother to help and so on. But now, he is already 4. He is so self-dependent, goes to kindergarten, understands and supports me. He supports me in a way nobody else can.”
The Minsk resident got back to the gym and back into competition in 2019. It was another huge commitment for the young mother, but she is happy she can juggle her many roles successfully.
“I feel very good about it. Though, yes, it’s difficult to balance everything,” she says.
“I work, train, care for my child and home. But at the same time, I like it a lot, especially because everything goes very smoothly in the end.”
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Even though Timurchik is too young to fully understand the nature of his mother’s combat sports career, he is still a constant source of encouragement for Vandaryeva to push forward and succeed.
However, when it comes to him following in her footsteps, the Kick Fighter Gym athlete is of two minds, as she knows how hard, albeit fulfilling, a life in martial arts can be.
“Many people asked me if I want him to do the same sport. At first, I said, ‘No way, I don’t want him to go through everything I went through. All these injuries, overcoming yourself. It’s really hard,’” she says.
“But at the same time, I think who would I be without this sport, without my titles, without my wins? Sometimes you stand on the top of the pedestal and cry hearing your anthem when you win a gold medal and realize you are the best fighter in the world.
“It has a lot of value and forms your character and willpower. So, I think these qualities are especially important for a man.”
More than anything, though, Vandaryeva is proud of the person her son is becoming.
He will undoubtedly grow up looking up to his mother for her accomplishments. But that is a two-way street, according to the striking star, and she sees things in him that encourage her to be a better person.
“It feels very good to have a person to inspire me,” she says.
“My boy is my complete copy. I always say I produced somebody whom I would like to be myself.”