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Polina Trifonova becomes the third Bulgarian to compete in table tennis at the Olympics

Polina Trifonova will always hear the explosions from the bombs falling over the airport in Donetsk. On the unfortunate date of May 26, 2014, she was to take several decisions – to leave the Ukrainian city which had become her haven for 13 years, to return home and do whatever it takes to compete again at the highest level.

Born in 1992 in Bulgaria’s small town of Kubrat, in the family of a Bulgarian father and a Russian mother, Polina Trifonova will represent Bulgaria at the Olympic Games in Tokyo in table tennis.

The Bulgarian athlete learned about her participation in Tokyo at the last moment, after North Korea's refusal to participate in the Olympics. Polina trains in Germany, where she has been playing in the Bundesliga for three years now. The good conditions and the rivals with which she competes in the matches help her to prepare perfectly for the European qualification. Only bad luck left her in the position of the first reserve for the Olympics.

"I do not do anything different, because I learned quite late that I will participate in the Olympic Games," says Polina Trifonova. “And since I do not have much time, I decided not to take risks and to keep my preparation as before. I think that's the right decision before such a big tournament."

Polina first entered the table tennis hall at the age of nine when her family moved to Ukraine. Her father, a big fan of the sport, insisted that the little girl started training. However, the beginning was not quite promising. Polina went reluctantly to training, just not to offend her dad.

"I was attracted by the victories," she recalls the turning point in her attitude. “I went to my first competition maybe five or six months after I started training, and I started winning against girls who were two years older than me and had been playing table tennis for a long time. I liked that, and I really got excited when I took my first medal. In order to become good in our sport, it takes not only hard work but lots of concentration, instant reactions, good physical training, and tactical skills. But the most important ability is to think fast during a match.”

In Ukraine, Polina gained a lot of experience and competed for the country until she was 22, when she was forced to return due to the occupation of Crimea and the subsequent bloody events. In her list of achievements so far she has two team European titles with the team of Ukraine and four republican titles in Bulgaria. Although she is currently focusing her life on table tennis, she has already secured her future with a university degree in foreign languages. In addition to mastering English and German, Ukrainian and Russian, she is now studying French to pursue her translation skills one day.

But in the coming days Polina Trifonova will dedicate her entire mind, body and soul to one thing only – the Olympics. And although she enters the race as an apparent outsider, she will be inspired by her enthusiasm and her belief that there are no impossible things.

"I want to enjoy the atmosphere, to be happy that I’m there,” adds Polina Trifonova. “I want to fight when I play. I want to succeed and enjoy my success. And I am planning to play match for match, to give my best, which I'm sure I'll do. And I hope the results will come”, Polina says.

And where will her inspiration come from? "Participating in the Olympics was my childhood dream and staying in the Olympic Village among the best athletes in the world will be enough for me," says the young girl who has escaped the bombs in order to turn the fanciful images of her childhood into a dream come true.

English version Rositsa Petkova

Photos: Facebook /@bulgarianttf, private library

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