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Wanting more

Olshanskaya’s journey to Columbia
shaped her desire on the court
Tuesday, April 5, 2005 | 12:00 a.m. CDT; updated 8:51 a.m. CDT, Thursday, July 17, 2008

Yelena Olshanskaya was trying to win a crucial singles match for the Missouri women’s tennis team.

In the middle of her match, the Oregon coach yelled out to Olshanskaya’s opponent, “You know you want this.”

Olshanskaya shot back, “I want it more.”

Although she ended up losing the match, she showed the fire and confidence that Missouri coach Blake Starkey admires in her; the fire and confidence that was shaped by her long journey to Missouri.

She was born in Belarus, a destitute country in Eastern Europe, once a province of the Soviet Union.

Her parents would work night and day to buy a quarter of the amount of food the normal American family has.

They would stand in line for hours after working to buy shoes or clothes that were the wrong color or three sizes too large.

All these hardships would disappear, however, after one trip to visit Olshanskaya’s uncle.

Her uncle had been living in Hollywood for about 10 years, and when Olshanskaya was 5, her family decided to visit him.

The family fell in love with the city and decided it was where they needed to be.

The change helped shape the way Olshanskaya lives today.

Hollywood is a place where failure is common.

Many actors and models travel to the city with dreams of being the next great star, only to have their dreams crushed.

To make it in the city, a person has to be strong-willed enough to bounce back and try again.

Olshanskaya said she believes this is where her toughness and confidence comes from.

“You interact with a lot of different kinds of people who are all trying to make it,” she said. “The competition is fierce, and if you want to succeed, you need to be tough.”

Not only did she survive the city, she fell in love with it. She enjoyed the party scene and hanging out at the coffee shops with her friends.

She lived in Hollywood until she graduated high school, when she made another significant location change.

She decided to come to MU for college because her sister was already here.

“Knowing one of my family members was here was a big deal to me,” Olshanskaya said. “Plus, I already knew the coach and how the practices were run.”

It took a while for Olshanskaya to get adjusted to the change in living styles between Hollywood and Columbia.

She says that she doesn’t like to get dressed up or party here because it’s not as appealing and because she is usually tired from tennis.

Although it was difficult to adjust to the lifestyle, one constant for her has been tennis.

Olshanskaya, a sophomore, is 10-6 this year, helping the Tigers to a 12-5 mark. She has a 35-23 career record.

She has become the type of player that every good team needs; one who motivates the rest of the team.

Her coach even compared her to George of “Seinfeld” because of the passion she displays on the court.

Oregon’s coach can attest to that.


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