‘Simplemente Maria’

[b]The famous tennis player, Goodwill Ambassador, Maria Sharapova visited Gomel first ago after the Wimbledon Tournament [/b]According to Maria, Gomel occupies a special place in her heart. Although coming here rarely, she says that ‘recognises and feels’ her native land. The Sharapovs lived in Gomel until the Chernobyl catastrophe. Maria was born in Nyagan (Russia’s Tyumen region) where her parents moved soon after the accident. Two years later, the family returned to Gomel, but soon again left — for Sochi. Maria’s grandmother and aunts still live in Gomel.Being a Goodwill Ambassador, the tennis player is financing several programmes aimed at giving young people more opportunities. The Maria Sharapova Foundation funds a scholarship ($3,500 a year, from the first to fifth years of study) for Belarusian State University student Svetlana Vorobieva, for her ‘achievement in study and artistic prospects’. By 2013, twelve such students will have been funded.
The famous tennis player, Goodwill Ambassador, Maria Sharapova visited Gomel first ago after the Wimbledon Tournament

According to Maria, Gomel occupies a special place in her heart. Although coming here rarely, she says that ‘recognises and feels’ her native land. The Sharapovs lived in Gomel until the Chernobyl catastrophe. Maria was born in Nyagan (Russia’s Tyumen region) where her parents moved soon after the accident. Two years later, the family returned to Gomel, but soon again left — for Sochi.  Maria’s grandmother and aunts still live in Gomel.
Being a Goodwill Ambassador, the tennis player is financing several programmes aimed at giving young people more opportunities. The Maria Sharapova Foundation funds a scholarship ($3,500 a year, from the first to fifth years of study) for Belarusian State University student Svetlana Vorobieva, for her ‘achievement in study and artistic prospects’. By 2013, twelve such students will have been funded.
Ms. Sharapova also funds a hospital and a centre for children’s arts in Chechersk, while promoting the ‘Ecology of the Soul’ and ‘It’s Not Terrible to Be Ill’ projects. In order to make young patients feel less afraid of being ill, a room of fairytale-therapy has been set up, in addition to a mini-garden and a corner with pets. Psychological help is always at hand; the Western practice of a doctor and a psychologist working jointly is gaining popularity in Belarus, thanks to Maria. Her ‘Ecology of the Soul’ project aims to educate young people about ecological matters.
Much is being spent on medical and educational projects and Ms. Sharapova likes to see how wisely it’s distributed. Her trip aims to assess the results of her investments and to decide what further steps are needed. While staying in Gomel, Maria has promised that the next stage of her programme will be devoted to sports development in Chernobyl-affected districts. “We wanted to begin with this but there are far more important issues in life,” she notes. “It’s impossible to embrace everything at once. Health and wellbeing are most vital but I do wish children to live an active life, so we’ll help them in this field. I hope good gyms will appear in a year or two. Money will be allocated not only to tennis but also to other sports. It’s within our power to convince children that sports are an interesting pastime.” 
Maria is convincing by example and, of course, paid a visit to Gomel’s tennis courts, where she gave a master class to young players. Their future may not ultimately lie in the game but none will ever forget that they once played with Maria Sharapova. She instructed the children saying ‘longer’, ‘you’re great!’ or ‘avoid mistakes’. Someone’s mother, in the crowd of fans, couldn’t help but say, “It’s so difficult to avoid mistakes.” А course, she was worrying for her child. 
Maria is currently ranked 17th seed worldwide. At her master class, she played Belarus 13th junior seed (under 16s) Yulia Shupenya. Six years ago, Yulia managed to defeat Darya Sharapova, Maria’s cousin. “Of course, Maria didn’t play at her full strength but, still, we all felt that she was a strong rival,” stresses Yulia. 
No doubt, Ms. Sharapova’s visit to Gomel has attracted much attention. Gomel residents are still talking about their famous countrywoman — in trolley buses, in courtyards and on the streets…

By Tatiana Morozova
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