When both of your parents are swimming coaches, water is your first natural environment - you learn to swim even before you can walk and it becomes omnipresent - your first love. My name is Maria Ugolkova, I was born in Moscow in the middle of summer 1989. At that time, Michael Gorbachev was showing the world "perestroika" and "glasnost", and the Soviet Union was opening up. The municipal indoor swimming pool was where I spent most of my time – I could already swim at the age of two.
Since then swimming has become my life.
When I was 16, I moved to Switzerland with my mother following her work as a swimming coach in Lugano. The next years were spent swimming, going to school, and more swimming. Italian language and lifestyle became my second love: the joy of life, exuberance, the good taste, southern culture, the musicality of the language and the cuisine. Ticino became my second home. I did my high school diploma at the Liceo Lugano and the same year (2009) I went to my first World Championship in Rome with the Russian National Swimming team. At that time, I already held 3 national Russian records. I thank my mother, who was my first coach until then, for all that success.
At the age of 20, I moved to Lausanne to study economics at the local university and start swimming for Lausanne Natation. My mother stayed in Ticino. In 2012, I took part in European Championships for the last time as a member of the Russian national team. Two years later, I graduated with a Bachelor’s degree in Economics and one more language - French.
In the summer of 2014, I then moved to pursue my studies to the German-speaking part of Switzerland, to Zurich. As a student, aged 24 and quadrilingual, I was facing the decision of whether to continue swimming or not.
The Uster Wallisellen swimming club helped me in taking this decision. I found my new coach and my motivation. And at the same time, I studied for my Master’s degree in Banking and Finance at the University of Zurich.
In 2015, I became a Swiss citizen and have been swimming for Switzerland since then. Once at the Olympic Games in Rio 2016, three times at World Championships – in 2015, 2017 and 2019. And twice at European Championships – in 2016 and 2018.
There are two European Championship medals and a Master’s degree in Banking and Finance hanging on the wall at my home in Uster. My strength is versatility. At the beginning of my career I was swimming butterfly and freestyle races. Now, the 200-meter medley became my main race. My career is currently on the up and the feeling is good. Olympic Games in Tokyo 2021, postponed because of the COVID-19, has been noted in my calendar.
200 m Individual Medley
Queen of swimming – 4 disciplines in one competition
Butterfly is my favorite. I like it the most. It’s not easy and works better if you swim it fast. That’s why it feels intense and natural in competition.
Backstroke feels like a relationship with a friend. It always works – regardless of my form.
Breaststroke was a very exhausting relationship at the beginning. I had to invest a lot in this discipline. The technic is one of the most difficult to understand. Since I know more about it today, I can swim it faster with less effort.
Front crawl is my stable relationship. It is the one that I swim most on every training. It gives me a feeling of security and it is always there to make a winning finish. An intensive relationship.
Pablo has been my coach since 2014. The elite team coach of SC Uster Wallisellen says: “Maria is like a fish. She combines everything: a love of water, talent, will and discipline. She is incredibly competitive. A pretty perfect match. As a coach, I can learn something from her every day and I am really excited about what is still to come. No limits!”
René makes sure that I can train without any complaints and perform optimally in competitions. After 20 years’ experience working with top athletes at Swiss Aquatics and Swiss Triathlon, he has been looking after me for two years and says: "Maria is the perfect professional athlete. Her feeling for her body and her muscles is impressive, precise and clear."
Joachim is responsible for my fitness shape. He works in the field of sport and health at EPFL and the University of Lausanne, and has been looking after me since my time in Lausanne – since 2010.
He says: “Maria is an exceptional athlete with exceptional qualities. She is able to move forward with the wind or against the wind and successfully manages her career, always ready to take a step back to make the best of every situation and learn from it.”
Daniela advises world-class athletes, supporting them in all aspects – from concept to implementation and from media communication to marketing. Since 2011, she has been Managing Partner of samm group AG and since 2020, owner and Managing Director of Daniela Gisler Sportmanagement & Kommunikation.
Daniela Gisler has been working with me since March 2020.