London Olympics Hometown Heroes: Elena Pirozhkova
Greenfield's Elena Pirozhkova has taken the American dream to a whole new level.
She started her life in the harsh condition of Siberia Russia. But now this Massachusetts wrestler is sitting pretty!
Elena Pirozhkova has always worked hard, and now all that hard work is paying off. The 25-year-old is representing the US in the Olympic women's freestyle wrestling.
“The thing I love about wrestling, it helps me grow as a person, mental and physically, it makes you learn about yourself,” Elena said. “I think all sports do that I think I just love maybe the way wrestling did it.”
Elena came to America with her family when she was just three years old.
“Didn't have any running water, we had to heat the house with coal, my parents would bundle us up in the night cause the water would freeze, get so cold in the winter,” Elena said.
Her family settled in Greenfield, Massachusetts, where they got a helping hand from a local church group.
“They helped my parents a place to live, find jobs, get accustomed to American ways, it was really different and hard for my parents to adjust at first,” Elena said.
Elena is the third oldest of nine children, and she found herself being a little bossy!
“I would always tell them I’m the second mom, the dishes need to be done, always on top of them, when I was younger, they hated me for it, but they turned out pretty good,” Elena said.
It was her older brother victor, already on the Greenfield high school wrestling team, who got Elena involved in the sport.
“He’s like, ‘hey Elena come here, step on the scale,’ was 114 pounds, he's like, ‘we don’t have anybody at 112. You should come for weight class, coach said to recruit everyone,’ I was like, ‘okay,’ so I came and joined the team,” said Elena.
Elena wrestled on the men's team all the way through 12th grade.
Then just five months after graduating high school, she was given the opportunity to go to the US Olympic training center in Colorado Springs, recruited by coach Izzy Izboinikov.
And with her sights set on London, she is looking to do something no other American woman has ever done.
“You can go down in history as the first women gold medalist for the United States. I think that’s pretty something special,” she said. “I think I can do it, it’s going to be tough, but it’s something amazing to strive for, it’s what I’m training for. I want to win no matter what but this is like a win even more special.”
Elena’s huge family means a huge cheering section in London.
She was able to raise enough money to get her mom and all her siblings over to the games!