‘The Russian Rocket’Her full name is Natalya Sergeevna Kandakova. Track fans are getting to know her as “The Russian Rocket.
By: Dave Newman, New Richmond News
Her full name is Natalya Sergeevna Kandakova.
Track fans are getting to know her as “The Russian Rocket.
Somerset High School junior Tasha Kandakova came to the United States from her home in Russia just before she turned 9 years old. She moved to Somerset with her mother and stepfather when she was in seventh grade.
The name Tasha is short for Natasha, the English derivation for Natalya.
Kandakova spent her childhood in Yoshkar-Ola, several hours south of Moscow in Russia. She and her mother moved to the United States just before she turned 9, settling in Sheboygan. They stayed there, and then briefly moved back to Russia.
“I didn’t know any of the (English) language. I went to a second language school in Sheboygan where nobody spoke in English,” Kandakova said about their move halfway across the planet.
She was at that school before moving back to Russia. She was such a quick learner that she helped teach an English language class when she moved back to Russia.
They moved back to the U.S., this time settling in Omro on the eastern side of the state. After several months in Omro, Kandakova and her mother moved to Somerset.
Kandakova, 17, has a green card and is working through the naturalization process to become an American citizen.
“I prefer to settle here,” she said about living in America. “Things are a lot cheaper here. I’d like to bring my family here.”
When she moved to Somerset, one of her teachers suggested that Kandakova try taking part in the Bigger Faster Stronger after-school athletic program at the middle school as a way to fit in. Somerset girls track coach Dave Praschak, who teaches at the middle school, said that it was evident right away that Kandakova had athletic ability.
Kandakova is now a junior at Somerset High School. As a freshman she had become one of the top sprinters on the track team and had high hopes for her sophomore season.
During her sophomore basketball season, all those plans were derailed. In a game against Durand, Kandakova went up for a rebound. As she landed, an opposing player stepped on her heel. Her upper body twisted, but her leg was unable to move.
“I heard something pop,” Kandakova said.
She had completely torn her anterior cruciate ligament and damaged her meniscus.
There were several options for the knee surgery. Doctors told her the best chance to have a complete recovery was to have the ACL from a cadaver transplanted into her knee to replace her damaged ligament
“I was shocked at first,” Tasha said about the option of having someone else’s ligament implanted into her leg.
The new ligament was attached with two large screws. She was hoping to be able to return by the end of the 2008 track season. She rehabilitated vigorously to try to make that happen, but the leg couldn’t quite get its strength back in time.
She continued to strengthen the knee last summer and fall and played basketball over the winter. During basketball she wore a brace, but she has shelved the brace for the track season.
Immediately at the start of this track season, Kandakova began running superbly and has continued to make progress. She has helped the Somerset 400 and 800 meter relay teams set school records already this season.
Kandakova wants to continue running track when she attends college. She wants to study law in college.
The devotion to her rehabilitation and her success in the recovery has given Kandakova the confidence to set higher goals for herself.
“Now I know I can do anything I put my mind to,” she said.