One of the most famous athletes to come to Sochi isn’t even competing at the games.

Tennis superstar Maria Sharapova was born in Siberia but spent the first part of her childhood in Sochi. She moved when she was seven, but the city still holds a special place in her heart.

“My first memory of holding a tennis racquet were in this city. My father played the sport and I went to a nearby wall and I tried to figure how to play on my own and then I kept doing it and I think my father saw that I enjoyed it,” Sharapova said in an interview with NBC.

“Then I started playing with other kids and then we moved to the United States because there simply wasn’t enough infrastructure to really raise my level.”

Was the decision to uproot the family a hard one? Sharapova thinks so.

“I can’t imagine how, how many sacrifices they had to make because we were an average family living in the city of Sochi I think they, you know they envisioned a great life for me,” she said.

Outside of tennis, Sharapova still has memories of Russia.
“When you’re living in a nation like Russia everything is surrounded by relatives and I remember my meals with my grandparents going to the Black Sea and swimming there on the weekends.”

She won the silver medal for Russia in the London Olympics back in 2012, but is also in Sochi representing the United States.

“I’ve really embraced America in so many different ways, but in a way when you come here and you remember those childhood memories it’s great to have those both sides and both perspectives and I really root for both.”

As a native Russian, she has an inside perspective on how the country is handling the pressure of the Olympics.

“The whole country is excited, nervous of course, to follow the athletes, to feel like you’re a very small part of them,” Sharapova said.

Despite rumors of retirement, the four-time Grand Slam winner doesn’t see herself slowing down.

“I can see myself playing for another few years if my body holds up because it’s all about that competitive drive,” Sharapova said.

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