When she was a little girl lelihana says she used to look out from the windows of her music school and long to be outside with the children playing there. For 7 years however, from the age of 7 until 14, her time was caught up in studying the piano. The adventure and thrill of the sports world was always enticingly just beyond her reach. At that young age she was simply following the steady predictable path that many Russian children do if they want to be able to reach University. With her mom working in a kindergarten and her dad working as a cook the family did not have much interest in athletics. The rarefied world of international sport was far from being an easily anticipated option in her life. She admits that at the time, she just didn’t like music.
Of course great dreams and divine opportunities can stride into one’s life at their own time and in their own unfathomable way. It was the encouragement of one of her music teachers who was able to shift the focus of her life. He, along with others, saw in her an unquestionable wealth of talent that she had as an athlete, that far surpassed her musical abilities. It was clear to many that her feet could move her much further and faster than her fingers.
So at age 14 she at last found herself able to be outdoors, but it was not at playing frivolous games. Instead, she quickly became focused on the disciplined and challenging world of track and field. As she talks about it today she speaks with an easy confidence, as if she was destined for the life of a world class sprinter. She advanced very quickly in the sport and by the time she was 15 she was winning meets. When she was just 17 she represented Russia at a World’s junior competition in the 100 meters. She ran her personal best at this time which was 11.84. She says of this experience, “I was a little bit scared but otherwise it was okay.”
She has been competing internationally now for more than a dozen years. Her specialty has become both the 400 meters and 4×400 relay. The track and field world knows her as Olesya Zykina, but to those who are her fellow students of the late Indian Spiritual teacher, she is Lelihana, which means the Climbing Flame. When asked what her spiritual name means to her she says, “I like it. It is beautiful, this is my name. When it is difficult for me I repeat my name.”