Editor’s Note: This article appeared as part of our April’s Fools issue.
Some dreams just don’t make any sense.
For UCSB exchange student Yiri Federchofk, they make all the sense in the world. And this spring, they will come true.
Federchofk, a 7-foot beast from the Russian concrete jungle and a sophomore zoology major here at Santa Barbara, could never for the life of him understand why nobody else could understand.
It was so right, yet in the eyes of others, so wrong. And when he broke the news to his parents that he wanted to be a gymnast, he never felt so right.
Liberated might be the more apt term.
For years, Federchofk, or Choffy Chofk Chofk as his friends-turned-skeptics liked to call him, was told that his only way out of Siberia would be by way of the hard court. Basketball was his ticket, and with a little hard work and dedication, that ticket’s stub could be torn off and validated.
But Yiri’s family and friends just didn’t get it. Yiri was about pummel horses, not H-O-R-S-E.
“They were cold. Probably colder than Siberia winter. Well, in Siberian spring, at least. Siberian winter’s awfully cold. I don’t know really, I guess it’s what Americans call toss up,” Federchofk would testify years later. “They never understand why Yiri not like basketball. Yiri cry many many nights. Yiri just wanted to do floor event and vault.”
Despite his 7-foot, 320-pound frame, Yiri took gymnastics classes paid for by his saved allowances and excelled quicker than a Russian summer. All the while, he would endure taunts at school – dirty, cruel, Russian taunts.
In hopes of escaping to a more forgiving environment, Yiri transferred to UCSB where he thought the taunts would subside.
Yiri was wrong.
“People at UCSB very nice, but when I tell people I gymnast, they laugh and ask me about basketball team from, I think, Utah State,” Yiri said. “Nobody believe Yiri on gymnastics team.”
Now, the only difference between the taunts is the language they are said in.