A big ‘congratulations’ to Anna Apoka, Public Relations and Community Relations Specialist, Chukotka, who is the first female ever from the Russia region to complete the rigorous week-long mine rescue training program.
“Anna is a pioneer and we are incredibly proud of her. She really put her mind towards conquering this very difficult training and what she has accomplished is truly outstanding,” said Claude Schimper, Regional Vice-President, Russia.
Days were physically gruelling and emotionally demanding during the intensive one-week training that took place in the remote area of Welkom, South Africa. Ten employees from the underground mining operations at Kupol and Dvoinoye also took part in the training.
Anna shares her experience about putting mind over matter, and imparts a strong message of support for women who wish to follow in her footsteps.
“The mine rescue training was something that I tried last year, but I didn’t quite make it through all the tasks. This time, I was determined to pass the entire training session.
The week ended with a lengthy exam that included an obstacle course with five zones imitating mining conditions, including a “rat hole,” which is a covered maze with pipes and ladders. The total weight of what we had to carry in the exam was 1,500 pounds. This was not easy – even for the most physically fit, but especially me, as a smaller female. We had oxygen tanks on our backs that weighed 35 pounds, which made the challenges even harder.
Each zone included two laps, while carrying this heavy weight. The first lap was not as physically challenging for us; however, it was mentally challenging. Your body can be 100% prepared, but your mind is another story. Once you have passed the first lap, you feel like you can’t go any further. It is really important to motivate yourself to keep going.
As a female, it was extra hard to compete since all the other nine participants were males. First of all, I needed to convince myself that I could continue for 40 minutes and do as well as any of the guys.
The last zone included throwing 40-45 pound sandbags over a two metre wall. This is the task that I was not able to complete last year. My focus this time was to be mentally prepared for what was about to come.
All the while, the weather was really hot. We are from Northern Russia and are not used to the 30℃ African heat. All of these factors made me nervous, nonetheless, when the morning arrived for the sandbag challenge, I was ready and confident that I would become the first woman to complete the training and clear the hurdles.
I did have a number of doubts: “Can I overcome this?”, “Can I reach the finish line?” I must admit that I was tempted to quit near the end. Then, our trainer Andy, who had been supporting me every day, gave me a pep talk. I mustered up all of the courage I had and continued.
Finally, the sandbag test – an exercise I was afraid of since I failed the test last year. I did it! I focused and believed in myself. And, I achieved an excellent result by completing it in 36 minutes. I not only passed an obstacle range test, but I also got a result that was comparable to the men.
I would like to tell all future participants: do not be afraid, believe in your strength. Ladies, remember – you can do anything!”
Anna Apoka, Public Relations and Community Relations Specialist, Russia
During the mine rescue training
Anna waves ‘hello’ while training