Leaning seductively against the race car, a model in the October issue of Playboy knows what’s under its hood better than most men out there. Inessa Tushkanova featured in the Russian edition of the international men’s magazine is a professional racer.
One would expect an air of arrogance and self-indulgence from a sports woman who lends her body to the erotic press but Tushkanova begs to differ. She said that trading her looks helps her succeed in sports.
“Nobody likes women in racing sport, which is traditionally dominated by men, because it’s easier for us to attract sponsors,” says 24-year-old racer. “This magazine is prestigious enough and helps with PR.”
Tushkanova was 18 when she first developed an appetite for racing in her Daewoo Sense, which was far from a suitable vehicle. Men, including her father, reacted skeptically to her hobby. Studying to become a psychologist, she followed the usual path envisioned by parents apart from mad driving.
The cars eventually took over her life. In 2008, she participated in Prime Yalta Rally, Ukraine’s most prestigious racing competition held annually in the Crimea, and became Best Female Racer of Eastern Europe.
And then she moved to Moscow, because “sport is better developed abroad than in Ukraine.” Hectic and often politicized preparations for Euro-2012 spray even more salt on the race tracks. All the money goes into football, she says echoing complaints of many other sportsmen.
“We have real pros like [Yuriy] Protasov, [Yuriy] Shapovalov and [Oleksandr] Salyuk junior, but [Oleksiy] Mochanov [racer and show-man] is the one, who became a real star. In our country clowns are valued and loved more than those, who really make the difference,” she said smiling bitterly.
Unprofessionalism made her leave Ukraine, but life didn’t become easier in Russia where male dominant sport was just as tough to enter. To equip her race car, Tushkanova said she needs 27,000 euro and to participate in all the important races adds up to another 70,000. As no prize money is awarded in sport, she has to earn a living on her own, which means advertising sportswear or looking for sponsors through Playboy.
In a way posing for Playboy has turned into a sport for her. She has already stripped down for Ukrainian, Russian and Lithuanian issues and will do it for its American naughty parent if she is invited to.
Her dark hair and features serve as a comparison point with Ukrainian pop-singer Dasha Astafyeva. One of Hugh Hefner’s favorites, Astafyeva has a history with American Playboy.
“Playboy photographer [Alexandr] Morderer, who took pictures of both of us, told me that Astafyeva and I are like sisters,” remembers Tushkanova. “But I can’t imagine myself prancing around the scene and shaking my thighs.”
Volodymyr Nekrasov, chief editor of the popular sports website Rally.in.ua thinks that Tushkanova has a great professional future if she doesn’t waste her talent on the entertainment industry.
“She is already a star in the Baltics, where the level of championships is high,” said Nekrasov. “This girl is incredibly hardworking and purposeful. She lives a full life and doesn’t let herself to relax.”
In October, Tushkanova won the Polish race Kotlina Mocy, an important rally by international standards. In the race, she represented Russia though.
“We [Ukrainians] don’t have an auto sport culture. I could wait until something changes or I could change something by myself, but one man can't win a war. I need to gain some respect first and then I will help the Ukrainian sport.”
Kyiv Post staff writers Alyona Zhuk and Kostya Dovgan can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com