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March 1, 2014

Natalia Vodianova: #Neverstop

The Russian Supermodel Stars in Filmmaker Bruno Aveillan’s Celebration of the Sochi 2014 Paralympic Games

“What if?” is the question posed by Natalia Vodianova in #Neverstop, the inspirational film directed by the French filmmaker and artist Bruno Aveillan, released today to raise awareness for the athletes competing at the Sochi 2014 Paralympic Games. The short imagines a heavily pregnant Vodianova running through an empty hangar with a prosthetic leg, her goal to challenge peoples’ preconceptions of disability. The Russian model, who left behind a childhood selling fruit on the streets of her home city Nizhniy Novgorod for a celebrated career as the face of brands such as Calvin Klein, Louis Vuitton and Yves Saint Laurent, has long been a champion of families raising children with disabilities, and helps to create play environments for disadvantaged children through her charity the Naked Heart Foundation. Vodianova spoke exclusively to NOWNESS about her motivations launching the  #Neverstop campaign, created with JWT International Moscow and her support of next week’s Paralympic Games.

Can you tell us about working with Russian swimmer Olesya Vladykina, the other female ambassador of the Games?
Natalia Vodianova:
It was incredibly inspiring for me to meet Olesya. She lost her arm in a bus accident that her friend died in, and she told me how she felt afterwards that of course it took a few months to adjust. However there are positive ways that her life has been changed since the accident. She started to appreciate life so much more, alongside the kindness and openness of people. And speaking to Jessica Long, the American swimmer who has 15 gold medals and holds 13 world records by the age of 21, you see someone who really just appreciates the richness of life.

What do you feel when you watch yourself transformed like this?
The visual is not showing a reality but an idea: what if? And that is an important question for all of us. When I saw the last edit of the film I cried. I’m really just glad that it happened and that we made it; a project that was full of little miracles.

Have you seen a shift in how disability is perceived in Russia?
We knew that the stigma of people with disability is still very strong in Russia, so we wanted to show the inspirational side of the Paralympic athletes. The transition towards inclusivity in a country with an infrastructure like Russia will take a very long time because it’s a very big country with it’s own difficulties. I want as many people as possible in Russia to see the film and would love it to speak to their hearts.

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Testing the Olympic Waters

Previewing Zaha Hadid’s New Aquatics Center at the FINA Diving World Cup

Photographer Andrew Woffinden captures the charged rehearsals for FINA’s Diving World Cup at architect Zaha Hadid’s sweeping modernist vision, the new London Aquatics Center. A regular contributor to GQ, Elle and TANK Magazine, Woffinden turned his lens on the 250 divers from 40 different countries perfecting their somersaults and twists from the 10m-high boards. “The space is absolutely gorgeous,” says Woffinder of the Pritzker Prize-winning architect’s epic 17,500-capacity creation. “It beautifully sweeps up like Manta Ray wings.” By the time the championships climax on Sunday with the platform dive-off, there will already have been seven days of pool time, with heats in synchronized and single diving featuring some of the most exciting athletes in the sport today, such as Australia’s 2008 Olympic 10m platform gold medalist Matthew Mitcham and Britain’s high-profile Tom Daley. But it was Team China who dominated the competition’s early stages with partners Qin Kai and Luo Yutong taking gold at the men’s synchronized 3m springboard, and Chen Ruolin winning the Women’s 10m platform. Diving at the Summer Olympics is scheduled to take place from July 29 through August 11.

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Rafael Nadal's 25th Birthday

Celebrate the Left-Handed Heartthrob’s Quarter Century with Five of Tennis’s Greatest Male Stars

Currently competing in the 2012 French Open at Paris’s Roland Garros, Spanish tennis champion Rafael Nadal turns 25 today. To mark the occasion, NOWNESS unearthed young images of the sport’s other gifted enfants terribles: Las Vegas bad boy Andre Agassi, Ice-cool Björn Borg, John “You cannot be serious!” McEnroe, precocious Boris Becker, and wild-at-heart Goran Ivanisevic have all triumphed at the majors in headline-making style. One of the world’s best current players, Nadal exploded onto the world stage in 2005 by winning the French Open, becoming only the second person to do so at the first attempt. Revered for his virtuosity on clay, in 2008 Nadal reached new heights when he triumphed on the Wimbledon lawns and reached number one in the world rankings, dethroning the formidable Roger Federer. Reaching a Career Grand Slam by winning the US Open in 2010, Nadal’s status has recently been challenged by current number one Novak Djokovic. At the Australian Open earlier this year, the Serb bested Nadal in a nail-biting five-set final that played out over an epic five hours and 53 minutes, the longest in Grand Slam history. Nadal’s progress at Roland Garros this week will determine whether he can crown his birthday with a record-breaking seventh French Open title (he is currently tied with Borg on six), and win the event for the third consecutive year.

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