Tennis star Maria Sharapova arrived this week in Sochi, and found the Russian city where she spent part of her childhood had been transformed.
She also saw a picture of herself splashed across a wall on the tennis courts where she took her first lesson.
“That’s where my father played leisurely. I just picked up a racquet and went over to the wall. I didn’t know what I was doing but I thought it could be fun because I didn’t like to sit around,” she told TODAY’s Matt Lauer on Thursday. “So many years around we came back and I see that image of me on that wall, and it’s pretty special to see.”
Sharapova returned to Sochi as an Olympic hostess and will be a correspondent for NBC. The four-time Grand Slam tennis champion is also an Olympic silver medalist, earning the title at the 2012 Summer Games in London.
Sharapova said she last came to Sochi about a year ago to visit her grandparents and cousins. She remembers at the time questioning whether the city would be ready to host the 2014 Winter Olympics.
“Everything was still one big construction site. Most of the tunnels were closed. The stadiums were not close to being finished,” she recalled. “But here I am. I landed a few days ago. I simply couldn’t believe the changes that were made.”