Siberian nurse wins truck of coal in weight-loss challenge

Moscow (AFP) –


A nurse in a Siberian town was in for a holiday surprise Thursday after local authorities presented her with a truckload of coal -- a prize for shedding over 30 kilogrammes through the governor's weight-loss challenge.

Governor Aman Tuleyev of the Kemerovo region -- also known as Kuzbass after one of the world's largest coal basins -- had announced that he would start paying plus-size residents in tonnes of coal in his quest for "healthy people".

After months of skiing, bicycling and rollerblading, a much slimmer Yelena Salnikova of the town of Berezovsky watched a grimy Kamaz truck drive up to her home and dump five tonnes of coal on the ground.

"It's lump coal, it burns very hot," Salnikova said in a report on national television, standing in the snow with a shovel.

"Three buckets would be enough for one day."

Russia is one of the world's top coal exporters, with most coming from the Kuzbass coal mining basin in Siberia, including the Kemerovo region.

It is also the second fattest ex-Soviet country, behind Lithuania, according to the World Health Organisation figures for 2014.

Identified by the media as a 43-year-old head nurse in the town's clinic and captain of its comedy club team, Salnikova appeared pleased with her prize and posed for the cameras in some of her old outfits.

Stretching out the now cavernous waistline of an old pair of sweatpants with her thumb and waving a giant pink blouse with sequins on it, she said it wasn't vanity that pushed her to slim down but health concerns like high blood pressure and diabetes.

"I looked at this pile of pills and I understood that it's become too awful," said Salnikova, who went from 112 kilogrammes to 80 kilogrammes since the summer.

The coal-fuelled challenge has already inspired a TV show on a regional entertainment channel, said a spokesman for the governor, Anton Gorelkin.

"In the future, people's weight loss for coal will only be happening on the STS-Kuzbass show and nowhere else," he wrote sternly on Twitter.