25 January 2014, 10:34

Russian sportsmen well-prepared for Sochi

Russian sportsmen well-prepared for Sochi
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Russian sportsmen show triumphal results, well-prepared for Sochi

Lineup of Russia’s National Olympic team approved

Vanessa Mae set to compete at 2014 Winter Games

Sochi gets Olympic road markings

The Russian national short track speed skating team, which only a while ago was regarded as an outsider, showed triumphal results at the European Championships in Dresden, Germany. The men’s team wins all the gold medals possible. For the majority of experts and fans it’s not only a success, it’s a sensation. The Voice of Russia is willing to elaborate on the causes of such a successful performance.

Russia can only rejoice at the results like these achieved ahead of the start of the planet’s main sports event.

Three-time Olympic champion Viktor Ahn, the most accomplished athlete in winter sports on the Russian national team, became the main hero of the European Championships. He won the gold medals in the 500 m, 1,000 m and 3,000 m events, got another champion title in a multi-sport event and along with his fellow Russian athletes took gold in a relay.

Viktor Ahn has a fantastic and, in some respects, even Hollywood-like career. After a triumph in Turin, where he won three gold medals competing for South Korea’s national team, he got a serious injury. For two years in a row he wouldn’t leave his ward in hospital, so training sessions were out of question. Coaches of South Korea’s national team crossed him out. That’s when Ahn Hyun-Soo became Viktor Ahn. He moved to Russia and managed to not only regain his previous physical form but become one of the favorites of the upcoming Olympics. His progress was not that speedy as coaches, fans and the athlete himself wanted it to be but he is going to meet the outset of the Sochi Games in great form. Words he said almost a year ago are close to coming true:

"When I first came to Russia, it was difficult for me as I hadn’t expected the life here would be the way it was. There was always a thought stuck in my head that I must deliver very good results real fast. When I started training and going to competitions I realized that there had been some progress. I saw my results improving. And I hope there will be steady progress and I’ll be well-prepared for the Olympics," Viktor Ahn said.

This story only lacks a Hollywood happy end, which is gold medals in Sochi.

Semyon Yelistratov won a silver medal in the all-round competitions In Dresden. At the distance of 1,000m Russians occupied the entire podium. Yelistratov won a silver medal and Vladimir Grigoriyev won bronze. This happened in spite of the fact that, as Yelistratov said, this European championship was regarded as a regular up-n-coming event, a stage of preparing for the Olympics:

"We have only one aim this year, everybody knows it. The main thing at the European championship was to perform adequately and not to pick up an injury. We actually managed to achieve that, only Vlad Grigoryev had a small cut. Now we are dismissed to go home for two days. Then we are to meet in Novogorsk from where we’ll fly to Sochi to participate in the "merry sporting events," Semyon Yelistratov said.

Identifying the Olympic Games as "merry sporting events" proves that Russian sportsmen are preparing for the main starts without too much jittering or butterflies in the stomach, in a normal mental condition. After the finish of a men’s relay race at the European championship Dutchman Sinkje Knegg who lost out to the Russians showed Viktor An an obscene hand gesture for which he was deprived of all his personal medals of that tournament. This proves that the competitors (at least the Dutch) were eager to win in Dresden and we should not underestimate the Russian short track skaters’ success.

For 46 years, Soviet and Russian skaters were invincible in pair skating. Olympic Gold series began in 1964, when Lyudmila Belousova and Oleg Protopopov took the first place during the Olympic Games in Innsburck. They repeated their success four years later, again taking gold. In 1972 Irina Rodnina and Alexei Ulanov became champions in Sapporo. Rodnina won later on two more Olympics with Alexander Zaitsev.

In 2002 during the Olympic Games in Salt Lake City for the first time in history two pairs were declared Olympic champions. Elena Berezhnaya and Anton Sikharulidze received gold at the end of their performance, and Canadian pair Jamie Sale and David Pelletier got it after the scandal that emerged in the media.

Gold series ended in 2010, when Russian pair Yuko Kawaguchi and Alexander Smirnov became only fourth in Vancouver.

At the European Championships in 2014 in Budapest, Russian pairs took all the podium, gold went to Tatiana Volosozhar and Maxim Trankov. Experts believe that it is a great start for the upcoming Olympics.

The executive board of Russia's Olympic Committee has approved the final lineup of Russia's Olympic team. There remained questions till the very last moment about the final lineup of the Russian Olympic team in practically every sport.

Let's start in alphabetical order with bobsleigh. In the summer during the last pre-season training camp there was not quite a conflict, but some falling-out between our strongest and most experienced pilot and his main pusher Alexey Voyevoda. According to Alexander Zubkov, Alexey has dedicated little time and attention to preparing for the Olympics and too much time to his other activities (Alexey Voyevoda is a three time world champion in arm wrestling). In the beginning of the season Dmitry Trunenkov became Zubkov's pusher. But either Trunenkov's injuries had an effect, or Voyevoda got into shape very quickly, but in the latest competitions Zubkov and Voyevoda were back together. Most likely, they will perform in Sochi as a two-man crew again. Alexey Voyevoda himself believes that one cannot be completely happy with one's preparation for the Olympics:

“Based on the subjective perception, perhaps one can never be prepared for the Olympics. It will always seem that you have not completed something. I am now at home – I was allowed to go. I am trying to complete everything to be in my best shape,” Alexey Voyevoda said.

In skeleton, which in terms of organization, is combined into one federation together with bobsleigh and has competitions held in parallel with bobsleigh, the intrigue was not in specific names, but in how many athletes would represent Russia. On Sunday, January 20 the bad luck of the Canadian athletes and the excellent performance of the Russians allowed our skeleton athletes to surpass the hosts of the previous Olympic Games in the team standing, thus winning the right to the maximum possible representation of three men and three women. The winner of the general competition at the Intercontinental cup Nikita Tregubov was the last one to jump on the train going to Sochi. Alexander Tretyakov, our strongest skeleton racer, a world champion who in the World Cup's classification currently ranks below only two representatives of Latvia – brothers Martins and Thomas Dukurs, believes that he will have an advantage in Sochi:

“In bobsleigh, tobogganing and skeleton the advantage of one's own track helps a lot. When you literally know the whole track, each meter of it – it is a great plus. The main thing is to run your personal record: to have good acceleration, good time and a good speed. And what will be my score, my result? If I felt that I performed at my maximum, at my limit, I would be happy with my result,” Thomas Dukurs said.

In the hockey teams there were two replacements at the last moment as well (one in the men's team and one in the women's). Alexander Semin replaced Sergey Soin who recently got injured. Many specialists and fans were amazed that in the original roster there was Soin and not Semin, who double scored in the two winning finals of the World Championships. At the same time, Soin was one of those forwards who know how to play in defense; he would be very useful in playing shorthanded. Semin is a player with more attacking skills. In the women’s team Anna Vinogradova will replace the best goalkeeper of the 2013 World Championship Nadezhda Alexandrova. Why? Alexandrova is pregnant and her condition does not permit the coach staff to count on her during the Olympics.
In speed skating it was unclear till the last moment who would join Ivan Skobrev and Denis Uskov in the team race. As a rule, Sergey Gryaztsov ran with them. He is not on the final list for the Russian national team. Who will then be the third: Evgeniy Seryayev, Alexey Esin or Igor Bogolyubsky? We will find out in a month, as the team race in speed skating during the Olympics will take place on February 22. So, the main coach Konstantin Poltavets has time to think about it.

Similar questions remain regarding Russia's national team in ski racing. There is no doubt that really the strongest Russian racers will take part in the Sochi Olympics. But it is unlikely that right now somebody would be able to list the actual names of racers to enter this or that race. By the way, Elena Vyalbe, president of the Russian Ski Racing Federation and a three times Olympic champion and five-time World Cup champion, gave birth to a daughter named Varvara on January 20. We are sending our best wishes. We hope that the time for gift giving will come during the Olympics and the main gifts (victories) she will receive from our ski racers.

Special road markings and traffic signs have been put in place in Sochi as the Winter Olympic Games are getting closer. Separate Olympic rings-marked lanes appeared on the local roads – both in the city itself and in the upland cluster where more than half of the Olympic sports events will be held. What else awaits motorists during the Olympics and Paralympics?

Sochi is gradually adapting itself to the new rules. The white Olympic rings on a lane mean that it only vehicles accredited at the Sochi Games – buses or other automobile transport involved in the Olympics and Paralympics’ transportation or logistics services - are allowed to use it. All other motorists will have to look for alternative routes.

“The Olympic road markings are a temporary measure. They will not affect local residents. After the Olympic and Paralympic Games are over, the markings and the Olympic road signs will be removed,” said Yevgenia Petrova, head of a local transport authority responsible for road traffic organization during the Games.

Sochi is the first in Russia to test a complex real-time computer-controlled traffic management scheme developed precisely for the Olympics. Dozens of road cameras, transport detectors and super modern traffic lights will help tackle traffic jams, using a traffic-adaptive signal system that automatically measures upstream and downstream traffic flows and chooses the optimal function. Priority is given to public transport: whenever a bus approaches a traffic light, the light turns green.

Dmitry Kravtsov, Director of the Olympics Transport Operations Department, has assured athletes and fans that they will have no problem riding around the city.

“We have 90 routes specifically designed for various client groups, because each client group puts forward its own service criteria. Marketing partners have to be delivered from where they live to Olympic facilities, while athletes and judges have to be driven in similar cruise-class between the Olympic Village and Olympic sports venues. Special buses will carry spectators from Sochi to the Olympic Park and the mountain cluster and back,” he told reporters.

The buses are equipped with air conditioning and climate control systems, comfortable seats and wheelchair lifts.

Urban buses have low floors and special wheelchair ramps making it easier for a wheel-chaired person to board.

As of January 7, entry to Sochi is barred to all transport vehicles registered in other cities and having no accreditation at the Games.

Local motorists have until January 23 to come to grips with the Olympic traffic rules without being fined for breaching them.

Olympic medal is supposed to be flat, circular, with diameter of 60 millimeters and thickness of three millimeters. This standard was adopted by the organizers of the first Games in modern history. But at the next Olympics rules were violated - the medal became rectangular. Then, however, it was decided to go back to the round shape. Most enduring rule was not to make any special medals mounts, not to use tape, and to give it straight into the hands of the athlete. The rule lasted until the Summer Games in Rome in 1960. Italians attached to each medal a copper chain with an olive branch. The idea was supported by the athletes in the first place as they hung it around their neck straight after receiving it.

Design of medals for the Summer Games is quite conservative. From 1928 to 2000, all awards were made under the old sketch of the Italian artist Giuseppe Cassioli. On the front side his composition "Triumph" (Italian - Trionfo) was portrayed, and on reverse a memorial sign of each particular Olympics.

Winter Games have always been more free in this regard. And it is their designs that are full of ingenuity and creativity. Especially memorable were medals from the Olympics in Albertville in 1992: glass was inserted into the metal, and on it Olympic rings were drawn in gold, silver or bronze. Awards from 1998 from Nagano Olympic were partially covered with multicolored glaze. Medals from Sochi Olympics are the most complex in history – it took 18 hours of manual work for make each one of them. There is a piece of metal polycarbonate that looks like ice in the center of the award. The entire surface of the coin is engraved with quilt, which became a symbol of the 2014 Games.

International violin superstar Vanessa –Mae is set to ski for Thailand at the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics. True, Russian experts are sure that the violinist’s participation in the Sochi Olympics is her ne caprice. As an athlete, she is not competitive but she can stir up the world public’s interest in the Games, experts say.

Vanessa-Mae is very serious about her plans. She was introduced to alpine skiing at the age of four. In 2002 she said that her long-cherished dream was to take part in the Olympic Games as a member of the Thai team but at that time the Thai authorities demanded that she should give up her British citizenship. Eight years later the bureaucratic formalities were arranged, and as an exception, Vanessa -Mae was allowed to have her Thai citizenship and got British citizenship. Once this was done, she said once again that she was eager to take part in the Olympic competitions. This time she was lucky, and the National Olympic Committee gave its permission. Ahead of the Olympic Games Vanessa-Mae underwent serious training, including the training sessions with the Russian team. Russian coaches were rather skeptical about her sports ambitions. Thailand is not a ski country, Merited Coach of Russia and the former chief coach of the Russian national team in ski racing Yuri Borodavko said in an interview with the VoR.

“I believe that her slogan was this: participation, not victory is the only thing that matters here. I think that Vanessa-Mae will simply represent Thailand and that no tangible results will be achieved at the Sochi Olympics,” Yuri Borodavko said.

There were such precedents in the history of Olympic movement, when well-known public figures and workers in culture and the arts took part in the Olympics. Let’s take for example, the reigning monarch of the Principality of Monaco - Albert II, Prince of Monaco, who took part in five Olympic Games in the competitions in bobsleigh.

“All these are ardent lovers of sports. The more so as small countries, as a rule, do not have professional teams. Well-known people simply represent their countries. And results - if any – are unimportant here,” Yuri Borodavko continued.

Editor-in-Chief of Radio Sport Nikolai Yaremenko told the Voice of Russia:

“The participation of Vanessa –Mae in the Winter Olympic Games in Sochi is a certain policy. In any case, the performances of the show business stars is the best form of advertising for the Sochi Olympics. There were many such cases at the beginning of the 20th century: violinists performed as skaters and artists – as skiers. The then sport was different. Today a person can achieve much only if he (she) dedicates himself (herself) completely to sports. It is rather doubtful that today one can be a talented artist or musician and at the same time – a talented athlete,” Nikolai Yaremenko said.

And still, we should not ignore Vanessa –Mae and her sports ambitions. Since the Thai skiers are not mentioned in the Top 500 List, Thailand is allowed to send one male and one female skier to the Winter Olympics if they gained not more than 140 points in four official events. According to the International Ski Federation, Vanessa-Mae qualified for the Sochi Olympics while performing in Kravec in Slovenia under the surname of her father – Vanakorn. Vanessa-Mae Vanakorn Nicholson will be the second representative of Thailand at the Winter Olympics after Pravat Nagvahara, who took part in the many-kilometer ski races in Salt Lake City in 2002 and in Turin in 2006.

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