Some will not want to play with us, others will be afraid of losing medals
August and September are two months when the largest number of international competitions of the year, world and European championships, take place. Then, international sporting activity will decline. National and European tournaments where Russia will not be involved will again be on the scene. Realnoe Vremya journalist Jaudat Abdullin thinks it’s time to make a preliminary review of the 2022 summer season without Russian athletes.
Unfortunately, many feel good without Russia
Last week marked the end of three major competitions at once. It is at the World Wrestling Championships that the Greco-Roman wrestlers compete first, then the women and freestyle wrestlers finish the competition. Women also compete in freestyle wrestling, if anyone didn’t know. Moreover, it is about cycling and artistic gymnastics, and each of these competitions would usually replenish the medal box of the Russian team.
Artistic gymnastics in the Bulgarian capital Sofia has returned to its “default settings”. Few people remember it, but the Olympic debut of artistic gymnastics took place in Los Angeles in 1984, where athletes from socialist countries did not go. Precisely the Soviet and Bulgarian gymnasts were in the lead, and they were followed by gymnasts from the GDR, Hungary, Czechoslovakia somewhat lagging behind. That’s why Canada’s first Olympic champion Lori Fung is one of the luckiest women of the 20e century. 9 years before the Olympic debut, the 1975 world championship was in Spain when the dictator Francisco Franco was dying, but the socialist countries did not want to perform there, in the end the strongest athletes did not go to visit the three years later when the European Championships were held there in 1978, without Franco but with Soviet and Bulgarian gymnasts.
Unfortunately, the situation in Bulgaria is not the same, because the “conveyor” of the champions of coach Neshka Robeva and Maria Gigova came out a long time ago, and today Bulgarian gymnasts are a blurry memory of the past, and the recent world championship can be unfortunate without Russian and Belarusian artistic gymnasts.
The world championship has now ended in Sofia where the Italians, Germans (top ex-Russian Daria Varfolomeyeva from Barnaul), Slovenians (Yekaterina Vedeneyeva from Irkutsk), Bulgarians showed up, for some reason, the Ukrainians were not there. Here we have to say that the leader of the local team Khristina Porganichna could be a gem for the anti-Russian mass media. Both of her grandfathers fought in pre-revolutionary Ukrainian military units, her grandmother was a dispatcher in the Ukrainian Insurgent Army. However, her injury, the disqualification of Bulgaria’s strongest athlete Boryana Kaleyn and Israeli team leader Daria Atamanov who replaced Olympic champion Lina Ashram made the WC results similar to the works of the Abstractionists. But at the same time, obvious things cannot be denied that many were happy with the absence of favorites.
Like in the fight. There are usually plenty of Caucasian surnames among the medallists, although there is only one ex-Russian – Zelimkhan Abakarov won gold for Albania. The other champions and medalists moved to new countries quite a long time ago and were not claimed in their home countries (Makoyev, Salkazanov, Tsakulov for Slovakia, Bisultanov for Denmark, Musukayev for Hungary). We can be happy for them and at the same time for Serbia which won four (!) gold medals in the same type of wrestling (China is not strong in wrestling in general), for Kyrgyzstan where two medals in Greco-Roman wrestling went for Mongolia, which has three medals in freestyle wrestling, but… You have to understand that this harvest was harvested mainly because there were Russians and Belarusians. We have listed the countries considered as friends who are at least ready not to be against the return of Russian athletes to the international scene. Why? If in the same fight, without us Kyrgyzstan and Serbia will be among the candidates for the Olympic god like India and Mongolia. And these are all the countries that do not win Olympic medals in spades.
What on Ukraine?
Obviously, Ukraine will be against it, but for a different reason. If the gymnasts don’t have medals, the wrestlers get three bronze medals, but that’s not the case. Ukraine will be against a priority such as Finland, for example, which has already announced that it is ready to boycott the IIHF World Championship in 2024 if the Russian team is in the game. It might seem that Canada is ready to invite the Russian national team, which is, by the way, no surprise. England, Canada, the United States and the FRG participated in the 1984 Friendship Games which were deliberately organized for athletes from socialist countries who boycotted the Summer Olympics that year. The countries listed participated in the Olympics, moreover, the United States hosted the Games, 1984 was the height of the Cold War, which did not prevent them from participating in one more competition. The Moscow Olympics were also boycotted, moreover, there was no intention to deny sports ties in volleyball as the national teams were intensively prepared for the Olympics at home.
The organization that hosts the IIHC World Championship is private, it absolutely does not care about the decisions and prohibitions of the international federations and the IOC such as, for example, the ATP or the WTA in tennis who have not even thought of ban Russia and Belarus with Medvedev and Rublyov, Azarenko and Sobolenko. The Davis Cup kicked off last week, with the international federation that invited neither Russia nor Belarus hosting it as an IOC-controlled organisation. And private organizations have nothing to do with the IOC.
By the way, the performance of the Ukrainian men’s team at the Volleyball World Championship is a great example for Russia in all sports. Without irony. Ukrainian volleyball players had no training for six months as the season ended in February. Their team is not great, many volleyball players have obtained citizenship of other countries, and not all current leaders have gone to the World Championship. But they reached the quarter-finals. This is an example for us, the basketball players who were taken away from the 2022 European and 2023 world championships, the footballers who will miss the Euro 2024 draw on October 9, everyone: work, from that you are allowed to compete, crush the rivals without going back to past issues.
Ukrainian basketball in the European Championship also looked good, struggling with the same lack of training issues. But they solved them somehow…
On China finally
The end of the international season marks the continuation of the Russian “import substitution” of the World and European Championships or, more precisely, the Solidarity Games. China barely managed to get a bronze medal in Greco-Roman wrestling at the World Championship in Belgrade. Its artistic gymnasts participated in the world championship in Bulgaria without hope of reaching the podium. Will we see China in competitions between swimmers, synchronized swimmers, divers in Kazan?
In addition, there are Russian-Chinese games. Last February, Vladimir Putin announced that they would be hosted in Beijing at the Olympic sites in the Chinese capital. It all started in July 2005 when Vladimir Putin and Hu Jintao met where they agreed to host the Summer Youth Games in 2006. The competition was held in Tianjin (2006), Moscow (2006) , Beijing (2009), Penza (2011), Shanghai (2013), Irkutsk (2015). It was decided in 2016 to organize winter games. After that, Guangzhou (2017), Samara (2019) hosted the summer games, while the winter games were held in Harbin and Ufa.
The games do not have a serious sporting status, now they are more of a symbol. But precisely when Russia needs this symbol like never before. At the beginning of September, during the Eastern Economic Forum, an international chess tournament was organized with India, Iran and some countries of the former USSR. Only Armenian Shant Sargsyan and Ulvia Fataliyeva from Azerbaijan, Farrukh Amonatov from Tajikistan who lives in Russia had quite high marks, but unfortunately there were no Chinese athletes who would grace even this tournament which was taking place nearby with their participation.
The author’s opinion does not necessarily coincide with the position of the editorial board of Realnoe Vremya.