In the process of getting ready for the Winter Deaflympics – a main competitions of the last four years – that will take place in Khanty-Mansiysk and Magnitogorsk, the President of the Russian Committee of Deaf Sports Alexander Romantsov has told us about the cultivation of deaf sports in Russia and the principles of selecting deaf and hard-of-hearing athletes in the national team for the Deaflympics.
– Alexander Nikolaevich, Deaflympic movement in Russia has a long history and the results of our deaf athletes on international level are impressive. Tell us briefly about this history and the current principles of deaf sports.
– In 1924 the first Deaflympics were held, this was the start of the Deaflympic movement that still continues its development under the guidance of the International Committee of Sports for the Deaf. In 1957 Russia has first participated in the Deaflympics in Milano, Italy. I think this can be considered as the start of the deaf sports in our country. For a long period of time deaf sports were getting coordination and financial support from the Russian Deaf Society. In 1992 after the fall of the Soviet Union the whole national sport system was destroyed and deaf sports have ceased to get support from the Russian Deaf Society, so we had to start cultivating the Deaflympic movement in our country almost from the very beginning.
In 1999 competitions among deaf athletes were included in the joint sport calendar of the Ministry of Sport of Russian Federation. Since that moment the interest in the deaf sports was constantly growing. In 2005 The Russian Sport Federation of Deaf Sports (RSFDS) has received an accreditation of the Ministry of Sport of Russian Federation in the category “Deaf sport”. In 2007 a federal law «On physical culture and sport in Russian Federation» was passed and Deaflympic movement was ranked together with Olympic and Paralympic movements. This resulted in the growth of attention to sports for the deaf in all regions of Russia. Currently we have 67 regional offices, 29 sports are being cultivated.
Generally speaking, we have a well-defined structure of deaf sports.
As for the international Deaflympic movement, it is also constantly developing. The number of sport disciplines included in Deaflympic program is growing. In 2007 on the Deaflympics in Salt Lake City competitions in deaf snowboard and curling were first conducted. It is to be noted that first Deaflympic games included only cross-country skiing and ice-hockey; today 5 winter disciplines are in the program of Deaflympics.
– Is our national team represented in all the disciplines of summer and winter Deaflympics?– For the first time our team has participated in all the disciplines in 2013 in Bulgaria on the last summer Deaflympics. The thing is that in the process of getting ready for that competitions we have received a grant from the federal budget for cultivating the Deaflympic sports. As a result of this support we were able to develop 6 sports – mountain bike, tennis, handball, curling, alpine skiing and snowboard.
Now, on this home Deaflympics in Khanty-Mansiysk we will participate in all sport disciplines. On the previous winter Deaflympics in the USA in 2007 our national team was competing in 2 sports – cross-country skiing and ice-hockey. This was enough for our team to win in an unofficial medal count. Today snowboard, alpine skiing and curling are also on a very good level; a lot of medal events are held in these disciplines. So to keep our leading position in medal count we need to cultivate winter sports for the deaf. That’s what we are doing with a financial support of the Ministry of Sport of Russian Federation.
– Were there any cases when deaf athletes were competing along with the healthy people?
– Yes, there were such rare situations. A swimmer from South African Republic Terence Parkin – a silver medalist of the XXVII Summer Olympics 2000 – has made a fantastic record on the Deaflympics 2005 by winning 12 gold medals and 1 silver medal. There are more such examples in past. In 60-ies 6 or 7 athletes were participating both in Olympic and Deaflympic games. A good example – the President of the International Committee of Sports for the Deaf Valery Rukhledev has won 6 gold medals of Deaflympics in Greco-Roman and freestyle wrestling; he was also winning a title of the champion of USSR in sambo and judo among healthy athletes.
– The XVIII Winter Deaflympics are going to start soon. Is the national team of Russia already formed? How the selection is made for every Deaflympic discipline?
– Usually the national team is being formed in several stages. Today almost all national championships are over; the national team members are already chosen. Currently athletes are having their training sessions and thorough medical examinations. It is possible that we will still make some changes in curling and cross-country skiing teams depending on the results of National Cups that will take place in December. The selection of athletes is done in accordance with all criteria approved by the Executive Committee of the Committee of Deaf Sports.
– In 1995 Russian team has become a leader in the unofficial medal count of winter Deaflympics. What, do you think, is the secret of success of our deaf athletes? What national teams are going to be our main rivals on these Games?
– The team of USSR, later the team of Russia, was the leaders of the medal count since its debut on the VII Winter Deaflympics in 1971. Our victories were mostly caused by our success in cross-country skiing; our skiers were winning in almost all the disciplines. Today we are also putting high hopes on cross-country skiing. We also have a good progress in curling and snowboard, so we will be competing for medals in these disciplines as well. Traditionally we believe in our ice-hockey team; by the way, it is a current world champion. As for our rivals, in snowboarding teams of Finland, Japan and USA are performing on a very high level. In curling the leaders are Canadian teams, women team of Croatia and men team of Ukraine. In ice-hockey Canadian and USA national teams are traditionally strong. In alpine skiing Slovakia, Austria and Italy will be competing for the medals. In cross-country skiing our main rivals are Ukraine and Finland.
– What is the main criterion of participating in Deaflympics?
– To participate in the Deaflympics an athlete must have a hearing loss of at least 55 dB. Before the start of the Games and while applying for Deaflympics every new athlete (i.e. an athlete that takes part in Deaflympics for the first time) is having audiometric screening. Basing on the results of this screening an athlete is either allowed to compete or gets a denial.
– Competitions in cross-country skiing, curling, ice-hockey, snowboard and alpine skiing (slalom discipline) will take place on sport venues of Khanty-Mansiysk. Medals winners in other four alpine skiing disciplines – giant slalom, super giant, downhill and combined -will be found on the Alpine-skiing Centre “Metallurg” (Magnitogorsk) . Tell us, was it difficult to organize the Games in two cities?
– Venues of many Games were placed in different places. For example in 2007 in Salt Lake City we had to drive 110 km to get to the venue of cross-country skiing competitions.
We are very interested in conducting this Deaflympics on a high level without any critics from the International Committee of Sports for the Deaf that insisted on our strict compliance with the rules of the Games. That’s why it was decided to conduct competitions in 4 alpine-skiing disciplines in Magnitogorsk. Its alpine skiing tracks are certified by the International Federation of Skiing.
– What do you expect from this Deaflympics as the president of the Russian Committee of Deaf Sports?
– After the Games we expect a big push in the development of deaf sports in Russia. This event will show that our government considers deaf people to be full members of our society. The deaf have received an opportunity to become a comprehensive part of sport, social and public life of our country. Deaflympics will have a strong effect on our citizens; they’ll become more tolerate towards people with hearing disorders.