The head of the Russian Committee of Deaf Sports Alexander Romantsov has given an exclusive interview to Sportbox.ru telling about the process of getting the national Deaflympic team ready for the Games as well as its goals and plans for the future.
— For the third time in a row Russia is going to host the complex Winter Games – Olympics, Paralympics and Deaflympics. It’s a great honor for Russia to be the host country of the competitions and a motivation to support the deaf sports on international scale. In Sochi it was proved that Russia is ready to host the sport competitions of any level. Last autumn the European Deaf Curling Championships was held in Sochi so our colleagues from other countries were able to see our abilities to organize big tournaments. Everything went perfect. Now they are expecting the same from Deaflympics in Khanty-Mansiysk and Magnitogorsk.
— A couple of weeks are left before the start of the Deaflympics. Do you feel the growing pressure? Do the athletes feel extra responsibility while competing in their home country?
— Of cause, organizers are having a hectic period as they try to o their best so that everything goes perfect. We are keeping in touch with the Organizing Committee, discussion all outstanding issues with them. I am sure the organization will be done on the highest level – Khanty-Mansiysk has a big experience in hosting major sport events. A week before the Deaflympics the Biathlon World Cup Final will take place there. As for the athletes, they feel extra responsibility to win in their home country.
— Does the Russian team have any advantages competing at home? Did they have chances to test the sport venues of the Deaflympics?
— Our only advantage is that we are competing in our home country. As for arenas and tracks, we are in the same conditions with other national teams. Deaf athletes from all countries will come to the capital of the Deaflympics at the same time. The exception is our snowboarding team that has had their two-week training session in Khanty-Mansiysk. As for other disciplines, our athletes were training in Tyumen, Moscow and Tula regions.
— The teams were formed in accordance with the selection criteria approved by the Ministry of Sport of Russian Federation and the Russian Committee of Deaf Sports. The main principle is the results of the athletes on the National Championships. Basing on the results of the Championships of Russia, coach meetings are held to approve the team lists in each discipline. The experience in participating in international competitions and physical conditions of the athletes are also taken into consideration. The extended Deaflympic team was having training sessions this season and the final list was defined on the meeting of the commission on control of training of the national Deaflympic team of Russia in the end of February. The Deaflympic team of Russia includes 76 athletes from 16 country regions.
—It is understood that after eight years since the last Winter Deaflympics a new generation of athletes has been grown. Is there anyone of the old guard?
— Before these Deaflympics we were participating only in ice-hockey and cross-country skiing competitions for deaf athletes. Half of the Deaflympic ice-hockey team remained unchanged since the last Games. Our squad has won the last World Championships. Two team members – Oleg Danilenko and Stanislav Khakimov will be having the fifth Deaflympics in their sport careers. 6 players will be participating in their third Deaflympics. The situation in cross-country skiing is almost the same. 50% oftheathleteshaveaverybigexperience. For example, they are Sergey Yermilov, Alexander Degtyannikov and Anna Fedulova. The other half of the team isyoungathletes.
— For the first time in history Russian Deaflympic athletes will be participating in alpine skiing, snowboarding and curling. Was it difficult to create conditions needed for cultivating these disciplines in our country and forming national teams?
— A few years ago the state grant was established to cultivate Deaflympic sports — 25 million rubles per year. This money helps to conduct competitions and training sessions on a regular basis and to hire specialists and experts. We were starting from nothing and in 2011 when the previous Deaflympics were going to take place were able to lay the basis for cultivating new disciplines. Our debut was planned for 2011, but the Games were cancelled. During the last 4 years we have strengthened our positions and achieved more success.
— Cross-country skiing and ice-hockey are disciplines where Russian team is traditionally very strong. Are you satisfied with the current situation in these disciplines?
— There are not as much our athletes in cross-country skiing now as it was in Soviet times. However, some skiers are constantly training and participating in different events, including commercial races. There are also several very talented young athletes. So we are quite confident in cross-country skiing. The only minus is that the interest in cross-country skiing races is decreasing. Some people even support the idea to exclude this discipline from the program of the Deaflympics.
As for ice-hockey, this sport is physically difficult, not everybody can play it. There was a period when only 5 teams were participating in the Deaf Ice-Hockey Championships of Russia. Now we have 9 teams. However the quality of playing is far from being perfect on the national level. The discipline is developing fast, the games are becoming more dynamical, and the technique is improving. That’s why coaches prefer to include athletes with big experience in the national team of Russia.
— What results do you expect from our national Deaflympic teams in each discipline?
— We are the world leaders in cross-country skiing and we are quite confident. Our goal in this discipline is to get as much medals as possible.
We also expect to be on the podium in ice-hockey tournament. We want gold medals but let’s not make premature plans. 4 out of 5 ice-hockey teams are the world leaders in this sport. They are Russia, Canada, USA and Finland. We hope that the support of our home country will help our team to win.
IncurlingourmenandwomenteamsaretheEuropeanchampions. However, our main competitors are North American teams; obviously, they were not participating in the European Deaf Curling Championships in Sochi.
In alpine skiing our team was having its international debut on the European Championships 3 years ago. We haven’t got any medals there, as well as on the World Championships 2013. To succeed in these disciplines we need to spend years training. We have chances for silver and bronze in snowboarding but it will hardly be possible to get gold. Even one gold medal will be a huge success.
— Who do you think is our biggest rival in the unofficial medal count?
— As a rule every discipline has its own leaders and not many countries are able to show high results in several sports. They are USA, Canada and Ukraine. Anyway, it’s difficult to make any forecasts.
— The Government of Russian Federation has decided to give the same money prizes to the medal-winners of the Deaflympics as to the Olympic and Paralympic medalists. Isitanimportantmotivation?
— Of cause, but it’s not only money that matters but the desire to represent Russia in the international competitions. The prestige of the country has the highest priority.
— How the Deaflympic movement will be cultivating in Russia after the Games?
— A lot of things were done to cultivate deaf sport in Russia. We have received the recognition of our Government and the Ministry of Sport. This helped us a lot because after the fall of the Soviet Union we had to start from the very beginning. A new system was organized – national championships in Deaflympic disciplines are held, deaf athletes are getting sport categories and titles. Deaflympics 2015 will not the final competitions; we have Summer Deaflympics 2017 in Turkey ahead; there we will also be doing our best to become the leaders of the medal count. We are working on making deaf sports more popular among people with hearing disorders. Every year the number of deaf people going in for sport is increasing. Besides, the attention is paid to non-Deaflympic sports – checkers, chess, mountain biking. We are also going to cultivate billiards and fishing sport that are also very popular among people.