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Oleg Prigorenko: «Our curling team has ambitious plans for the Deaflympics»

IMG_8416Why curling is called “the sport of housewives”, what the curling broom is needed for and how strong is Russian deaf curling team – that’s what we knew from the deaf curling coach Oleg Prigovenko.

– Oleg Igorevich, in 2013 Russian women team has won the Deaf Curling World Championships. Ourmenwereonthesecondplace. Does the team line-up change every year or we will see the same athletes on the Deaflympics?

– The final line-up for the Deaflympics is not approved yet, but it will differ from the one that played on the World Championships. Every year there are competitions like the Championships of Russia and national Deaf Curling Cup; basing on their results the selection for the national team is done.  On the last Championships of Russia, Saint-Petersburg was on the first place, Chelyabinsk and Moscow were on the second and the third places. Earlier Moscow and Chelyabinsk were the leaders. In women competitions Moscow is permanently on the first place. Kaliningrad and Tomsk are the second and the third. On the European Deaf Curling Championships in November 2014 in Sochi our country was represented by the athletes from the regions that got the first two places in the national competitions. Our performance was a triumph – both men and women got “gold”.

– The deaf curling takes its origin in 2010 and is developing for these 4 years. Do you think that our regional teams become younger?

– The amount of athletes that are playing curling is increasing, mostly because of the young sportsmen. But I would not say that our teams are becoming younger. We are making a selection basing on a sport principle. In curling the result does not always depend on the age. Sometimes a mature athlete shows better results than the young one. That’s why there’s no such tendency in deaf curling. Nevertheless, on the international level the teams are getting younger. Originally curling was known as the sport  of housewives, as it was played by mature women. Latermenalsostartedplayingcurling.  But when this sport became more professional, where not only a technique was important but a physical condition of the athletes too, then the younger people were needed for this game.

– Please tell the future fans and supporters, who don’t know the rules of curling, about this game. What is happening during the game, how to understand that the team is winning?

– Curling is a team sport. The aim of the game is to put a stone as close to the centre as possible. The team whose stone is closer to the centre is the winner of the end. Every stone gives 1 point. As the teams are placing their stones one-by-one, it is possible to put stones, to throw hits to prevent a lot of stones in play or to place guards, this is a strategy, “the chess”. The winners are the teams that are better in strategy and tactics. After every end the winner team is getting her points. Thegamehas 10 ends. In the end all point of every team are summed up and the winner is defined.

– Why the athletes are using brooms?

– They are sweeping the ice in order to reduce friction underneath the stone. This is done in order to make the stone move as far and as direct as possible. It is not possible to slow the stone down. There are three types of shots: guards, takeouts and draws. The point is that the winner will be the team whose stone or stones are closer to the centre.

– Is there some special ice needed for curling?

– Yes, preparing ice for curling is the most technically complicated process. Thestandardsareveryhigh. The usual clear and smooth ice we are used to is not suitable. There’saspecialtechniqueneeded.

– What characteristics of an athlete are needed for curling?

– They are flexibility, plastics, stamina and the feeling of ice. The last one is, probably, judgmental and difficult to explain, but for us, coaches, it is very important that the person feels ice, understands how slippery it is, what relief it has, etc. The feeling of ice is mostly coming with the experience and is not an in-born feeling. Our team does not have a big experience, so we are basing our selection on the general physical shape of athletes, and then we are trying to give them as much experience as possible.

– How did you get in the deaf curling?

– I’ve been playing curling for 10 years. In 2004 I became a co-founder of the federation of curling of Chelyabinsk region. I was training children and the local team of Chelyabinsk region. In 2010 I came to an idea to form the team for participating in the national deaf curling championships. That’s how I came in the deaf curling, I was one of the first coaches who trained deaf athletes. We had a good performance and won the first Championships of Russia among men. Today 4 athletes from Chelyabinsk region are pretended to be included in the national Deaflympic curling team, all of them have already participated this year in the European Deaf Curling Championships.

– What is the most difficult in working with deaf athletes?

– The most difficult is to explain. The problem is in communication. In curling you need to make athletes work in a team, to communicate, to explain them the strategy, this is what is difficult. Very often you don’t see any feedback, don’t know if an athlete understands you or not This makes an impact on the work of a coach.

– Do you know sign language?

– I had to learn it, as I need to communicate with the athletes. I can’t say I know Russian sign language very well, but I know it well enough for playing curling. I can explain, tell something to the athletes. Nevertheless, during time-outs I am using the help of a sign language interpreter.

– Are there any cases when deaf athletes were included in the curling team of people with good hearing?

– Yes, there were some. Hard-of-hearing athletes are included in the teams with normal hearing quite often. For example, in September my deaf curling team of Chelyabinsk region was participating in the international tournament in Poland together with the healthy athletes. Wehavewonthefirstplacethere.

– Were there any deaf athletes on the Winter Olympics in Sochi?

– No, deaf athletes are only participating in the Deaflympics which are included in the united calendar plan. In future we have an idea to hold the national cups where all national team members – Deaflympic, Olympic and Paralympic athletes –  will be participating. This would be very interesting and useful for them.

– Are there any family pairs in curling?

– The international experience knows a lot of such cases. There’s a special discipline for healthy athletes – doublemix – where the team consists not of 4 athletes but of 2 people. The rules in doublemix are also a bit different, every team must consist of a man and a woman. Someoftheteamsarehusbandsandwives. TherearesuchpairsinRussiatoo. As for the deaf curling, I know cases when a husband is a coach and a wife is a player or vice versa.

– So curling is a family game?

– It was not for nothing that curling was called the sport of housewives. The husband was assisting, I think, he was a sponsor while his wife was playing (laughs).

– The fact that the Deaflympics will be held in Russia is a plus or a minus for the athletes?

– We are having our debut in the XVIII Winter Deaflympics and our plans are very ambitious – we want to win medals, preferably gold or silver. It is definitely more difficult to do this on foreign ice with foreign supporters. Familyatmospherewillbeofverygreathelp. More than that, I hope it would be possible to test ice in Khanty-Mansiysk before the Games.

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