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Valeriy Rukhledev: Deaflympics will increase the sport prestige of Russia

As of the few Russian citizens heading the international sport organizations Valeriy Rukhledev has given an interview to Sportbox.ru explaining how and why he became a leader of the International Committee of Sport for the Deaf (ICSD), why he thinks that it is reasonless to unite with the Paralympic and how is the process of getting ready for the Deaflympics 2015 in Khanty-Mansiysk and Magnitogorsk is going on.

— I was elected for the position in July 2013 and started to work on the most important in my opinion issue — establishing close cooperation with the International Olympic Committee. By now a big job was done and we can say that we have been noticed by the International Olympic Committee. For example, in summer 2014 the Head of the International Council Thomas Bach has invited me to become a member of a working group on making a strategic development plan “Olympic agenda 2020”. To my surprise, this was done for the first time in history of Deaflympic movement that starts from 1924. Since the moment of election we have made the close contact with the International Olympic Committee, which is of big help for both sides.

Besides, we are keeping in contact with international federations of different sports. We have already signed memorandums of cooperation with federations of judo, taekwondo; memorandum with federation of basketball is in the process of approving.  In the future we plan to sign such documents with federations of all sports included in the program of Deaflympics. This will help us to popularize the sport of the deaf and to get more support including financial support. We are going to spend the received money on teaching coaches and referees that will be specializing on working with deaf athletes.

— Why did you decide to apply for “the first position” in the Deaflympic movement?

— I am dealing with international communication for a long time, and this was not only in sport sphere. For example, I was participating in making The UN International Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. It includes many articles dedicated to deaf people. Their number is growing every year. By now we have 80 million deaf people in the world, however for a long time there was no professional sport of deaf. At some moment it became clear for me that is I want the Deaflympic movement to be popularized, I need to be a head of it. I tried 3 times before a reached a success. I was participating in the elections in 2005 in Australia and in 2009 in Taiwan, but didn’t win. Since the beginning of 1970-ies the International Sport of the Deaf was –Saxons. So you can imagine, how difficult was the election campaign and the voting process.

— The history on your success on the election on the International Committee of Sports for the Deaf Congress in Sofia in 2013 has become a legend. Tell us about it.

— Three persons were applying for the position of the head of the International Committee of Sports for the Deaf – me and representatives of USA and UK. The current president Craig Crowley has received the biggest numbers of votes in the first tour of the elections. There was a huge hype in the election hall. After the second tour in the process of counting votes the leadership was changing between me and the current president. There was a moment what there was a big gap between me and the leader, however, right before the end I was able to overcome the favorite. It is notable that the support of some countries was a surprise for me. First I was even feeling embarrassed. The delegation of UK was shocked – they felt confident in their victory. However they came and congratulated me on my victory, though they were not even able to smile.

— Since 2001 the International Games of the Deaf are called Deaflympics. Is it planned to rename the International Committee of Sports for the Deaf into the Deaflympic Committee?

— Our aim is to sign a memorandum of understanding with the International Olympic Committee like their memorandum with Paralympic Committee. According to the memorandum all members of the International Olympic Committee are acknowledging the Paralympic movement. Sport of the deaf didn’t have such an agreement – there was no such aim defined by any of my predecessors.  Even though we are an organization that is following the Olympic principle and the flag of the International Olympic Committee is raised together with the flag of ICSD during Deaflympics. Thomas Bach has recently mentioned that the memorandum could be signed in the near future. The international acknowledgement is very important for us. This is a complicated task; however, if we keep working in this direction we will gain a success. When this aim is reached, we will thing about the renaming issue.

— It is known that around 20 years ago there was an unsuccessful attempt to unite Paralympic and Deaflympic movements. Was the idea doomed to failure or it sounded rational?

— On the abovementioned working group meeting of the International Olympic Committee the issue of uniting Paralympic and Deaflympic movements was raised again.  I was able to persuade the participants that it shouldn’t be done and explained my opinion. Our position is the following:  people with hearing disabilities are a special group of disabled people. We look like healthy people and have almost the same physical conditions; however, they have very serious communicational problems. We need more time to solve some issues including technical problems.

Sport of the deaf is very specific, self-standing and have the main object to show the best results in competitions of any level. Uniting Paralympic and Deaflympic movements will cause the extinction of sport of the deaf. Due to their physical abilities deaf people have to train and to compete like healthy athletes, otherwise their results will be low. For example, in the past in Norway deaf athletes were performing on the high level but when deaf sport was united with the Paralympic movement the results faded away and you will not see any representative of this country on Deaflympics.  In 1995 I was the delegate on the Congress of the International Committee of Sport for the Deaf and I noticed that when the question of uniting with the Paralympic movement was raised everybody was voting against it. We have our own way and we will follow it. Of cause, the International Paralympic Committee was more successful in some question due to the lack of communicational problems. However, we have taken something from their experience and will definitely apply it in our work.

— Are you satisfied with the process of getting ready for the first Deaflympics that will be held in Russia in Khanty-Mansiysk and Magnitogorsk?

— As you remember, the Winter Deaflympics 2011 in Slovakia were cancelled, that is why hosting Winter Deaflympics in Russia was one of the main targets of my election program. I have turned to the leaders of our government with this issue and received their support. Among other issues, this will help to gain the international prestige of Russia in sport sphere. The process of getting ready is currently in full swing, I am satisfied with everything. The communication with the Organizing Committee headed by the Minister of Sport of Russia Vitaly Mutko and the Governor of Ugra Natalia Komarova is smooth.

— What do you think about the influence of 8 year break upon these Winter Deaflympics?

— Despite such a long pause, Winter Deaflympics are becoming more popular, the number of participants is growing. In Slovakia it was planned that the Games will be attended my athletes from 23 countries. At the moment we have already received 27 applications from national teams. This is very telling.

— Are the officials from International Olympic Committee going to attend the Winter Deaflympics?

— Thomas Bach has said me that he is going to attend the Summer Deaflympics 2017 that will be held in Turkey.  As for Khanty-Mansiysk, it is planned that it will be visited by the IOC delegation headed by Sam Ramsamy, Chair of the Sport for All Commission. The delegation will also include other IOC members and Alexander Zhukov, the head of Russian Olympic Committee.  Among other issues the delegation will participate in the International Committee of Deaf Sports Congress that will be held before the start of the Deaflympics.

— What do you think about the chances of Russia to host Summer Deaflympics in the nearest future?

— We are interested in this, however, it is not so easy to win the right to host the Games – the competition is very severe. If we will be able to host these Deaflympics on a high level and in 2017 I will be re-elected to a second term, we’ll try to get this right.

— In your opinion, what disciplines could be included in Winter and Summer Deaflympics?

— In summer disciplines they are, for example, golf, triathlon, sambo – recently we had international deaf sambo tournament, in which athletes from 8 countries were participating. In winter disciplines it is biathlon – the most popular sport in Khanty-Mansiysk. Besides, there are some sport tournaments – like chess and mini-football – that are held in indoor area. They could also be included in the program of Winter Deaflympics in order to increase the number of participants and to popularize the event among sport fans.

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