A life of sporting passion
<img class="imgl" alt="" src="http://www.belarus-magazine.by/belen/data/upimages/2009/0001-009-430.jpg">[b]Nikolay Kozeko is a genius, as his colleagues and pupils know; however, he hates to be the centre of attention[/b]<br />In 1972, aged 22, Kozeko became the USSR champion in freestyle ski jumping. This brought him neither fame nor money – since it wasn’t football – but Mr. Kozeko was content. He is not among those who chase popularity or dream of being on the front page in newspapers. Enthusiastic and intelligent, he was drawn to acrobatic ski jumping as a graduate of the Belarusian Institute of Physical Culture. The charm of the sport inspired him to create a team and, in 1986, he became head coach of the national BSSR squad. This was the starting point of Belarusian freestyle.
In 1972, aged 22, Kozeko became the USSR champion in freestyle ski jumping. This brought him neither fame nor money – since it wasn’t football – but Mr. Kozeko was content. He is not among those who chase popularity or dream of being on the front page in newspapers. Enthusiastic and intelligent, he was drawn to acrobatic ski jumping as a graduate of the Belarusian Institute of Physical Culture. The charm of the sport inspired him to create a team and, in 1986, he became head coach of the national BSSR squad. This was the starting point of Belarusian freestyle.
Under Mr. Kozeko’s guidance, our freestyle skiers earned two gold medals at the Olympic Games in 2014 – claimed by Anton Kushnir and Alla Tsuper. These followed Alexey Grishin’s gold medal at the 2010 Olympic Games and his 2002 bronze, as well as Dmitry Dashchinsky’s silver at the 2006 Olympics and Olympic bronze in 1998.
Alexey Grishin claimed World Championship gold in 2001, and silver in 2003, as well as bronze in 2005; Dmitry Dashchinsky claimed silver medals in 2007 and 2001, while Assol Slivets also took silver in 2007. Back in 1997, Oleg Kuleshov won bronze.
Alla Tsuper took the World Cup aerial gold in 2002, as did Dmitry Dashchinsky in 2006 and Anton Kushnir in 2010. The latter also won the Big Crystal Globe in freestyle (across three disciplines) in 2010.
It’s an impressive list, showing that Mr. Kozeko is responsible for some remarkable talent reaching its full potential. Despite this success, he remains modest and easy-going – always ready to chat and share a joke. He speaks patiently, understanding the essence of a question and replying precisely, with relevant detail. He isn’t afraid to take risks but does so wisely: he is a virtuoso and a strategist!
Few other coaches have reaped such a collection of medals – including his two recent gold medals, from the Sochi Olympic Games, won by his pupils Alla Tsuper and Anton Kushnir. Each has repeatedly expressed gratitude to Mr. Kozeko for his part in their victory. While they take the limelight, he remains in the shade, looking on with quiet satisfaction.
His grandmother was an йmigrй, having set off to America, where Mr. Kozeko’s mother was born in 1916. He could have led American athletes to success but Fate decided otherwise, bringing his grandmother back to her homeland. Her passionate nature could not be denied its heart’s desire and, on returning to Belarus, she set up a commune. It is surely from this great lady that Mr. Kozeko inherited his determination, since his parents were eminently respectable.
His father, Ivan Dorofeevich – a literary man and political instructor – worked as editor-in-chief at the Belarusian Publishing House of the BSSR (Belgosizdat). He researched the life and work of Ivan Melezh and Kondrat Krapiva, working with Petrus Brovka. Mr. Kozeko recollects: ‘My father was a very serious man and an unquestioned authority in the family. He worked a great deal and was always writing and returning home late from work. He lived in his own world and I desperately sought his attention. Nothing can now be changed but a huge library is his legacy.’ Mr. Kozeko still uses his father’s library, which has made him erudite. He can talk on any topic: from Shakespeare to Kant.
His mother, Olga Dmitrievna, taught junior classes but never nagged her son over his homework. Despite this, or perhaps because of it, Nikolay did well until the eighth grade, including an intensive study of English. In 1960, he began aerial ski jumping – even dreaming of his passion. Interestingly, Mr. Kozeko is a lover of the ballet and opera, often visiting the Minsk Bolshoi. His character is direct and open, ready to defend what he believes to be true and to honour those worthy of admiration, regardless of social position. Some dislike his frank honesty but he would never change to please them. He is also a romantic, who enjoys looking into the sky: not at the stars but at his pupils’ pirouettes.
By Sergey Kanashits