Each New Year, we make wishes for the future. We hope not to catch a cold, that our boss will raise our salary, that our holidays will be sunny and that we’ll see success in our personal and professional lives. 2009 had its bright moments, including sporting achievements. Let’s look at those who surpassed themselves: who ran the fastest, dove the deepest, swam the hardest and jumped the highest
Belarusian rowers have lately made a name for themselves, perhaps because the sport stirs something in our native blood. We all know that Belarusians prefer intimacy to corporate anonymity. We show loyalty and honesty by nature and, when we direct our efforts, little can hamper us. We persevere until we reach our goals. Accordingly, 2009’s top rowing sportsmen were Belarusians, taking gold at world championships: Yekaterina Karsten (rowing) and the crew of Roman Petrushenko and Vadim Makhnev (kayaking and canoeing).
Everyone knows Karsten — she is even called Yekaterina the Great. This outstanding sportswoman’s list of records and titles is enough to inspire admiration from us all; we bow down before her talent and diligence. Petrushenko and Makhnev are also highly honoured. Their success builds on the traditions of the Belarusian rowing school, which has regularly produced Olympic champions. Even in Soviet times, Belarus set the pace.
During our early days of independence, focus was lost but we are now back in force, with a wonderful rowing canal recently built in Brest; last September, it hosted the European Rowing Championship. The water frothed with thousands of oar strikes, as if it was boiling. All eyes were on the athletes, whose ambitions and talent made a heady cocktail, spiced with lazy September sun. For three days, participants from 32 countries drank this ‘cocktail’ deeply, alongside judges and fans. The races were thrilling. Those who competed recollect those days with delight. Their oars dipped in unison, creating an echo which rang far beyond the borders of Belarus. When asked how many ‘hotel’ stars Brest rowing canal is worth, the chief coach of the Belarusian team, Vladimir Sinelshchikov, stresses, “Of course, five! It has everything. There are only two canals of the same level in the world — one in Beijing and another in Athens…” Who wouldn’t be pleased to hear that? The canal is truly impressive. It is located almost in the city centre — only five minutes’ drive from the main avenue — yet its level is almost unsurpassed.
No wonder that new rowing, canoeing and kayaking talents are springing up like mushrooms after long summer rain. Belarus’ top coach, Vladimir Shantarovich, helped the national kayaking and canoeing team claim seven gold medals at the World Championship in 2009 in Canada. He asserts that his team is far from having exhausted its potential; even better results could lie ahead.
One of our main hopes at the Olympic Games of 2012 in London is Denis Garazha, 21. Last year, he took gold in the European and world championships for his 500 metre canoe single scull. However, this discipline may be excluded from the Olympic programme, so he is trying other distances. “Denis is a hard-working, flexible athlete. We count on him and hope he’ll continue progressing. We’ll keep improving his results in the 1,000 metre single scull and will try him in a canoe double or other crews,” notes Mr. Shantarovich.
As ever, Vladimir Samsonov, the master of ping pong, had a successful year. Victory in the World Cup is vivid proof. In the finals, Vladimir prevailed over Chinese Chen Qi 4:1 and, for the third time, claimed the honoured trophy (last possessed by him in 1999 and 2001). The Cup was created around three dozen years ago and is covered with precious metals; it will now stay in Minsk’s Museum of Olympic Glory for the next year. No European sportsman has ever won the European Cup three times; only Chinese Ma Lin has held the trophy more times than our Belarusian athlete.
The past year was also remarkable for Belarus hosting the ITTF pro tour, at the gigantic Minsk-Arena. The hockey palace boasts 15,000 seats, a velodrome, a skating oval and many other halls and facilities.
Meanwhile, Victoria Azarenko had a memorable year, becoming a true world tennis star. This dazzling young lady not only won her first tournaments but entered the top ten rankings for women’s tennis (7th place). American sports magazine ESPN also named her among the 15 sexiest athletes in the world! She took part in a photo-shoot for American sports and fitness magazine SOBeFIT and was named among the most beautiful tennis players in the world by FHM magazine.
Darya Domracheva long ago became the face of winter sports in Belarus. She is charming, although a little absent-minded. The leading women’s biathlete made a sad mistake at a recent World Cup qualification mass start race; she suddenly began shooting at a rival target and only realised on her fourth cartridge. Sadly, this was her third such mishap in recent years. Of course, her fans love her as ever; she is so genuine, if slightly unlucky and absent-minded. Such girls always inspire affection…
2009 was an outstanding year for Melita Stanyuta. The great granddaughter of the famous Belarusian actress Stefania Stanyuta has become the prima of Belarusian gymnastics, taking over from Inna Zhukova on her retirement. At the tender age of 15, she came fourth at the World Championship in Japan in the all-round, just behind recognised leaders Yevgenia Kanaeva, Darya Kondakova and Anna Bessonova. “I can’t remember when I first began gymnastics,” Melita admits. “I don’t recall making a deliberate choice. As a little girl, I attended the early development school — where I danced, drew, and played a fox in the children’s theatre…” Melita’s parents remember well how it began for their titled daughter. “We were on our way to catch the tram to the Palace of Youth, when she was three,” recalls her mother, Inga. “The gymnastics school was nearby and coach Svetlana Burdzevitskaya happened to notice us. She came out into the street and invited us to join the class…” It was fate…
Ice hockey players Mikhail Grabovsky, Ruslan Saley, and Andrey and Sergey Kostitsyns have been playing well in the world’s best league — the NHL. In Belarus, ice hockey is the number one sport, so it’s no wonder that it’s developing rapidly. Minsk-Arena has now opened, ready for Belarus to host the World Ice Hockey Championship in 2014. New ice palaces are springing up countrywide. In five years’ time, the teams of Canada, Russia, the USA, Sweden, Finland and the Czech Republic may face a serious competitor in our Belarusian team. Goals are already being set.
Wrestling was also in the spotlight, with judo masters Sergey Shundikov and Andrey Kazusenok reaching the top three in their weight. World championship silver medallist Sergey Shundikov (81kg) took second place, losing to Russian Ivan Nifontov in the World Championship finals. Meanwhile, Andrey Kazusenok (90kg) who led the World Championship qualification round, finished third, despite his unsuccessful performance.
Sergey Rutenko — the most expensive handball player in the world — will also remember the past year. His transfer from Spanish Ciudad Real to Barcelona cost the Catalonians a fortune. However, the Belarusian athlete immediately began earning his keep.
Alexander Hleb — the most famous Belarusian football player — may view 2009 as a terrible dream. Despite victories in the Spanish championship and in the League of Champions (with Barcelona) he rarely made it onto the field. He was forced to move to German Stuttgart, where he began his successful career. Beijing Olympic champion weightlifter Andrey Aryamnov and his team partner Andrey Rybakov, as well as the Belarusian football team, had a disappointing year, as never before. Of course, we all know that life is a rollercoaster…
What will 2010 bring? We hope something good. We know we can endure difficulties and troubles, standing firmly to emerge victorious. Remember that fortune favours the brave. If it were not so, we would hardly be able to live our lives, let alone win medals at the Olympic Games…
By Sergey Kanashits
Fortune favours the brave
[b]Each New Year, we make wishes for the future. We hope not to catch a cold, that our boss will raise our salary, that our holidays will be sunny and that we’ll see success in our personal and professional lives. 2009 had its bright moments, including sporting achievements. Let’s look at those who surpassed themselves: who ran the fastest, dove the deepest, swam the hardest and jumped the highest[/b]Belarusian rowers have lately made a name for themselves, perhaps because the sport stirs something in our native blood. We all know that Belarusians prefer intimacy to corporate anonymity. We show loyalty and honesty by nature and, when we direct our efforts, little can hamper us. We persevere until we reach our goals. Accordingly, 2009’s top rowing sportsmen were Belarusians, taking gold at world championships: Yekaterina Karsten (rowing) and the crew of Roman Petrushenko and Vadim Makhnev (kayaking and canoeing).