[b]Naturally, we continue to be inspired by the recent Winter Olympics. Our Vancouver victories are fresh in our memory and further honours are still to come; full results are yet to be tallied. Experienced coaches say that a new Olympiad begins as the flame of the previous Games dies. Sochi, the next venue, is much nearer Belarus; in four years’ time, our Belarusian sportsmen will be performing very close to home, with no excuses regarding time zones or acclimatisation. In order to put on a good show in 2014, we must start training now, all the more so since an absolutely new team will be sent to the Sochi slopes and tracks[/b]
It’s likely that the sport which brought us two medals at the last Olympics will remain the most successful over the next four years. Our little star Darya Domracheva is just 23 and her Vancouver bronze obviously hasn’t satisfied her ambitions. In Sochi, Darya may truly hit the pinnacle of any athlete’s career. She won’t be performing merely as a talented young sportswoman with high ambitions and hopes, but as a leading world biathlete unwilling to settle for second best. Sergey Novikov is far from being a veteran (especially against the background of Halvard Hanevold of Norway) while Lyudmila Kalinchik has finally caught her rhythm this season and could climb the podium in Sochi. Among our younger athletes, Yevgeny Abramenko has already confirmed his talent while our coaches are placing hopes on Mikhail Semenov’s shooting skills; he is capable of making the leaders nervous. Finally, since the last world junior championship, our youngest contenders have claimed two medals. Vladimir Alenishko should be in his prime by the Sochi Games… remember his name!
The Canadian Games were certainly our most successful to date, with our young sportsmen and women close on the heels of experienced veterans. Among our ski-acrobats, Anton Kushnir beat all his rivals in the World Cup qualification and was the main favourite at the Olympics. Following his Vancouver performance, nobody can doubt that, by 2014, his talent and youth will be enriched with experience and he’ll definitely win a medal…if Timofey Slivets and super-talented junior Maxim Gustik don’t hamper him. Of course, gold-medalist Alexey Grishin hasn’t yet retired his skis and Assol Slivets is viewing her fourth position as a defeat. The young mother is still deciding her path but something tells us that she won’t be held back…
This is where the most serious changes are expected. New head coach Victor Kamotsky, who has worked with the Austrians for over a decade, is replacing almost half of the team — including support staff. In Sochi, it’s unlikely that we’ll see Sergey Dolidovich, Alexander Lazutkin or, even perhaps, Leonid Korneenko. The issue of substitutes is still open, however. “With a proper approach and professional work, we can prepare a team to equal our current one but much younger, in just four years,” notes Kamotsky. It sounds assuring…
Here, we might expect just as many changes. Team leaders Anzhelika Kotyuga and Svetlana Radkevich have long had competition from up and coming young skaters. Over the past four years, results have improved, but only slightly. Our speed skaters have a trump card in the Minsk-Arena, since it allows training all year round. Moreover, we have good material to work with. Vitaly Semenov is aiming for the top twenty in the world ratings for long distances, while young Anna Badaeva beat Svetlana Radkevich (Belarus’ only participant in the recent Olympiad) at the last national championship. Of course, comparisons are all well and good in their place. The important thing is for our coaches to find a common language. With help, our team may surprise themselves in Sochi…
Mountain skiing and snowboarding
Snowboarding is growing in popularity and was watched eagerly during the Vancouver Games but Belarus is yet to put together a qualifying team. Russian-Belarusian pair Maria Shkanova and Yelizaveta Kuzmenko were close behind the favourites; however, our coaches are still new to this sport and much work needs to be done. The new Chair of the Belarusian Ski Union, Natalia Petkevich, is taking the idea very seriously, with winter sports schools opening countrywide and a Skiing and Snowboarding Department founded at the Physical Culture University. Soon, our snowboarding athletes will have their own modern base at the Solnechnaya Dolina Mountain Ski Centre, in Minsk.
Skilled personnel, including Slovenian specialists, have been working with our mountain ski team since 2008. Tom Hutchinson, who trained Canada’s team in Vancouver, will be coaching our snowboarders in the new season. In his opinion, the women’s team is absolutely capable of reaching the top five in Sochi. “Several years ago, we discussed the situation with Vancouver and even tried to earn a place at the Games. However, within a few months, we realised that we couldn’t be ready for the Olympics in such a short period,” explains one of the Belarusian snowboarding founders Denis Ganakov. “We decided to concentrate on training for Sochi, focusing on juniors such as Ivan Alfer and Artur Kachura. They are now 17-18 years old and will reach the peak of their fitness in time for the Olympic Games in Sochi.” Dmitry Shubin, just 13, is already performing to an adult level and could surprise us, if not in 2014, then in 2018…
By Dmitry Komashko
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