Given a hero’s welcome
<img class="imgl" alt="" src="http://www.belarus-magazine.by/belen/data/upimages/2009/0001-009-440.jpg">[b]Following an amazing 16 days of winter sports, the Olympic Games in Sochi ended with a magnificent closing ceremony, with evening illuminations. Darya Domracheva, our triple gold-champion, carried the Belarusian flag with her customary smile and, last Monday, the national team returned to Minsk. Unsurprisingly, they were met by a joyous crowd at the airport, eager to congratulate our team on its most ‘fruitful’ Games in the history of Belarus: 5 gold and one bronze medal. Without doubt, our national team caused a sensation.[/b]
Despite the flight on which our Olympians were travelling being delayed, fans, journalists, and veterans of sport remained in high spirits. Gathered at the entrance to the National Airport, they waited 90 minutes for the fog to clear and the plane to land in the shy spring sunshine.
Alexey Mashkovich, a pupil from #1 SDUShOR (Specialised Children and Youth Sports School of the Olympic Reserve) and member of Dynamo BFSO (Belarusian Sports Community), was almost bursting with anticipation. Darya Domracheva sent 100 million Belarusian Roubles to the Presidential Sports Club after her first victory. He exclaimed, “I’m delighted by Dasha’s success in Sochi and certainly glad to welcome her here.”
Children and relatives filled every corner of the arrival lounge: fathers, mothers, uncles and brothers sharing stories with excitement, reliving the moments in which they watched on television as their loved ones performed. Nikolay Minin – Dasha’s uncle - related how their windows shook with their shouts of encouragement and delight. All the neighbours came to congratulate each other on the victory of their common favourite.
Nadezhda Skardino’s mother knows just what Nadya likes to eat and revealed that she had a special surprise meal ready for her at home. Alla Tsuper’s mother-in-law had similar plans, noting that the whole street would be joining them in a welcome ceremony for Alla!
Various state executives were among the gathering, including Alexander Shamko, Minister for Sports and Tourism. Naturally, his feelings were all positive on hearing our ‘golden’ Sochi news. Today’s victories are likely to have far-reaching consequences for Belarusian sport. Mr. Shamko notes, “These medals did not occur spontaneously; they are the result of long-term effort! Accordingly, I want to mention all those who have worked to promote Belarusian athletes’ Sochi achievements. Winning medals raises public spirit – such as we last saw after the 1980 Olympics. That inspired development of the whole sporting branch, leading to new victories, as I hope will happen this time.”
Sergey Makarenko was Belarus’ first Olympic champion, in 1960, and knows the price of success better than anyone. He asserts, “It’s difficult to say how many parents will be inspired by the victories of Dasha, Anton or Alla, leading them to take their children to sports clubs. New champions will be among them so our task is to ensure that we don’t miss tomorrow’s talent, helping them to ascend the pedestal in future years.”
At last, Darya Domracheva, Alla Tsuper, Anton Kushnir and Nadezhda Skardino found themselves in the arms of those who had waited so long for the moment. All weariness was washed away amid hugs and kisses and a fair few tears of joy and pride. Clearly, the athletes wanted nothing more than to go home and relax, to lie down and… to be alone. It’s hardly surprising. The victors have received enough media attention to last them for a while – especially triple gold-medallist Darya.
“We expected to be welcomed but never imagined that everything would be organised on such a scale!” admitted Nikolay Kozeko, head coach for the freestyle team. Darya agreed, saying, “I’m yet to feel my full responsibility as a medallist but I understand that I must worthily carry the honour of an Olympic Champion. I think that understanding will come later. For now, I’m happy to keep these three golden suns in my hands and to see people gladdened by these victories.”
The Sochi Olympics have been the most successful in the history of Belarusian sport, raising a new bar for future generations and inspiring us in equal measure. Even our Summer Games athletes will have trouble matching the recent sensation. Just as today’s modest victors were met with smiles, flowers and joy, at the National Airport, we hope that the sight may be repeated many times in the years to come.
By Dmitry Komashko and Yuri Bakerenko