They were chosen by time
The last colorful fireworks of Beijing Olympics finished booming and flaring and now it is only history. It is analyzed by sportsmen and coaches, studied by experts and schoolchildren, it is dissected and apportioned. Winners love it while losers hate it. Many think of the future Olympics and some hope for better chances. Where will the next Olympics take place? Some have plans for Vancouver and the rest — for London but, actually, for a spectator it is of no importance at all. We admire the Olympics just for the fact that they do exist and they bring us joy. And it doesn’t matter really that this joy won’t last long...
And for Belarusian people Beijing Olympics will remain special forever: it is for the first time in history of Belarus that our sportsmen took the highest step of the victory podium four times. Andrei Ariamnov (weightlifting), Oksana Menkova (track and field), Alexander and Andrei Bogdanovich (rowing), Roman Petrushenko, Vadim Makhneev, Alexei Abalmasov and Artur Litvinchuk (rowing) were lucky enough to get Beijing gold. We like to remind ourselves of how it was.
Andrei Ariamnov, a 20-year old weight-lifter from Borisov, was the first to win a gold medal. He could simply “win” and this only fact would have made us happy: by the tenth day of the Olympics some unbelievers started to talk of a failure and to say that Belarusians will not get gold at all. And as an answer to their “prayer” Andrei set three world records at a row. To be on the safe side, as they say! Alexander Goncharov, a chief coach of Belarusian weight-lifters, said right after the victory, “Andrei proved to be strong both physically and morally. Honestly speaking, my personal opinion is that Andrei Ariamnov is an ideal of a sportsman. And I am proud that this person was born and grew up in Belarus”.
Andrei himself seems to be an ordinary Belarusian guy — open, kind-hearted and at the same time shy. In Belarusian embassy in Beijing when he was speaking about his victory his voice sounded really low in the big conference hall. And someone even asked him: “Could you speak a bit louder, please!” Andrei flushed and answered, “I feel a little shy”. That is our champion with his disarming smile. At that meeting which was held only few days after the victory he frankly confessed that he himself hardly believes his champion’s title as it was really difficult to get it, “You know, I have spent so many efforts on this Olympics and was working so hard to come here… If I got some other prize, not the first one, I would be really upset because, as it seems to me, my competitors haven’t worked to the best of their abilities. That’s why I am really extremely glad it came off the way I expected”.
And among those Belarusians who climbed the highest step of the Olympic podium there is only one girl — Oksana Menkova, a hammer thrower. Oksana’s appearance is quite unusual for this kind of sport — she is tall and slim (though, it is common knowledge that women throwers are, as they say, rather “corpulent”).
She could hardly get any sleep on the night after her victory — too many emotions burling inside. “What are my feelings?”, she repeats our question. “It is happiness, excitement… Well, it is impossible to describe everything — one needs to feel it”. Oksana went to the Olympics with a certain anxiety as she once burnt her fingers on her own anticipations: “To the Championship of Europe I went almost sure that I will get the gold medal but everything came out another way. That’s why I feared this Olympics so much and didn’t really believe I could get gold. But, of course, I wanted it”.
As a matter of fact, there is hardly a soldier who does not dream of becoming a general, as well as there are no sportsmen who wouldn’t like to win the Olympic gold. Oksana was 14 when she first tasted a victory and she really admired the taste. Then she won regional contests and realized that she was able and, moreover, wanted to move on and attain new victories. Since that time she has been moving on and only forward. She prefers not to plan anything for the Olympics in London, still, she can’t help thinking about it.
…Dramatic — that will be the right word to describe the finals for 1000 m pair-canoeing. It is enough to mention that one of the silver awardees could not climb the Olympic podium and was taken away in an ambulance. The diagnosis was inanition of the body. People used to say earlier in such cases, “He has put his life in this victory”. Brothers Alexander and Andrei Bogdanovich paid her Majesty Fortune their dues, too: it was not at once that the two men could stand up to their feet after the phenomenal finish. Still, they found enough strength to take their places on the winners’ podium because they simply couldn’t miss Belarusian anthem playing especially for them! Indeed, such moments are not to be missed.
That remarkable day on the rowing channel of Beijing suburb Shungi can be rightfully called Belarusian. Then their triumph celebrated not only the canoe-pair of brothers Bogdanovich but also our canoe four — Alexey Abalmasov, Artur Litvinchuk, Vadim Makhneev and Roman Petrushenko. That was really a fabulous triumph of Belarusian school.
A way to Belarusian victories was opened by Anastasia Novikova’s medal won in the competition of women weight-lifters. Her bronze medal was the first one gained by the Belarusian team. For us this was an apparent success and a terrific excitement while for Anastasia herself happiness was tinted with sorrow because her ultimate goal was to win, at least, the silver medal. Though, unlike at other championships she didn’t have to sacrifice her luxurious plait, “When I took part in World’s and European Championships it was difficult for me to lose weight. You know how it is in our kind of sport — it often happens that the one to win is not the one who lifts more but a person who weighs less. I spent so much time in sauna that my body got totally dehydrated. And I found myself still sitting there crying but without tears because there was no liquid left for them. Then my coach offered me to cut my plait. And you know what — I lost 200 grams at once as my hair is quite heavy. But before the Olympics everything was alright, I lost the necessary weight and we decided to leave my plait untouched”.
Alexander Goncharov, a chief coach of the national weight-lifting team, is proud of his wards. He thinks that at this Olympics we managed to prove to the whole world that Belarus is a country of strong people. “I am very proud of our people, our country. A series of world records set by our sportsmen at the Olympics is our common triumph”, says Alexander Vasilievich and continues, “Without mock modesty I am overflown with triumphant feeling of being a winner. Belarusian people know how to win and were able to prove it once more”.
Could our team win more medals?
Perhaps, it could, indeed — but, well, if “ifs” and “ans” were pots and pans... This was roughly the comment we heard from Ivan Tikhon, world’s leader in hammer throwing of the season, in connection with his relative failure. Ivan Tikhon who acted in Beijing as our team’s captain flatly refused to discuss his performance in the conjunctive mood. “We have what we have”. And we need not to make so much fuss about it...
Another thing here is that denominations of some medals could be (simply had to be) higher. Katia Karsten was not able to explain how she came out only the third. Tikhon referred to a back trauma. Andrei Rybakov did not seek for excuses but it was not at all necessary: he beat the world record, though, got only silver. Things like this happen in sport quite frequently. Seems unfair? Sure, it does. But we have London yet ahead of Andrei and he is a young and obviously promising sportsman. We believe in him.
Judges’ prejudice seemed really hurtful to our fencers. Natalia Tsilinskaya was not lucky in her Olympic “affair” once again. Dmitry Kasperovich had his chance but… Here we come back to “ifs” and “ans”. Well, in this case Olympic Games are similar to history and the conjunctive mood seems quite inappropriate. Therefore, should we really use one? Sportsmen and their coaches will analyze the results on their own and have all conclusions done themselves. What we have to do is to believe that we will meet next Olympics fully prepared.
Just take a look at the names of Belarusian Olympic champions. This is not the famous “old guard”. If we exclude Petrusheko and Makhneev who won bronze in Athens as well as Alexander Bogdanovich who participated in the Games, too, the rest can be rightfully called Olympic freshmen. One more fact that can’t but make us happy is the wide geography of winners: Borisov, Bobruisk, Yelizovo, Mozyr, Krichev, Mogiliov, Gomel. To find a Minsker within Beijing awardees we have to study their biographies thoroughly. And this means that sport is developing all over our country and that coaches are searching for talents and succeed in finding them. Let it be that way on.
When Canadian sportsman Ben Johnson managed to overcome the ten-second limit in a 100-meter running contest people used to say that a human body could not handle it. And these unbelievers were not that wrong. Johnson used doping. He was disqualified and deprived of his medal. His record was annulled. But after the story it happened not once that sprinters proved that it was quite possible to cover 100 meters in less than 10 seconds. But who was this proof for? In Beijing Usain Bolt set three world records at once. Two of these records were individual in runs for 100 and 200 meters and as for the third record, Usain Bolt, being a member of Jamaica’s running team in 4х100 meters relay races, was its co-author, so to say. There is no sportsman who has ever done something like this before. He must be a real genius.
Experts say that he was just born to do sprinter running. His body-built is ideal for it. And here it should be noted that he doesn’t use any doping. Of course, Bolt was tested but at the moment the result of testing is negative.
Like the Jamaican was born to run so American Phelps was born to swim: his arms are really long-reaching (meaning he is really good at pulling and his reach is longer than most sportsmen have), his feet are at a larger angle, his heart is stronger and his lungs have a larger volume. Michael did not just won eight gold medals but set (both individually and being a member of the US team) seven world and one Olympic record. Phelps who looks like a regular guy (but do not be mislead by his smile — it hides an unbending will and a character of a winner) was the first one to beat the “eternal” record of Michael Spitz (7 gold medals in swimming at the Olympics of 1972) which earlier seemed simply impossible. But as it appeared there can be nothing impossible for a man. Today, limits of a human body possibilities are tested by sportsmen, not astronauts: Phelps and Bolt’s attainments give the impression that these are simply unlimited. And before we thought it only referred to our brains.
Her Majesty Fortune
How should we estimate tears of Daria Pchelnik and the excitement of Irina Kulesh? Both sportswomen took the forth place at the Olympics. But one could hardly find a person who would call their performance a failure. Both Alexander Baduev, a chief coach of our track and field team, and Alexander Goncharov, a chief coach for our weight-lifters, are satisfied with their performance. And we are happy, too.
Winning is always absolute and failures are only relative. Someone thinks to be a finalist in an Olympic contest is an award in itself and someone believes an Olympic bronze to be a defeat. Some silver winning sportsmen would feel discontent thinking that they lost their gold while other sportsmen will be glad that he finally got his silver (like Andrei Kravchenko in decathlon who was really working hard to get the medal). Indeed, the most interesting thing at the Olympics is their unpredictable character. However strange it may seem but the one to win is not necessarily the strongest one. Everyone thinks you just need to have Fortune on your side. This “fortune” component (ephemeral, elusive and inexplicable) is believed to be the most vital thing.
…The nearer we are drawing to the end of the Olympics, the fewer participants are left. So, at any Olympics the defeated are much more numerous than the winners. But it is exactly the numbers that give event its global scale. You may be laughing at Muslim women-runners having their hidjubs on and dressed in long sport trousers and long-sleeved vests till you get pains in your stomach. But really do we have a right to laugh at them? Their major victory was won when they got a chance to come to Beijing and participate in the Olympic contests. And among the sportsmen participating in every Olympic Games such winners make up the majority. Every defeat is indeed relative. Are we entitled to reproach Yulia Nesterenko? In fact, she deserves love and admiration only for the wonder she did for us four years ago. By the way, Chinese people adore their 110 m barrier runner Liu Sian for the same thing — he did what seemed to be impossible before. The whole country was literally weeping when he had to refuse participation in the Olympic contest because of a trauma. And we admire our Yulia for her will to struggle. And now she is struggling on.
Fundamentally, none of us has enough right to blame any of our sportsmen, even those who were expected to have shown better results. It is because they expected “more” of themselves as well and not simply expected but fought for it, strived for more and did their best. However, things happen, as they say… Of course, one can’t doubt the fact that each of our sport stars would like to become an Olympic champion. Therefore, we should thank them for everything they did for us, for their Motherland and for themselves.