Alexey Svirin, President of the Russian Rowing Federation: “How the Olympics will turn out is an open question”

Alexey Svirin, President of the Russian Rowing Federation

Alexey Svirin, President of the Russian Rowing Federation

Photo: Andrey Minaev

Limiting the participation of Russian athletes on the world stage has led to the development of sports within the country. The Vladivostok Regatta has been taking place since last year, and other competitions are becoming more widespread. The President of the Russian Rowing Federation spoke about this in the studio of Radio Komsomolskaya Pravda at the Eastern Economic Forum Alexey Svirin.


– This morning, September 12, the Vladivostok Regatta ended. Last year the competition took place for the first time. How does this regatta differ from last year’s, when it took place for the first time?

– “Vladivostok Regatta” is not just a competition in boats. Yes, for us the main discipline is rowing, but we also competed on Concept indoor rowing simulators. The competition took place in two locations. In essence, it turned out to be a small rowing marathon. Thus, on September 10, a regatta took place in boats in Novik Bay near Russky Island, and on September 11, we held a small business lunch and invited prominent representatives who came to the forum and the regatta.

It must be said that the regatta is being held with the support and active participation of the Ministry of Sports of the Russian Federation, the Ministry of Development of the Far East and Arctic, and the Olympic Committee. Today, at the GTO site, together with the Ministry of Sports, from 8 to 9 am, while the forum participants were catching up on their last minutes, we held an indoor rowing competition. I believe that everything worked out, although the difficulties were quite serious. It is not so easy to make it through such a significant economic event with a relatively large sports agenda. All slots are usually occupied. I would like to thank everyone, including thanking the management of the security system, which always meets us.

– From which countries do athletes take part?

– This year the regatta has taken a step forward. We had eight countries represented. The farthest is Cuba; this year the team at the competition is quite decent. The men’s singles event was won by a representative from the Cuban team. Iran, Serbia, China are always our helpers, they walk boldly. Belarus, Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan and the Russian Federation. More than a hundred professional athletes of different ages – it’s very nice that not only adults come. Young athletes also come and actively participate in our competitions. We brought several athletes from the main team and a fairly large team in the men’s eights – we had a junior team to give a larger age range of athletes in our country the opportunity to participate in international competitions.


– The World Rowing Championships have ended in Serbia. Our team took part. Sum up the results of this tournament.

– The team did not perform at full strength. Preparation for the World Championship – traditional methodology, calculations, mileage, number of training sessions – begins almost a year before the World Championship. When we were preparing for this season, calculating all the required volume and intensity of the load, we did not even suspect that we would be able to compete at the World Championships. March 2022, everyone remembers very well what happened… The international community made a categorically wrong decision regarding all our sports to exclude them from the international agenda. It was practically impossible to assume that we would compete at the World Championships.

But somewhere in February-March it became clear that the countdown had begun. There are counter dialogues. First in other sports. In the spring, Russian representatives of several Olympic sports went to participate in the world championships. Also in March, our international federation offered to compete at the World Championships. Immediately restrictions were put forward: an incomplete team, only small classes – singles, doubles without a helmsman. Other factors that determine the athletes’ affiliation with the country were almost the same as for all other sports.

We had to quickly change the method of preparing for the World Cup. The results are quite modest, but the performance, given the circumstances, can be assessed as satisfactory. Speaking globally, within our sport and within the federation we are following a certain path of development, we understand the goals and objectives. We don’t stand still. We understand that our responsibility is to develop our sport on the territory of the Russian Federation.

The international agenda has narrowed a little, becoming less influential and requiring attention. Therefore, we switched most of our attention to the Russian agenda. Last year, the idea of ​​holding the International Vladivostok Regatta was born.


– Are there any other tournaments in the country?

– Last year we made a huge breakthrough. We have the traditional Great Moscow Regatta, which takes place in Moscow on the Rowing Canal in early June. It has a history of more than 60 years. In Soviet times it was called the small world championship. Any country actively developing rowing considered it its duty to come to Moscow and compete at the Great Moscow Regatta. In timelessness, when the Soviet Union was exterminated, the Great Moscow Regatta lost its international status. We have been restoring it since the 2000s.

Now there are more than five countries, quite serious representatives. This year the agenda has expanded; Iranian athletes came there for the first time. Some of them took part in the Tokyo Olympics. Serious athletes who looked at everything and really liked it. After that, they came to training events in Kazan, to a wonderful rowing center. We trained. And now, within these three days of competition, we performed well at our Vladivostok regatta.

We have added several age categories. The Great Moscow Regatta of 300 participants turned into a super event. Last year the record was broken, we had 1,200 rowers competing in different categories over four days.

– Is this just rowing?

– Only rowing. This year there are even more, about 1300 participants. It’s clear that we did this by expanding the number of categories. And the fact that you, Alexander, mentioned amateurs, this year we already had two full-fledged races for amateurs – both in fours and in eights, 6 boats each, about 60-70 people. We have a category “Masters” (veterans). Most of them are not even veterans, these are people who two or three years ago knew practically nothing about rowing.

– That is, these are adults who began to exercise to maintain their health.

– Certainly. Our sport, let’s say, cannot be called freely accessible. If we are talking about rowing in a boat, you need a boat, you need a specialized body of water. It is clear that the drivers of this process were Moscow and St. Petersburg due to historically established serious traditions in our sport. But now we see that both regional centers and some federal ones are getting involved in this process – Saratov, Astrakhan, Rostov… That is, in many regions that are actively developing our sport and have long been an integral part of our rowing community, amateur clubs with our honored veterans are united into one training group.

Our sport is great, and in fact, getting into it is now quite easy. I mentioned that we had indoor rowing as part of the Vladivostok regatta. That is, this is rowing on simulators, indoor rowing, which is also popularly called dry rowing. This is an official international discipline, world and European championships are held. At the same time, you can come to any fitness club and see a rowing machine there. I’ll tell you a little truth for the listeners. Rowing (this is not fiction, but scientific research) uses about 80% of the muscles of the entire body. That is, the rowing movement affects the entire body, starting with the legs and ending with the arms. Therefore, if you have a little time and desire to get your body in order and get some strength training, all this can be done as part of classes on a rowing machine.


– How long do you think the current isolation of Russian sports on the international stage will last?

– Nothing supernatural will happen; in 2024 we will see the Olympic Games. In what format? It’s hard to say, but they certainly should pass. And athletes from the Russian Federation will most likely be present there. Why? We understand that in March 2022 there was an attack against truths, ideologies, Olympic and international sport in general. The charter of any international sports organization, including the Olympic Charter, says. that they work to maintain the integrity of the sport. From their point of view, as part of the Olympic Games they will try to prove to the whole world that they are doing everything to make this happen.

They will not make excuses, they will not say that they committed lawlessness, an attack on the Olympic ideals, but at the same time they will make sure that a certain number of our athletes take part in the Olympic Games. And that will be enough for them.

Now I’m tormented by another question: do we need this? Should we follow the lead, should we pay attention to these, well, not to say handouts, but such disparaging communication? I think that in the near future we – our athletes, functionaries, leaders – must answer this question.

As part of the sports agenda (and there were several sessions, including here at the EEF) with the sports community, we discussed this. Next year, by order of the government, three significant international events are planned in the country – “Figital Games”, BRICS Games and World Friendship Games. We are not saying that we are creating something contrary, we are saying that we have a responsibility to create the opportunity for our athletes to compete at the highest level. Moreover, our history is quite serious, not only sports. We are no stranger to organizing major competitions. We have already proven this to the whole world. How it will turn out with the Olympics is an open question. I think that we are now definitely in a winning situation. A win-win situation is implied by the fact that we have a choice, but our international partners do not have a choice.


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