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Olympic champion: Elbrus Tedeyev, the wrestler
Elbrus Tedeyev was born in the Autonomous Republic of North Ossetia-Alania, Russia, on December 5 1974. Later, he moved to live in Ukraine and graduated from the National University of Physical Education and Sports and from the Department of Law of the Institute of Culture. At present, he is an undergraduate student of the Department of International Economics of the International Personnel Management Academy.
He is married and has a one-year old daughter.
Elbrus Tedeyev wrestles in the lightweight category of up to 66 kilograms; he won prizes at three world championships and the bronze medal at the Olympics in Atlanta, USA, in 1996. In Ukraine, he has been awarded the Cross For Courage and other orders.
Elbrus is the name of the highest mountain in the Caucasus and in Europe. It also happens to be the name of a freestyle wrestler who was on the Ukrainian Olympic team in Athens at the Summer Olympics in 2004, and won the gold medal.
Mr Tedeyev, was the training for this year’s Olympic Games in any way different from that you had had before Atlanta?
Yes, in some respects it was different. There were hard workouts, vigorous training, strict dieting — but these were more or less what you would expect. But there were some unexpected problems that interfered with my training. My coach died in a tragic accident and there was another death — my wife’s brother died. There was a birth too — my daughter was born and for some time she did not sleep much at night. During the training that I did some time before the Olympics, I had a problem with my back — it ached terrible. All of these things combined resulted in my doing not enough training and at the European championship I won only the second place. The wrestler from Russia who won the first place was predicted to win the gold medal at the Olympics… The prediction did not come true.
The style of wrestling differs in every country that has its national school of wrestling. And each individual wrestler has his own style of wrestling. These things had to be taken into consideration during the training. I had to be aware of the national and individual styles to be prepared for any eventuality. Cubans are very strong physically; Russians have a superb technique of wrestling; Iranians are known for using very fast and unexpected moves; Turks use cunning moves close to fouls and disqualification.
Can one win an important bout by just a tremendous physical and mental effort, by sheer youthful super drive?
No, you can’t. At the Olympics level, your physical strength and a desire to win are not enough. There are many other things that count too, but without making this ‘super effort’ you can’t win either. In fact, even at a lower level you have to make that special effort that mobilizes all your resources.
Would you care to give us your — winner’s — account of the most decisive bouts?
After sortition, it turned out I had to wrestle with a Cuban. He proved to be very strong physically, his moves were not standard, but my technique was much more versatile and superior to his. I won by points: 7 to 2. And our team saw that Elbrus was geared up to win a medal. My next opponent was a Greek. The Greeks are new to this sport. I let the Greek wrestler to win a couple of points to please his fans. But in the end I won rather easily. My next opponent proved to be the toughest. He was Leonid Spiridonov from Kazakhstan. He was trained by the well-known coach Pavlo Pinihin, a Ukrainian who has moved to live in Russia. Spiridonov is flexible, resilient, he has very supple limbs and body, but I knew he has a problem with breathing at the toughest moments. And it was, as I said, a very tough bout, at the end of which he had a cut brow and I was bleeding from the top of my head. There was a moment when he was ahead of me by two points. I realized I had to try still harder, and Spiridonov left the mat several times to take a breath. For this the judges awarded me a point. Gradually, he grew more and more tired and began making mistakes. I won 4 to 2.
Of a great importance at such competitions is whether you get enough sleep. Some of our athletes who had very good chances of winning medals failed because, in my opinion, they did not have enough sleep. The very atmosphere of the Olympic Games, the great emotions you experience, create a psychological tension that has to be dealt with. In 2000, in Sydney, I could not control my emotions; it seemed to me I was not in a good shape physically and as a result I was knocked out of the competition and turned into a tourist rather than remained a participant. By contrast, in Greece I made it a point to get as much sleep as I could, I was psychologically in the right state for victory. Shortly before the final bout I took a nap. I slumbered for only a half hour or so, but it was a deep and refreshing sleep. Reassuring too. When I woke up I felt that no one would be able to stop me on the way to the medal.
When our bout with Jamil Kelly, a US athlete, began, I knew almost at once that he did not have qualifications for the first place and that the silver medal was what he deserved. I don’t think he hoped for more, and I won scoring 5 points to his 1. I still had a lot of energy left in me after the bout. At the press conference the American said that he did know of my powerful move to grab the heel of the right foot but he forgot that he had the left foot too.
Looks like the expression Achilles’ heel can be applied to the wrestlers as well!
Incidentally I used this move when wrestling with all of my opponents as well as the hold of the opponents legs in the ground position. Both moves are my strengths and they worked!
How much financial and other kind of support did the Ukrainian Olympic team in general and the wrestlers in particular get from the state?
I don’t know how much the state allotted to provide for the proper training and general preparation of the Olympic athletes for the Games, but before Atlanta we were given ridiculously little, just kopecks. In spite of my high status of a wrestler of the world level, I was entitled to a monthly allowance of 60 hryvnyas, about twelve US dollars! For comparison I can tell you that in the USA, China and Russia millions of dollars were available for the training of wrestlers alone. But after the prime minister Yanukovych became the head of the Ukrainian Olympic Committee, things changed for the better. My allowance was increased to 9,000 hryvnyas. Much more money was available to the Olympic team too for training and living expenses. In the twelve months prior to the Games we had all the equipment and medicines we needed. Also, the Olympic Committee promised large sums to the winners.
The Ukrainian school of freestyle wrestling was and remains a very strong one. Among the Ukrainian wrestlers — the brothers Belohlazovs are remembered as legendary wrestlers! — there used to be and are world and European champions and prize winners. I think that at the Olympic games in Beijing in 2008 Ukrainian wrestlers will perform well.
But doesn’t the number of champions depend not only on money allotted but on how popular this or that kind of sport is, and how many people are involved in it?
It does, but now in Ukraine wrestling as a sport is quite popular. The number of young people coming into this sport is growing. There are people who support it financially. There are champions who encourage the young to follow their example.
You’re not an ethnic Ukrainian but a citizen of Ukraine, right? What motivated your decision to come to Ukraine?
In the early nineteen-nineties there was a slump in the development of the Ukrainian school of wrestling caused by the change in generations — the older generation of wrestlers had left the sport and the wrestlers of the new generation did not yet have enough experience. So a number of wrestlers from Ossetia and Dagestan were invited to come to Kyiv and strengthen the Ukrainian team. Ossetia traditionally produces good wrestlers. At the last Olympics four Ossetian ethnics won the medals! Two of them are from my native village. I’ve learned a lot here in Ukraine as a wrestler and I think Ukrainian wrestlers learned a lot from me too.
What are the strengths of the Ukrainian wrestlers?
A great fighting spirit. A powerful drive. We use the best techniques of our own and those that we borrow from other schools of wrestling.
Did you notice any increase in attempts to use forbidden fouls to attain victory at the recent competitions?
Not really. Oil is rubbed into the skin before the bout to make the body slippery — it’s bit unfair but everybody does it.
Are you planning to stay in the sport?
I have not thought about my future yet. I was very tired at the Olympics and did not have much time to rest after they were over either. Plus all those press conferences and interviews. Besides, I was so shocked by that tragedy in Beslan in North Ossetia, the republic I come from, when so many people died in that terrible terrorist act. I couldn’t think of anything else. Some of the people I knew lost their loved ones in that school. I was told that the death toll was at least twice higher than it was officially announced. Against such tragedy, Olympic Games and championships are just nothing…
But life must go on. As ancient Chinese sages used to say, Tomorrow will come no matter what happens today, the sun will shine again and the weather will change from foul to fine…
Mr Tedeyev has been interviewed by Yevhen BUDKO,
Mizhnarodny Turyzm Magazine Senior Editor
Photos from Mr Tedeyev’s archives