The champion of Glebuchev Ravine turned 80!

On May 15, 2017,   an outstanding Soviet fencer on rapiers,   two-time Olympic champion, five-time world champion, multiple holder of the European Cups  Yuri   Sisikin celebrated his 80th birthday. The Russian Olympic Committee congratulates him on the festive date and wishes him good health, good mood, happiness and family well-being.

In his interview to the SPORT-SAR publication the first Olympic champion from Saratov told about his incredibly interesting and eventful sports career.

– Yuri Fedorovich, you are always in a good mood, no matter what … What is your secret?

– My main slogan is ‘It will not get worse!’. And the second one is ‘Everything will pass. And this, too’ as it was written on the  Egyptian pharaoh ring. You see, I lived at different times – in Stalin’s, Khrushchev’s, Gorbachev’s and Yeltsin’s. Besides, I traveled a lot abroad, so I have something to compare with. And for me nowhere is better than in Russia, than in Saratov. Although there were many opportunities to leave. They offered me cottages in Central Asia, and called me to Moscow. But I stayed in Saratov. And I’m also an optimist.

– Another point that is surprising is that you remember well  many moments of your biography. Not everyone can boast of such a memory. How do you do it?

– In my memory there are only good moments, but I forget the bad ones quickly, although there were enough of them. For example, there was such an episode: I had to go to the 1964 Tokyo Olympics. They called me from Moscow and said that I do not have the characteristics, the consent of the Obkom and the permission from the KGB. And I had to go in a month. What to do? At that time our first secretary was Alexey Shibaev, who did more than all other leaders for Saratov sport. I came to him and explained the situation. He was surprised, called his assistant, responsible for international affairs, and asked him why these documents were not there.  The assistant replied that I had already traveled abroad seven times in that year. Alexey Ivanovich instructed the assistant to urgently send all the documents to Moscow and said: ‘Who I  have to work with …’. Five days later I got a call from the capital. They said that everything was ready. And how did I have to take it? With optimism, or annoyed that this could happen in our country? And I’m an optimist. All the same, everything will get better.

– Do you often recollect the pleasant moments of your career?

– No, I do not recollect anything. I live in the present.

– But surely you are often asked for this.

– You see, I’ve already given so many interviews that everything I say becomes a kind of a stamp. I know all the questions of journalists in advance. They usually start with the question: ‘How did you start fencing?’. And I begin to tell that in the post-war period it was hard, there was no equipment. We put all sorts of plugs on the twigs, and to protect  hands we used  scoops. It was a rapier. And we fought in the courtyards. It was all because the knights and musketeers fought for the beautiful ladies on swords. And we were pioneers, it was interesting for us. Then I learned that the Honored Coach of the USSR Grigory Schwartz is assembling  a group at  the Pioneers Palace. I came to him in  November, 1950. I had thin hands and legs. He said that I was like a little spider. But already in 1952 I became a prize-winner of the Championship of Russia. When I was 17, I got into the adult Russian national team, and at 20 I became member of  the USSR national team. And the first country I visited was the USA, where the World Championships took place. Before the flight it turned out that we do not have a visa. It’s good that Nikitin, deputy chairman of the Russian Sports Committee, was traveling with us – with me, and my friend Herman Sveshnikov . And me and Herman  were  Russians.
So Nikitin said that without us there will be no team. We slept in the office of the chairman of the USSR Committee for Physical Education, and at 5 or 6 o’clock  in the morning next day we received visas. We flew through Amsterdam. There we met with Hungarian and Egyptian teams. They offered us to fly with them, but we already had tickets for another flight. And when we got to New York, it turned out that they have already ‘buried us’, because the plane, in which the Hungarians and Egyptians flew over the ocean, near New York, was hit by lightning. All Egyptian athletes and half of Hungarians and other people died. And everyone thought that we would be in this plane… In the end, we took second place at the World Championships in Philadelphia. In this championship there was one funny story. Our team, which nobody in the world knew, was to fight against the French. And in their team there was a famous swordsman, world champion Christian D’Oreola. And I fought against him. And I won 5-0! After the fight reporters came up to me. They wondered who I was. And then Herman Sveshnikov, who was from Nizhny Novgorod, came up and said: ‘Yes, he is the champion of the Glebuchev Ravine (the ravine in Saratov, located near the historical center of the city, between Posadsky Street and Gross Street). The next day our boss brought a newspaper with the title Champion of the Glebuchev Ravine defeated the world champion with a score of 5: 0. We laughed heartily!

And then our team – Mark Midler, Yuri Rudov, Herman Sveshnikov and I – had no equal for eleven years. We even got into the Guinness Book of Records for this! After Philadelphia, I  firmly entrenched in the USSR team. And in 1960 I  became the first athlete from Saratov, who won the gold Olympic medal.

– After 57 years, how do you remember those Games in Italy?

– I remember that that Olympiad was very simple for us. After all, in 1958 we became second in the World Championship, and in 1959 in Budapest it was very easy to win it. After that, our team was considered  number one in the world. It happened because each of us four was different from the others. We could not adjust  to us. In the Roman finals, we fought against the hosts – the Italians, and the whole thing was happening in the huge Congress hall. It was full of spectators! And, of course, they were rooting for their team. But we won 9 : 3. In the individual events at that Olympiad, we took the first, second and fourth places. Our team had no equal then! The competitions in Rome were very easy for us, and after them the World Championships. We won again and again, and again … By coincidence, in five World Championships in the quarterfinals,  we were to fight against  the FRG team. And, of course, we constantly defeated them, although they were in the second-third places then, and after the fighting against us the Germans retreated to the fifth place. They were even complain about that, they asked to be bred in a toss … After this happened, they managed to enter the top three.

– How did they meet you on the arrival in Saratov after that victory?

– Very good! They handed candy box for 15 rubles (he laughs). In general, until 1960 I lived in the basement of the house number 17 on Nekrasov Street together with my mother and brother. I was given a  two-room apartment through the KGB after I became the world champion. I even came to Dmitry Ayatskov (ex-governor of the Saratov region, note SPORT-SAR), and suggested installing a commemorative plaque on the door of that basement.

– In your sports history there is a battle which is presented in all the historical reference books… I mean the duel with the Pole Franke.

– In 1964, in Tokyo, we performed poorly in personal competitions, so all the hope was for the team events. Before the finals, we easily defeated all rivals, and in the decisive round we were fighting against the Poles. They were very good guys, and we also had good contacts with everyone, we did not quarrel with anyone. We were then judged by a Hungarian, who was well versed in the rules. And in our sport, refereeing is very important, I myself after the end of my career worked as a judge for 13 years. Judges are grouped together in the coalition, so noone has ever harmed one another, since a similar response would have followed immediately. So, we fought in teams four by four, and one on one. Sixteen fights in total. For the final victory, it was necessary to win 9 fights, and with a score of 8 : 8, the total number of touches was taken into account. I always started and finished a set of battles, so it was. Before the decisive bout we conducted 8 : 7. I was to fight against  the Olympic champion Egon Franke. If he had won, the Poles would have become champions, because  they had more touches. Thus, in no case could I lose this fight. Very quickly Franke took the  lead 4 : 2. There were 12 seconds left before the end of the fight, and I had to deliver three touches. What was I  to do? I understood that this can not be done with a pounce, because he had good defense. But then I realized that our tracks were 14 meters long, and along the edges there were lines. Retreating off of the strip scores a touch for the opponent. And if Franke stops before it, he will have to attack me, and my defense is also not the worst! And in this ‘stupid’ way I delivered two toushes and equalized the score. And in case of equal score 4:4, the bout may continue until a decisive touch. Everyone thought that we would start wasting time, because there were only three seconds left to deliver this decisive touch. And I did not wait and immediately after the command to the beginning of the battle made an attack with an arrow – “flash”, a sharp attack on the enemy! Franke opened and missed this injection. So we have won …

– Was it difficult to finish a sports career?

– I had a trauma. Before the trip to the World Cup in Argentina, I did not warm up well   before playing football. I reached for the ball and rinjured the hamstring. But I did not say anything to the coaches, because the next day we were going to South America. Upon arrival the coaches saw that my hip was all blue, and I could hardly walk. But I quickly passed the first stage of individual competitions. And at the second stage I  fell from a high platform. I was  eliminated by doctors, they performed novocaine blockade, and I returned to the bout. In the team event I performed well. After this injury, I could no longer perform at full strength. I finished my career at 32 or 33. By that time I won   the USSR Cup, the Cup of Russia, the International Cup, the World Championships and the Olympics. Therefore, after the 1968 Olympics in Mexico City, I realized that there was not much to   desire. I completed my career and became a coach. In my old age I was forced to go to the Saratov Institute of Physical Education and take exams in athletics. I tried to explain that I was an Honored Master of Sports, and should be exempted from examinations. In addition, I  explained that my leg was damaged. But   they were tough. Well, I ran for a hundred meters. And again, a tear …

– Yuri Fedorovich, in the end I would like to ask you about our new star  Konstantin Lohanov, who is very confident in moving forward to becoming a truly great athlete. In your opinion, what are his chances?

– Kostya is a very promising guy! But there is one thing. Each fencer needs a sparring partner, but we do not have equal partners in Saratov. Thus he has to go somewhere else. His coach, Evgeni Golubev is a very wise man.  He sent Kostya to Moscow to the coach of the Russian national team. Another  very difficult problem, especially psychologically, is the transition from youth sport to an adult. For example, in our   fencing on rapiers team there was not a single European champion in junior class. At the moment, Evgeni Golubev helped Kostya make his way to the main team. But what’s bad is that foreign coaches in our country are changing athletes. In our time they didn’t. Such wise coaches as Arkadiev, Mananko or Sachok always strengthened the individual characteristics of athletes. Our coaches have their own special tricks. And modern foreign coaches get rid of those. The main thing for Kostya now is  not to get spoiled by that …