Andrey Zholinsky: “Athletes can catch up in training, it all depends on their psychological state”

Starting today, we are launching a series of interviews with FMBA experts on our site. This is a joint project of the ROC and the FMBA, designed to give an expert opinion, assessment and analysis of the problems faced by Russian specialists in sports medicine on a wide range of issues related to coronavirus, adapting the human body to home isolation, and correctly exiting the quarantine period.

The speakers will share the psychological, sport-related and nutritional aspects, which are very important to know and observe. In addition, opinions on the specifics of the coronavirus infection itself will be voiced by FMBA doctors and specialists, many of whom have been directly involved in fighting the pandemic in Russia from day one by saving the lives of our compatriots and working side by side with other doctors in the clinics treating coronavirus patients.

These materials will be useful and informative for athletes and coaches alike, as well as ordinary citizens.

The project opens with an interview by the Director of the Center of Sports Medicine of the FMBA of Russia Andrey Zholinsky.

— Has the work format of the FMBA of Russia changed during the fight against the pandemic?

— Of course it has, and quite substantially. The FMBA of Russia is responsible for the health and fitness of athletes of the sports teams of the Russian Federation.

Due to the worsening epidemiological situation connected with coronavirus in Russia, the FMBA was forced to stop conducting in-depth medical examinations in almost all organizations on March 23, and at the FMBA Center of Sports Medicine on March 30. We also had to suspend providing planned medical assistance to athletes throughout our network of medical institutions until further notice.

And as practice has shown, this decision was timely and rightly made as it limited the movement of athletes in medical organizations that had coronavirus clusters.

Currently, the largest medical organizations of the FMBA of Russia across the country have been urgently restructured in order to provide timely assistance to coronavirus patients. For instance, in Moscow four large federal centers are already participating in the treatment of such patients. These are the Federal Clinical Center of Higher Medical Technologies, the Burnasyan Federal Medical Biophysical Center, the Scientific and Clinical Center of Otorhinolaryngology and the Federal and Scientific Clinical Center. The medical staff was mobilized and promptly trained to work with coronavirus patients, including employees of the Center of Sports Medicine.

— How justified is the opinion that after a long absence of full-time training, athletes will be completely lost and unable to return to previous levels of athletic performance?

— We are convinced that the task of returning to previous levels of athletic performance and becoming even better is feasible. Much depends on willpower, self-confidence, clear goals and a lot of painstaking work together with coaches and doctors in sports medicine, as well as a competent approach to the task at hand. Of course, it will be difficult, but this is a new challenge that needs to be accepted so as to prove to everyone and the whole world what athletes are capable of. In the history of our sport, there are numerous instances of how fortitude paved the way to achieve extraordinary victories, regardless of the circumstances. Moreover, at times such examples from history cannot be compared with today’s status quo in terms of severity. Motivation is the greatest factor. But at the same time, of course, there should be a functional base and physical capabilities. Coronavirus should be waited out in safe conditions; we cannot afford to take any risks. And there is no doubt in my mind that athletes can catch up in training, it all depends on their psychological state. And the examples that can be found throughout history can perfectly confirm this point of view.

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The Teamrussia portal, together with the FMBA of Russia, decided once again to provide moral support to all our athletes by organizing a short historical excursion to present vivid, convincing and inspiring examples when, after incredible difficulties, people emerged victorious in life and major sports competitions.

During the celebration of the 75th anniversary of the victory in the Great Patriotic War, we also remembered our outstanding battle front athletes.

Viktor Chukarin (artistic gymnastics), Merited Master of Sport of the USSR, Holder of the Order of Lenin.

In 1952, in Helsinki, he became a legend by becoming a four-time Olympic champion: in the individual all-around, team competition, pommel horse and the vault discipline; he also won two silver medals in rings and parallel bars. Before participating in the Games he had to overcome a difficult test by being a captive of the fascists.

In September 1941, during the battles near Poltava, Viktor Chukarin was wounded and captured. He was sent to a concentration camp where he worked for 3.5 years in quarries for 12 hours a day. Despite the inhuman conditions of the prisoners, he continued to train as best as he could…

The final and most challenging test came in the spring of 1945 in the “death barge”: the ship with concentration camp prisoners aboard was sent to sea where it was met with a British patrol ship. After returning home, the once-promising athlete was hardly recognizable as he was thin and malnourished — his own mother recognized Victor only by a scar on his head.

And a few years later, the world would witness the triumphs of a concentration camp ex-prisoner at the Olympic Games. Moving on after the Games, he had a very successful sports career.

Ivan Udodov, Merited Master of Sport of the USSR (weightlifting).

In 1952, at the Games of the XV Olympiad, he became the first Soviet Olympic champion in weightlifting. However, at the age of 18 the young athlete was in Buchenwald. By the end of 1945, when American troops approached the concentration camp, Udodov’s condition was extremely critical: he weighed 29 kilograms and he could not walk on his own.

After his triumph at the 1952 Summer Olympics, Udodov won the world title, claimed two silver medals, won the European Championships twice and became a two-time silver medallist of the continental championships.

Galina Zybina, Merited Master of Sport of the USSR (track-and-field athletics).

In 1952, at the Games of the XV Olympiad, she performed in two types of athletics and become an Olympic champion in shot put.

In total, Galina Zybina won two more Olympic awards during her career (a silver medal in Melbourne and a bronze medal in Tokyo), became the 1954 European champion and was a three-time bronze medallist of the European championships. She was the first athlete to push the shot further than 16 meters.

These victories were preceded by 872 days in the Siege of Leningrad, when it was necessary to survive in horrific conditions, all the while helping her mother and taking care of two brothers.

Galina Zybina was the first athlete from unbroken Leningrad who won a prestigious international award. She is never tired of repeating that the most important award for her is the medal “For the Defence of Leningrad.”

Sergey Shcherbakov (boxing), Merited Master of Sport of the USSR. Silver medallist at the 1952 Summer Olympic Games.

Double medalist of the USSR championships, he went to the battle front as a volunteer, during sabotage operations in the enemy’s rear he received two serious injuries, one of which almost led to his leg being amputated. He accomplished more than one feat: undermining communications in the enemy’s rear, destroying a 27-wagon train, delivering food to a detachment in the enemy’s rear and carrying a wounded serviceman across the battle front. He was awarded the Medal “For Courage” and the Medal “For Battle Merit.” He is a ten-time champion of the USSR (1944—1953), the silver medallist of the European Championships (1953), and was awarded the Order of the Badge of Honour.

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Further on, there are examples of amazing feats and great human valour during peacetime conditions.

Valery Kharlamov (ice hockey), Merited Master of Sport of the USSR, two-time Olympic champion (1972, 1976) and eight-time World champion.

The best hockey player of the USSR (1972, 1973). He received recognition in our country and abroad. Member of the International Ice Hockey Federation Hall of Fame and the Toronto Hockey Hall of Fame.

At the pinnacle of his career he was involved in a terrible car accident: Kharlamov received a two-ankle comminuted fracture of his right lower leg, fractured two ribs, got a concussion and numerous bruises. It seemed that this was the end of his career.

But already in December of the same year he returned to the USSR national team at the Izvestia newspaper prize tournament and scored a hat-trick in the very first match against the Swedes. After that, Kharlamov won two more gold medals at the World championships as part of the national team (1978 and 1979), and won the 1979 Challenge Cup.

Elena Berezhnaya (figure skating), Merited Master of Sport of the Russian Federation.

After receiving a head injury during a training session in 1996 (during a side-by-side spin her partner’s blade sliced into her head), she recovered and performed for Russia achieving the highest results: she won a silver medal at the 1998 Winter Olympics and a gold medal at the 2002 Winter Olympics with her partner Anton Sikharulidze. She is the 1998 and 1999 World champion, a silver medallist of the World championships, she won the Grand Prix in 1998, the European Championships twice and she claimed the bronze medal once. She was awarded the Order of Friendship and the Order of Honour.

Tatyana Totmyanina (figure skating), Merited Master of Sport of the Russian Federation.

In the fall of 2004, at the series stage, the athlete sustained a concussion: her partner lost his balance and she slammed into the ice head first losing consciousness.

After that she became the 2005 World champion (Moscow), the 2005 and 2006 European champion, and claimed victory in the Russian championships (2005). Along with her partner, she won gold at the 2006 Winter Olympics in Turin, and claimed victory at the 2006 Grand Prix. Cavalier of the Order of Honour.

Aliya Mustafina (artistic gymnastics), Merited Master of Sport of the Russian Federation.

Aliya Mustafina is a multiple World and European champion, she claimed victories at the Universiade and national championships. In the spring of 2011, the athlete received a serious injury – she tore her left anterior cruciate ligament while competing, as a result, she missed the World Cup due to treatment and the subsequent long rehabilitation period; training resumed only 3 months after the injury.

At the 2012 Summer Olympics in London, she won one gold medal, one silver medal and two bronze medals, and at 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro she won one gold medal, one silver medal and one bronze medal. 7 awards were won at World championships (one gold medal, one silver medal and five bronze medals).

She was awarded the Order of Friendship and the Order of Honour, and received an Honorary Diploma of the President of the Russian Federation.