Russian national speed skating and short track teams were the guests of the Russian National Olympic Team Media Center

October 17 the Russian Olympic Committee held a press conference devoted to the start of the Olympic season and the preparations of national speed skating and short track teams for the 2018 Pyeongchang Olympic games.

In the framework of the Russian National Olympic Team Media Center project first Vice-President of the ROC Stanislav Pozdnyakov, President of the Russian Skating Union Alexei Kravtsov, head coach of the Russian national speed skating team Konstantin Poltavets, bronze medalist of the world championship Sofya Prosvirnova, 2014 Olympic champion Semen Elistratov and three-time world champion Denis Yuskov answered the journalists’ questions.

First Vice-President of the ROC head of the Russia’S Olympic delegation at the XXIII Olympic Pyeongchang Winter Games Stanislav Pozdnyakov spoke about ROC’s work to establish the conditions for athletes’ and teams’ optimal preparation for the 2018 Games.

– Preparation goes on schedule, with difficulties, as it is usual for any major tournaments, he said. – The Pyeongchang-2018 program is coming to an end. Within this program in the last four years about one billion roubles was spent to prepare the Russian Olympic team. We will continue to provide financial support to the winter sports federations so that the Russian team could perform at a high level at the Pyeongchang Games.

The first meeting of the operational headquarters of our Olympic delegation was held last week. We discussed athletes’ accommodation in the Olympic village, summed up the results of  the first stage of accreditation on the basis applications from federations.

At the end of October, the ROC delegation will visit Pyeongchang to finally resolve all issues relating to accommodation, food and transport support of the Olympic team during the Games.

In addition, at the initiative of the Russian Olympic Committee a great job has been done with the international federations, to eliminate the possibility of pressure on our team during the Olympics. As a result it was decided that all candidates for the Olympic team will undergo additional testing, including those who are not in the WADA testing pool.

Thus, we want to give another example of the fight against doping. How a country is able to completely reform the anti-doping system in a short time. We can say that now we are the leaders in this direction, and at the Games in South Korea, the Russian team will be the cleanest teams.

I also note that the ROC has prepared and sent to all the national winter Federation guidelines on the peculiarities of athletes’ adaptation to time, climate and geographical conditions of Pyeongchang. It will also help our Olympic team to avoid unnecessary complexity in preparing for the Games in 2018,  said Stanislav Pozdnyakov.

President of the Russian skating Union Alexei Kravtsov, first said about the athletes major goal – winning the maximum number of licenses for participation in the Olympic games.

– Quotas will be determined by the results of the World Cup – said the President of Russian skating Union. In short track two stages have already been held, two more will be held in November. In the relays they should be in the top eight. Today our women’s team is holding a strong position, at the 3rd place. While the men’s team is in a rather dangerous area – it is on the 7th place. We expect that in the Asian stages in November, we will be able to consolidate our position.

As for the  individual competitions, at each distance a maximum of three people can participate from each country. The selection is based on the sum of the three best positions during four stages of the World Cup. It is too early to draw conclusions, but in general the situation is quite calm. We expect to receive almost all quotas. Although honestly I doubt that we have three athletes for each distance, who are able to claim prizes.

To win medals is not easy. In our country short-track has become known to the public thanks to the Olympic games in Sochi, where our team performed really, really great. And in Korea this is probably the most popular winter sport. The tickets for the competitions are most expensive. Capacity crowd is expected each day of the competition. After all, this is the sport, in which the host country can count on gold medals. We will try to perform confidently.

Speed skating quotas are allocated according to two criteria – the final position in the World Cup classification and the time. Therefore, the most important are the steps that will take place in early December in Calgary and Salt Lake City, North America. There, in middle altitude, the results are higher than on flat terrain.

The European championship is another important competition before the Olympics both in all-round and in certain distances, which with a probability of 99 percent will take place in Kolomna from the 5th to the 7th of January. Last weekend I was in Lausanne during the celebration of the 125th anniversary of the International skating Union and found the general mood in favor of holding this competition in our country.

– In 2016, ISU President was replaced – continued Alexey Kravtsov. – Italian Ottavio Cinquanta was replaced by the Dutchman Jan Dykema due to the attainment of maximum allowed age.  Jan Dykema held the post of Vice-President for many years. We remain friends. When the world Cup in Chelyabinsk was cancelled, the situation has gone beyond the competence of the ISU. It was a consolidated position, supported by the IOC. And, as I have explained, ISU has taken this step forcedly, with great reluctance. And the Chelyabinsk organizing Committee was paid a certain compensation, even though they were not provided.

The leaders of the team are in pretty good shape. Denis Yuskov and Pavel Kulizhnikov showed a good time on the first control starts in Inzel. Kulizhnikov managed to overcome problems that he had last season.  He was actually withdrawn from  half of of that season due to injuries and emotional state. The athlete dropped out of the preparatory and competitive process, and this was a minus, but considering that Pavel is incredibly talented and that now he has high motivation, we hope that he will be able to show himself during the season and at the Olympics.

Commenting on the joint trainings of Yuskov and Dutch Koen Verweij, who won Sochi 2014 gold in the team race and silver in the 1,500 meters, the RSU President said that ‘sparring partner of the highest world level’ is extremely useful.

– They say that we are ‘skiing out’ our opponent ourselves. There is such risk, but it is better to train with a strong opponent, than  to meet him first at the event. By the way, Verweij showed high results in the control strat. In Inzell he out Kramer in the 1,500 meters with a very good time. However, Yuskov didn’t run his favorite distance. Note also that under the foreign journalists’ pressure and a special attitude to us in the Netherlands, joint training is contributing to easing tensions in the relationship.

–  Viktor Ahn’s presence in the team does not give us any advantages, – said Kravtsov, turning to the assessment of the situation in the national short track team. – However, due to good relations with the Korea Skating Union it was easier for us to agree on the final preparation stage to be held in Seoul, near the Games venue. With his help in the course of negotiations we also got the Korean sparring partners. A great strategist and tactician, Victor shares his experience. He and Elistratov form the backbone of  our relay team.

An extended team composition of 8 + 8 is determined in short track today. The final composition will announce after the qualifying stages, closer to the new year. And in peed skating – at the beginning of January.

The head coach of the Russian national speed skating team Konstantin Poltavets told about the venue for the final pre-Olympic gathering, assessed the condition of the team leaders at the start of the season and explained the decision of the coaching staff to give Koen Verweij the opportunity to train with the Russian team.

– Pre-Olympic training camp will be held in Japan, – said the coach. We would love to come to the far East, but there is no indoor ice rinks at the appropriate level. Preparation is going on schedule. We are using tested techniques, take into account last year’s qualifying experience (good and bad) in Asia. For the tournament in Kolomna, where you will determine the composition of the team first world Cup, sportsmen are suitable in normal condition. There are minor injuries, but it’s part of the sport.

Speaking about the leaders, Denis Yuskov trained very hard in the summer, and his first results at the start of the season are encouraging. There is a prospect of further growth. Pavel Kulizhnikov, in general, maintains the chosen line of training, but for details you should turn to his coach Dmitry Dorofeev. Olga Fatkulina made big step forward compared to last season. Now she is recovering after a small illness. She has enough time to get in shape for the important world cups in Calgary and Salt Lake City.

Why we allowed Koen Verweij to train with our team? There are several reasons. First, he is a very good sparring partner for Denis Yuskov. The work, these guys did together, can without exaggeration be called unique. I am confident that these joint trainings will benefit Denis. Secondly, for our young athletes it was very useful to practice with such a master like Verweij. The Dutchman has brought to the team positive spirit and attitude for success  that is common to all Dutch skaters. Moreover  by opening our inner kitchen to a foreign athlete, we have shown that we have nothing to hide. I hope Dutch media, which introduced a well-known situation in a negative light two years ago, will now talk about the Russian national team in a different manner.

Bronze medalist of the 2016 World Championship in short track relay Sophya Prosvirova noted that in summer a lot of attention was paid to physical trainings.

– I did all I could to lay a foundation of physical fitness. I expect to show better results than I did last season. It’s the first time that I go through the full Olympic cycle. Within four years, I learned to psych up, now I  know how to behave before the distance, how to prepare for the next start.

Prosvirnova agreed with the opinion that women’s short track strongest card is a relay race in which she won 3rd place at the recent World Cup stage in Budapest.

– We made sure that we can fight against the world leaders – Korea, China, Canada. During the competitions, we gain experience and we will not repeat the mistakes that have been made on the first two stages of the world Cup.

Semen Elistratov, 2014 Olympic champion in the relay, in turn, shared his impressions about the test events at the future Olympic rink.

Olympic ice is also a good arena. Although there were some small problems with the ceiling. In Sochi it was sort of more comfortable. But the organizers probably will decorate everything by the start of the Olympic games in Korea.

– A great foundation was laid during preparation for the season, – confessed Elistratov. – At the World Cup stages I was far from the best condition, because I was a little sick, but the issue with the quotas has been settled. I believe that at the Asian competitions, we will surely perform in the relay as well. However, the main competition will take place in February. Everything else is maneuvers…

– I do not mark out any distance for myself. I think I  can give equally good results in both 1,500 and 1000 meters, – said the Sochi Olympic champion.

In my sports career there have been four specialists over the last six years. Therefore the methods changed as well. Stability came when Alexei Kravtsov became head of the RSU. I left the sport and I came back. I even had to learn what is doping in our country. In this connection I am not afraid of anything. I am approaching the Olympics absolutely calm. I trained so hard that it is just silly to complain and worry as the main start of four years is approaching.

Finally, the three-time world champion speed skater Denis yuskov, released on bond with journalists via Skype from Kolomna, said that comes into the Olympic season with a good mood.

– I am satisfied with the preparation for the season and looking forward to the World Cup stages, that will show my current level compared to foreign leaders.

Answering the question about the benefits of joint training with the Dutchman Koen Verweij, Yuskov said that ‘it was mutually beneficial cooperation’.

– The Russian team got a strong sparring partner, Koen had the opportunity to train in a group. At the same time we showed the world that we had an open team and we had nothing to hide.

The Russian National Olympic Team Media Center project is being implemented under the support of the Alisher Usmanov’s Charity Foundation  Art, Science and Sport.