In memory of Anatoly Kolesov…

18 January is the birth date of an outstanding Russian athlete, coach and sports Director Anatoly Kolesov. This year he would have turned 80. On this day we think about this man, entirely devoted to sport.

Anatoly Ivanovich was born in the Karaganda region of Kazakhstan, graduated from the Kazakh Institute of physical education. Upon graduation, he was drafted into the army and moved to Moscow to serve in the CSKA. There he began to train under the guidance of the famous coach Alexander Mazur and became number one in the USSR national team in the weight category up to 78 kg.

After a while he gained success in the international arena. Kolesov won world Championships in 1962, 1963 and 1965. At the Games of the XVIII Olympiad, 1964 in Tokyo Anatoly Ivanovich became the Olympic champion, the only one in our team that year. During his career he never lost a single match against foreign wrestlers, very few of them were played draws, which was allowed by the rules then.

As a wrestler, Anatoly Kolesov brought  his teammates on the carpet. His coaching talent was noticed and appreciated, and in 1966 he “received an offer that couldn’t refuse”. He  became head coach of the USSR wrestling team in his 28 years. Under his leadership our wrestlers had no equal at the world Championships of 1966, 1967, 1969. At the Games of the XIX Olympiad in 1968 in Mexico city they won 6 medals, including one gold.

As a coach Anatoly Ivanovich was always looking for something new, based on science, medical follow-up. These innovative approaches contributed to the fact that at age 31, he became Deputy Chairman of the Committee for physical culture and sport under the USSR Council of Ministers. Perhaps he was the youngest Deputy Chairman of the state Committee, who was the head of the Olympic team of the Soviet Union and the CIS, in history.

Then came the collapse of the Soviet Union, and Anatoly Kolesov, according to him, thought what to do next. The President of the Russian Olympic Committee at that time, his longtime friend and colleague, Vitaly Smirnov has offered to head a working group on preparation for the Games of the XXVI Olympiad in 1996 in Atlanta.

Working groups under his leadership prepared for the three Olympic Games  – Atlanta, Sydney and Athens. During his leadership Russian athletes has consistently ranked in the top three teams at the Olympic Games.

He was stressed when we did not manage to outrun the Americans in Sydney and then his youngest son Denis died at the early age. This affected his health …

Anatoly Ivanovich Kolesov passed away on January 2, 2012, just 16 days before his 74th birthday.

Today, on his anniversary, friends and colleagues share their memories about this outstanding athlete, coach and person.

Vitaly Smirnov, the honorary President of the Russian Olympic Committee:

“Of course, I knew Kolesov as an athlete, but our personal acquaintance took place when I came to work in the Sports Committee of the USSR.

We began close cooperation when it the Russian Olympic Committee was founded. I then hired two outstanding experts Anatoly Ivanovich Kolesov and Valentin Sych, were in charge for the summer and winter Games respectively.

Anatoly Kolesov’s business qualities were always were at the highest level, for which the Chairman of the USSR Sate Sports Committee Marat Gramov gave him the nickname “the wizard”. It was during the Games of the XXIV Olympiad in 1988 in Seoul. Gramov didn’t like to go to the competitions and often came to my room in the hotel to watch the Olympic competitions on TV. He once told me: “you know, Kolesov is a wizard”. I asked: “Why?”. He said: “On the eve of the competition forecast the results of a competition and he guesses all the time”. I then said that he’s not a wizard, he is just an outstanding professional, with deep knowledge of sport. But since then, this nickname stuck to him.”

Mikhail Mamiashvili, Olympic champion in Greco-Roman Wrestling, President of the Russian Wrestling Federation:

“Unfortunately, I missed  the time when he was on he carpet, but he has always been an example for me, especially because we compete almost in the same weight category.

He was a man of great intellect, young and hungry, from the most competitive environment of the Soviet sport and proved himself a brilliant athlete.

Especially he proved his talent during the preparation for the Olympic Game. He was a man of principle, who could even risk his Party card for the result of a given match, which was sure of. Anatoly knew very well, understood and felt the athletes, that is why he could always predict their performance at major competitions.

For me it was a great pleasure and, at the same time, great responsibility to participate in meetings and headquarters, conducted by Kolesov. There was no place for demagogy, they were very clear and business-like. For us, he was both adviser and assistant, but he could hold to account when necessary.”

Igor Kazikov, Deputy General Director of the Russian Olympic Committee on Sports:

“I got acquainted with Anatoly Ivanovich in 1994, when he came to work in the Russian Olympic Committee as his first Deputy of the Atlanta-96 group. We’ve worked together for three Olympic cycles and went through three Olympic Games in Atlanta, Sydney and Athens.

No doubt, it was a man of superior intelligence, who knew sport inside and out. For him there was  no secrets in preparation, not a thing escaped him, not one detail and for him there was no minor items. He was very fair and highly respected by the federations. When  Kolesov expressed his opinion, it was very serious, and they always listened.

During the Games of the XXXI Olympiad in Rio de Janeiro, as you know, our delegation was under great pressure, and often my colleagues and I remembered Anatoly Ivanovich. I thought: “What would he do and say?” I think, to some extent, he was our guardian angel in Rio de Janeiro, who helped us handle this very difficult situation and show there decent results”.

Alexander Ivanitsky, Honored master of sports in freestyle wrestling, champion of the Tokyo Olympic Games, 1964:

“This year in spring I will publish a book called Broken Ears, telling about wrestling and about our generation of wrestlers. There will be a chapter devoted to Anatoly Ivanovich Kolesov.

But now I want to focus on three major points. First, it was a very strong-willed and organized person who always clearly saw the goal and achieved it. When I first met this man at CSKA, he was the only one who said that he would to become a world champion, and he kept his word.

Secondly, on Saturday we went for a swim in the CSKA pool, located next to the gym. So Kolesov was the only person who could swim across the entire pool on a single breath. The rest of the wrestlers could not do that.

Thirdly, unfortunately, in our sport literature there is not much reference of his achievements in athletes preparation, while he, as Deputy Chairman of the USSR sports Committee, brought it to the highest level . His deep knowledge of the sports training system of each sport has helped him achieve high results”.

Victor Hotochkin, Head of International Relations Department of the Russian Olympic Committee:

“I remember 1984 very well. I was the Olympic attaché of the Soviet Union and worked closely with Anatoly Ivanovich in preparation for the Games of the XXIII Olympiad. In April 1984 a large group of our specialists went to Los Angeles to meet with the Organizing Committee and examine all the venues. I especially remember a meeting with the security service of the Organizing Committee, headed by George Best. Security was the key issue then, since the international situation was very complicated. Best asked everybody not to write anything down, but Kolesov somehow managed to bring a dictaphone and make a record.

After the meeting he confessed that he recorded it. There was a scandal. The dictaphone was withdrawn, and the record was erased, and the dictaphone was returned to Kolesov. Then there was the Banquet where Anatoly Ivanovich proposed a toast: “I Have two news, one good and one bad. With what to begin?”All said: “With the good one”. “The recorder was returned to me. That is a good news. But the record is not erased”. This, of course, was a joke, but poor George Best was as white as a shit.

Unfortunately, our team was not able to participate in those Games because the CPSU Central Committee decisided not to send the Soviet Olympic team to Los Angeles. It was a great tragedy for many of our outstanding athletes such as Tamara Bykova, Vladimir Salnikov and others. It was a huge tragedy for Anatoly Ivanovich, who believed in this team, believed that it can beat the Americans.

About Kolesov’s human qualities, I can only say the best. It was a very warm and sincere man, a true patriot, thoroughly devoted to sports. Of course, this is our most outstanding technologist of sports training. Under his leadership we were unbeatable.”

Nicholay Fudin, Deputy Director of the Institute of Normal Physiology. P. K. Anokhin of the Russian Academy of Medical Sciences, the Head of the Biomedical department of the USSR Sports Committee in the seventies:

“Although we both are from Kazakhstan, we got acquainted with Anatoliy Ivanovich in Moscow in the office of the Head of the USSR Sports Committee Sergei Pavlovich Pavlov, when I was invited for a job interview for the position of the  Head of the Biomedical Department of the USSR Sports Committee. From that moment our professional relations began, which later turned into friendship.

Our families were on friendly terms. We  often visited each other. He took my son Andrew from the hospital. He was my closest friend, the loss of which I still can’t accept.

Speaking of professional activities, I want to note that Anatoly has always paid special attention to medicine and science. The Interagency Council on Biomedical preparations, headed by Vice-President Alexei Pokrovsky was added to the structure of the Academy of Medical Sciences of the USSR was created with his active participation.

In this connection, there is one curious story. The first meeting of the Ministerial Council was attended by one e honored woman scientist, having all of the high state awards, who said: “Why are we going to help sport, athletes have higher education without secondary?!” But after me and Kolesov addressed to the members of the Council, she changed her mind and said: “Yes, they have not only higher, but also secondary education”. After that not only she, but also other scientists became actively involved in sports issues that contributed to the high sport achievements of our athletes in the international arena”.

Lev Savin, Head of the Department for the Participation in the Olympic Sporting Events in the Games of Olympiads of the General Directorate for Participation in the Olympic Sporting Events of the Russian Olympic Committee:

“It was very easy and pleasant to work with Anatoly Ivanovich. He always said that he took life easily and he was never afraid of difficulties. And about his sense of humor, you can talk for a long time. I remember those funny poems which he wrote on the anniversaries of his colleagues, and we could listen to his stories and tales for hours.

Generally he was a very versatile, he was good at drawing, and he knew sports thoroughly. He was respected in the Federation. Even if he made some, as they say, “unpopular” decisions, he always gave his reasons, and the Federation understood and accepted it.

It has been six years since he died, and I can’t believe it. The memory of him will live forever in those who worked  and conquered along with him.”