– What are your impressions of the first Winter Universiade in Russia?
– I would like to mention a very good organisation. What is important for athletes and guests of a major sports event? It is the attitude of the people, the friendly public. There was a sense of celebration throughout the city during the Winter Universiade 2019. I was also impressed by the crowded stands. In terms of spectators' energy, the Games reminded me of the Winter Olympics in Sochi. During the Short Track Speed Skating competitions, fans did not care if it was a final, semi-final or just a regular race—the main thing was that our athletes were on the ice. You could see that people were genuinely cheering. For example, at the dramatic 500m, when two athletes from France and South Korea fell down at the crazy speed, the stands unitedly sighed. You could feel the genuine empathy and strong support not only for Russian but for the foreign athletes too.
– Right, that fall meant a lot for Ekaterina Efremenkova and Emina Malagich from Russia. And the restart decided by the referees and the very different results of our athletes at the finish made us nervous too …
– I know, right? Since I am a professional athlete, I could imagine what the girls felt at that time. I knew which heartstrings were harped, what resources and reserves the body used for this race. Ekaterina Efremenkova could not keep the sadness inside, she cried. Yes, it is a shame that she gave it all at the start, all her strength.
– But could the referees make another decision? Not to appoint a restart?
– They could. But remember how long the chief referee has been making this decision! She doubted for a long time and took pity on participants in the end. Everyone wants to prove themselves in the competitions. The referee probably decided that the situation would be the same since South Korean athlete was injured. But it turned out differently—the gold medal went to French Aurelie Monvoisin who fell down, and the injured South Korean managed to claim the bronze! But Park Jihyun is experienced too. She knew that race would be stopped if she would lay across the ice, that it would be up to the referees from then on. Of course, our girls went to compete for the second time, but they had one particular thing in their mind: since they were ahead, and the opponents were injured, they thought that the rivalry in the race would be absent. They were wrong. I feel sorry for the girls, but that is an experience.
– What impressed you the most during the Games in Krasnoyarsk?
– I was astonished by the high level of the competitions, the level of the rivalry itself. Many new names have appeared in the world of Short Track Speed Skating. For example, it is Aurelie Monvoisin from France, who claimed one gold and two silver medals of the Winter Universiade 2019 whilst competing with world class level athletes in Krasnoyarsk. Among those athletes were Sofia Prosvirnova from Russia and Kim A-lang from South Korea. It was obvious that Monvoisin came to Krasnoyarsk not only to just participate but to try her best and compete for the first place. To be honest, I imagined a different kind of results at first—our athletes would be first, claiming all the medals. However, the Games showed us other results.
– You commented the World Short Track Speed Skating Championship that was held in Bulgaria from 8 to 10 March. Our athletes went to participate in it right after the end of the competitions in Krasnoyarsk. During the broadcast, you compared the stands of the World Championship to the ones of the Games. Were there not so many fans?
– Indeed, the number of fans was fewer. I was commenting alongside with Vladislav Kurginyan, the silver medalist of the World and European Championships, both at the Winter Universiade 2019 and at the World Championship in Bulgaria. We were constantly recalling the number of fans in Krasnoyarsk. Just look at the difference! The athletes who were in Krasnoyarsk now have a good example for comparison. They will definitely carry it on with them throughout their sports life. And when they face empty stands, they will probably remember the Winter Universiade 2019 and that unforgettable emotional atmosphere created by the fans. The athletes themselves said it was great! Some of them seen such powerful support for the first time in their lives. Even those who did not perform well and did not win any medals left with a good mood. At these Games, it was impossible to get any other emotions—all the unsatisfactory results were compensated by the amazing support from the spectators.