Russian Skiers’ Olympic Dreams

After the failure in Vancouver, Russian Paralympic skiers hope for medals in Sochi. RBTH relates the fates of Russian Paralympic athletes

Alexandra and Ivan Frantsev, sister and brotherSource: Personal archive

Anna TimofeevaAnna Bondarenko and Ilya Trisvyatskifor RBTH

Four years ago at the Winter Paralympic Games in the Canadian city of Vancouver, skiers competed for 30 sets of medals – but the Russians were unable to win even one. All of the Russian victories and prizes were in the biathlon and cross-country skiing. This situation with the skiers needs to change in the Paralympics held here at home.

Since Vancouver, a strong Paralympic ski team has been built in Russia; the number and quality of training camps has been increased and necessary inventory purchased by the Russian Paralympic Committee. Skiers have also gained the opportunity to hone their skills on a large number of tracks. As a distinctive flair, none other than the skier Valery Redkozubova is entrusted with carrying the country’s banner during the opening ceremony of the Games. This is also a sign of confidence in the athletes.

Alexey Bugaev “My time has come”

Last year, 16 year-old Alexey Bugaev won the European Cup for athletes with muscular-skeletal disorders and became the absolute champion of Russia. By 14 he no longer had any equals among his peers; he won everything that could be won in junior competitions and waited impatiently to turn 15 so he could start competing at the pro-level.

Not in vain, it turns out. His first competition – the European Cup – was a victory! Now the youth from Krasnoyarsk is at the forefront of world ratings in the discipline of “slalom skiing.” But in the words of the athlete himself, it’s just an “acceleration.” His dream since childhood has been an Olympic medal.  

However, in the words of the sportsman himself, all this is just “warm-up.” His dream since childhood has been an Olympic medal.

I definitely want to win the Paralympic Games - not just one. Ive worked really hard for thisI want to prove that I am worthy of such a high honor,” says Alexey.

His mother Tatiana Bugaeva has no doubt in her son’s victory.

 “My son has dysmelia of the right hand, but we have tried to help him adapt to his environment since childhood, never wanting him to feel himself “second rate.” That is why we always went on vacations, went out into nature, and maintained an active lifestyle. When he was 6, we went sledding at Nikolaev Sopka (a place where Krasnoyarsk denizens go for winter vacations, - ed. note) and he saw kids on skis. Lyosha even tossed aside the sled, just watching and watching how they skated. I asked him, “Do you want to do that?” He answered, “I do.” So we took him to ski school. Lyosha practised hard from the beginning. He won all possible starts – there is a whole cupboard of medals at home. He spent all last year in competitions; he really wanted to get on the Olympic team, and he made it! I am sure that victory will go to Lyosha this time, too!

 Alexey Bugaev (center). Source: Personal archive

Alexey is currently in Sochi. He has already tested the Sochi track a few times and likes it.

It’s my track. Steep slopes are easier for me than gentle ones since I’m not heavy. In general, everything has been done very nicely. But it’s not wise to relax. You see, one should never say, ‘I’ll win today,’ in sports. You can be at the top at 15, lose at 16-17, and show results again when you’re 18. Everything is in the effort. It’s no good being greedy for victory, but I want to believe my time has come.” 

Alexandra and Ivan Frantsev: golden team

Alexandra and Ivan Frantsev have both had problems with their eyesight ever since childhood. Sasha wore glasses with thick lenses, often becoming the target of ridicule and foolish jokes by her classmates. And this, as she herself recognizes, steeled her. The native of Kamchatka came to the “mountain” 10 years ago, when she was 16. This is late by sports standards, but Sasha was not doing it to win awards. Her goal was to support her brother. 14 year-old Ivan was going through a difficult teenage period – he had abandoned his studies and left home. Like his older sister, Ivan has suffered from eye problems since birth, seeing only contours and spots of color.

 “Among ourselves, we call our Sasha ‘iron lady.’” That’s the kind of character she has – she forges ahead. Skiing is a tough sport: concussions, fractures, and bruises are not rarities here. But she endures everything bravely and time after time gets back on the track,” says the athlete’s personal trainer Polina Popova.

Together with her parents, Sasha turned to a school for Paralympic sports. At first Ivan had to be dragged forcefully to lessons, but he gradually developed a taste for it. It was around this time that Sasha was seriously injured.

Amputation of the leg was even considered, but the doctor helped. He literally assembled Sasha’s leg piece by piece,” recalls Polina.   

It was this very doctor who helped the girl make her choice, saying roughly the following, “no need to mutilate yourself just like that, if you ski, be serious about it.”

For Sasha it was a turning point. She pondered on it … and started serious work on herself. Through pain and tears she went to the training hall and soon started skiing again.

While his sister, gritting her teeth, was learning to walk again, Ivan began winning his first prizes.

Ivan is now the silver and bronze winner for the European Cup and world champion of 2013. His sister has also such titles and awards. In 2011 at the IPC Alpine Skiing World Championships, she became second in super-combined, giant slalom, and super giant, and third in slalom and downhill. A year later, in the final stage of the 2013 IPC Alpine Skiing World Cup, she won the gold in speed events and earned the title of absolute victor of the World Cup in her category.     

In 2010 at the Paralympics in Vancouver, Alexandra got sixth while Ivan got two seventh-place spots and one thirteenth in various events. In Sochi they want to achieve more.

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