Three gold, two silver and two bronze medals, and first team place… Such is the result of Team Uzbekistan’s performance in the Rio Olympics. It seems that we know everything about the athletes who have emerged triumphant. But when it comes to the head coach and his contributions to the training of athletes, we know next to nothing. Below, an Uzbekistan Today correspondent speaks to the boxing team’s head coach, Marat Kurbanov, about how Olympic gains were achieved.
Mr. Kurbanov, is the first team place in the Rio Olympics a pure chance or a well planned achievement of a goal?
“We all wanted to win and set ourselves a goal of securing a victory. I should say that throughout preparations for the Games, the Boxing Federation changed and improved its performance based on the real needs of the national team. The well coordinated work of the federation of specialists contributed to the fact that athletes achieve results that the whole team targets. Success in Rio de Janeiro is the result of the participation in numerous competitions, various tournaments in Uzbekistan and in foreign trips. The Federation supported all the initiatives of the coaching staff necessary for the training of athletes.
I especially want to emphasize that we held training camps with the strongest teams of the world. We, as one of the strongest teams, for example, were invited to Cuba. It was after the World Cup, where our guys won six medals. The Cuban team is one of the world’s boxing leaders. The training sessions proved very productive.”
You played a decisive role in the training of athletes: you determined the training strategy and all the sections of the Federation heeded your recommendations. However, you have never talked about the process itself…
“Our victory is the result of coordinated work of many services of the federation, whose structure underwent many changes, including in the training of athletes. Facilities for the team were brought to the proper level; we did not face any denials. Each team member has a personal tablet, which we used to film the performance of potential rivals at various competitions so that our athletes could analyze them and develop fighting tactics.
I have been working with all members of the team except for Elshod Rasulov – he is older than the other guys – since an early age. In the capacity of children’s first head coach of the national team, then the youth, and then, and adult - together we went through all the stages of growing up, of becoming, of training. We became so close. I know all about them that a coach needs to know in order to achieve desired results.
Our victory is a result of training on new techniques, eliminating the standard approach. We have an individual approach to each athlete. Everything depends on the level of an athlete’s fatigue, mood, and state of health. On this basis, we determine the training process. That is, we began to pay more attention to personal qualities and boxer’s condition.
And I want to say that in the federation, the coaching staff has developed a creative friendly team where everyone understands each other perfectly. Special thanks to the guys’ personal trainers for mutual understanding.”
I have heard that the Uzbek boxing team took ten sparring partners to Rio…
“Sixteen, not ten. Firstly, we had training sessions in Brazil prior to the Olympics, and secondly, we needed assistants for the team’s training.”
How many coaches did you take to Rio?
“All the personal coaches of athletes who were to participate in the Olympic Games joined the big trip. They were a big help. I wouldn’t have been able to handle the eleven athletes on my own, especially when there were days when two or more athletes participated. We had to not only see them in the ring but also continue working with those who were resting on the day.”
After the Olympics, winners are much talked about while those who did not win medals are not.
“They did a good job too. Yodgoroy Mirzayeva, for example, was the first female boxer who represented our country at the Olympics. She had just started who medal path to the prestigious competitions, while her rivals already hold titles and are more experienced athletes.
Khurshid Tajibayev performing in the -60 kg weight category did an equal fight with the Brazilian. In such cases, they say that native walls helped – the victory was given to Conceicao.
Elshod Rasulov (81 kg) was let down by his neck injury while Bahodir Jalalov (+91 kg) is still quite young, he’s only 21 years old. This is a special weight category where athletes reach their peak at age 25-27. So this was a good school for him.”
According to the results of licensing competitions in the -60 kg weight class, Elnur could have performed. Why was the bet made on Tajibayev?
“Because Hurhsid is already 26 and he is more experienced, while Elnur is younger and he will have all that in the future. We decided to give Tajibayev a chance.”
You mentioned traumas. In this connection, I am curious to know your opinion of the importance of sports medicine.
“Six months before the Olympics the team started experiencing tough luck: the boys - one by one – suffered injuries. Eight of the 11 had injuries of varying degrees of complexity. Many thanks to doctors, who quickly put the athletes back on their feet. I would especially like to emphasize that this was done by Uzbek specialists, who have always been close to the team.
Our successes were harassing ill-wishers. It was possible even to hear statements that the Uzbek national team needed to be tested for doping. We went through it. Samples were taken from the guys and at the training camp and in training, and after the performances. And we never knew to whom boxer once again suitable doping officer. I'm sure of my trainees: an analysis confirmed that our athletes conscientiously comply with all the recommendations.
I did not start talking about doping accidentally. Today, standards are such that athletes need neither injections nor pills – an athlete can eat a new food and ... test positively. We are thankful to our doctors, who strictly controlled and monitored the diet of athletes, there were no incidents. A well-chosen diet, vitamin makeup of the athletes’ body also played a huge role in the preparation for a competition. Doctors have worked very hard and efficiently.”
The Olympics finished. What are your plans to work with the team in the near future?
“Right now the athletes are resting. On the first of October at our base in Yangiabad we will have the first two weeks of training. The first important starting point for us in the next four years will be the Asian championships that will be held next year.”