The athletic community is working to develop programs to train athletes for the Tokyo Olympics to be held in 2020 while relying on experience garnered during the Rio Olympics and Paralympics, where Uzbekistan’s athletes demonstrated stunning results.
The success of Paralympic swimmers merits special attention. Seven athletes won 12 medals: two gold, four silver and six bronze medals. What is the secret of this success? An Uzbekistan Today correspondent decided to find out the details with the head coach of the team, Lutfulla Sadulla.
Lutfulla, what is behind the success of the national team?
“I believe, first of all it is the right strategy. Мы не стали распыляться на все виды спорта, but picked priority sports: power lifting, swimming, track and field, and judo. It is not accidental that stakes were on these sports: first off, a large number of awards were up for grabs; secondly, the conditions available in our country at the time were conducive to an effective training of athletes. As a result, virtually all of the athletes returned home with awards. That said, we did not rule out that athletes in other sports could perform successfully in the Paralympics too. Server Ibragimov, for example, bagged a bronze medal in shooting.”
Yet, we should recognize that your trainees’ performance was one of the most remarkable.
“At the core of our success is “selection” of athletes. We literally trawled through the country in search of young talented swimmers. As a result, the national team welcomed promising members. But we continued to work with the available athletes. The athletes were provided with all the necessary conditions and conveniences to ensure good results at the competitions. And of course an effective training process was put in place. We actively cooperated with trainers of the Swimming Federation of our country. In other words, trainers that had worked with the Olympic teams worked with our athletes as well. That is why the majority of our athletes demonstrated impressive results in various types of sports.”
But how come the members of the Olympic team did not win a single medal?
“The thing is, a lot more athletes participate in the Olympic Games than in the Paralympics, which of course means that there is tougher competition in the Olympics and it is a lot harder to emerge as a leader.
I should note that the Olympic swimmers secured significant progress: for the first time in the history of Uzbekistan’s swimming, athletes in three sports made it directly to the Olympics. So we have grounds to claim that we made major breakthrough in the development of water sports.”
So, almost all members of the Paralympic team won medals. Was it more calculation or chance?
“It is both, because a lot happened unexpectedly. Fatima Amilova from Kashkadarya, for example, competed in five sports and won three medals: gold, silver and bronze. Of course, we had pinned hope on her, but we expected she would win gold in complex swimming, but she ended up winning silver. But in the 100-meter breast stroke we had expected bronze at most, but ended up winning a gold medal and setting a world record! I am just trying to say that you cannot calculate everything in sports.”
Rumor has it that the Paralympic swimmers are trained by their fathers…
“In our team, only the silver medal winner and old timer Kirill Pankov and Fatima Amilova are trained by their fathers.”
Where did our swimmers train on the eve of the Games? Abroad?
“Our athletes went abroad to participate in qualifying tournaments only. To train them we used the resources available in our country. I mean swimming pools in Tashkent, Andijan, Bekabad and Karshi, where members of the national Olympic team had trained.”