To slice the cake fairly – but swimmers weren’t given enough

Athlete of the Year 2017 ceremony took place in Kazan

A traditional award ceremony of athletes of the year of Tatarstan was on 18 December at the Volga Region State Academy of Physical Culture, Sport and Tourism of the Republic of Tatarstan. Like in previous years, there were enough nominations for awardees – not only athletes but also coaches and sports functionaries got corresponding titles. However, fairly speaking, the majority of guests were interested only in two of them: a female and male athlete of the year. Realnoe Vremya tells who got the cherished awards and what was said to the performers.

Consolation prize for swimmers

Before the event started, your correspondent asked Russian State Duma deputy, famous water polo player Irek Zinnurov about the goal of such events and personal feelings of the interlocutor while choosing the athlete of the year.

When this award started to be held regularly and became popular, the question why it's needed arose paradoxically. But let's remember that when there wasn't anything similar 10-15 years ago, we were only asking why we didn't give awards, why we didn't mention accomplishments of our athletes who won first places. Now we see that such meetings are needed to popularise sport, so that people will know their heroes. I'm convinced that the number of people who want to take their kids to sports schools suddenly increases after such events.

Whom would you give the award to this year?

As a swimmer, I would probably give the award to my environmental colleague Aleksandr Krasnykh (laughing).

Irek Zinnurov considers Aleksandr Krasnykh athlete of the year. Photo:

The swimmer from Bugulma was really among the favourites to get the honourable title and he did deserve it. He has just recently won a gold and silver medals in the European Championships in Copenhagen. In addition, Krasnykh has a gold, silver and bronze of the world championships under his belt. However, Aleksandr didn't conquer the main title of the evening – the representative of swimmers was given just a consolation prize in Leader of the Year.

However, he had a corresponding company – Zenit-Kazan volleyball player Maksim Mikhailov was the second winner in the nomination. In general, Tatarstan athletes occupied many podiums in international competitions in individual disciplines last year. Swimmers, cyclists and figure skaters did it better. If not the absolute success of Zenit Volleyball Club in the Champions League and the recent victory in the Club's World Championships, it would be difficult to talk about achievements of team sports in Tatarstan. Right Vladimir Alekno's team got the title Team of the Year for a reason.

Surprising choice of the athlete of the year

No less deserving champions got the main awards of the evening. Although the final choice of organisers of the ceremony surprised a bit against a background of achievements of the above-mentioned athletes – cyclist Ilnur Zakarin was recognised as athlete of the year in Tatarstan.

''Tatarstan pays great attention to the development of sport among the mass, kids and teenagers, elite athletes and preparation of sports reserve,'' said Tatarstan Prime Minister Aleksey Pesoshin who awarded Ilnur the long-awaited statuette. ''We consider ourselves as one of the leaders of sports Russia. Thanks to big international sports events, Kazan became recognisable around the world, which I want to thank all athletes, coaches, veterans, heads of federations and all Tatarstan sport for. I want to especially thank our federal colleagues because the sport is becoming one of the main spheres of our life, agent of peace and well-being.''

Ilnur Zakarin: ''I'm proud that I represent our republic on the international stage''

This year became successful for Ilnur Zakarin. He finished third in Vuelta de España, second in Abu-Dhabi Tour and fifth in Giro d'Italia. Though you should agree that the track record of same Krasnykh or Mikhailov this year looks more presentable.

''The republic's support is colossal,'' Zakarin said first in his conversation with journalists. ''When I take the lead in international competitions, commentators first mention Russia and then Tatarstan. It's very pleasant. I'm proud that I represent our republic on the international stage. As a kid, I couldn't even dream of such an award. This is why today I'm proud and happy to become the Athlete of the Year. My main goal for the next year is Tour de France: this year we built a strong team and try to show a good result.''

Among women, the main award was given to Evgenia Tarasova. In 2017, the figure skater took a gold medal of the European tournament in Ostrava together with Vladimir Morozov and added a bronze of the World Championship in Helsinki and silver of the team world championship in Tokyo. It's interesting that the very athlete didn't appear at the ceremony; the skater's mother got the statuette.

The organisers divided all nominations, which were many, into six sections: Mass Physical Culture and Sport, Sports Public Organisations, Team and Non-Olympic Sports, Sports Mass Media, Olympic Hopes of Tatarstan and Special Awards.

The evening started with Minister on Youth Affairs and Sport of Tatarstan Vladimir Leonov's speech who reminded the participants why precisely Tatarstan was considered the leader in developing the sport in Russia.

''Tatarstan has been leading in developing the sports industry in our country for many recent years. We're one of the most sports regions of Russia. Tatarstan is one of the most regions equipped with sports infrastructure. And the number of our facilities constantly grows. Tatarstan is one of the most advanced regions in terms of people who do sport – 42% of the total number of population and almost 80% among students. Over 370 Tatarstan athletes are in the Olympic national team of Russia. Last year, our guys achieved many outstanding results in such international competitions as FINA World Championships, Student Games and many others,'' he said.

''Tatarstan has gained serious authority on the international stage''

There were enough other speakers because one of the invited guests of the ceremony awarded each section. We will point out famous MMA fighter Fyodor Yemelyanenko and Russian Tennis Federation President Shamil Tarpischev among the guests of the event.

''Tatarstan has gained serious authority on the international stage in recent years, sports Kazan is known almost around the world,'' Tarpischev is sure. ''The fact that Tatarstan is indisputable is a result of a long job of a big number of people who had been painstakingly creating what we have today.''

Russian State Duma deputy, former minister of the Tatarstan Ministry of Sport Marat Bariyev also developed the topic of Tatarstan's sports authority.

''Few people could dream that Kazan would become a city that would easily host such a big number of big and important competitions just several years ago. That targeted policy in development of sport that is pursued in the republic led to that Kazan became not only a sports capital of the country but also one of the most recognisable cities on the sports map of the world,'' he said.

In general, the evening was good. The modern bright ceremony was diluted by pop and other performances with taste, the performance of Cirque du Soleil artists was especially memorable.

By Artur Khalillulov