How Urban Games became talent pool for extreme athletes

The 2nd Russian Urban Games started at Uram extreme park in Kazan

How Urban Games became talent pool for extreme athletes
Photo: Rinat Nazmetdinov

Read in Realnoe Vremya’s report how Uram park and the Urban Games unite the youth, the tasks the Skateboarding Federation sets at the Games, if Kazan will host international competitions and how Irek Rizayev became the idol of the Tatarstan youth minister’s son.

“The lads meet, get acquainted, move to Tatarstan thanks to such a point of attraction”

Young athletes from 37 regions of the country competed in six sports on 10-11 July: 3x3 basketball, BMX, workout, roller sports, skateboarding and breakdance. 63 medal sets were awarded among the competitors.

Last year, the Urban Games gathered a record-high number of competitors and spectators: more than 1,000 participants, over 8,000 spectators at the venue and over 500,000 online spectators.

Tatarstan Minister for Youth Affairs Damir Fattakhov paid attention to the popularity of the Uram park, which opened only a year ago, at the opening of the Games.

“We are glad to host the Russian Urban Games for the second time in a row. We see how popular the Uram park is among the youth apart from such competitions that are hosted here. Lads from all over the country arrived in Kazan. Talking about sport, new champions in all sports represented here can be expected in 3-5 years.”

Damir Fattakhov: “New champions in all sports represented here can be expected in 3-5 years”

Fattakhov stressed that the park is, first of all, a public space that unites the youth in sport, in having a good time.

“The lads meet, get acquainted, move to Tatarstan thanks to such a point of attraction we have,” he said.

We will add that an indoor part of the park will open soon, after that, such events can be hosted all year round. In reply to a question about his favourite sport, the minister said he has wanted to learn to skateboard since childhood, at the moment he plays basketball. While his son wants a BMX bike to ride like Irek Rizayev.

“I am competing for fun, I am not going to win anybody”

Irek Rizayev is a Russian BMX rider from Kazan and the audience’s favourite. He competed at the Urban Games last year too. Irek is a regular of international and Russian competitions, a multiple winner and medallist of BMX Freestyle tournaments. He is on the Russian team of BMX freestyle. A month ago, he was injured at the world championships, he is recovering now.

“Three weeks left to the trip to the Olympics,” he notes with noticeable concern. “The preparation is tough but according to schedule, in a best-case scenario at the moment because the injury is serious enough. But I have received the biggest support and best health care: a small surgery was done, I recuperated thanks to the federation.”

Irek Rizayev is a Russian BMX rider from Kazan and the audience’s favourite

A week to the Russian Urban Games, the athlete returned to daily training.

“There is progress every day, every day I do new tricks so there is a chance of recovering by the Olympics and performing well.”

In answer to the question if he was planning to win the Urban Games, he said he was competing in Red Bull Pump Track (a qualifier for the Red Bull Pump Track World Championship) here. It is an international qualification but he was riding for fun: “I am not going to win anybody, I don’t have such a plan.”

Rizayev performed on a racing bicycle. It turned out that the Red Bull Pump Track has a rule: one can ride only with brakes.

“My bicycle doesn’t have brakes, and it is impossible to have them. So I had to borrow a stranger’s bicycle and ride it. I decided to take a racing bicycle, it was fun, interesting.”

Skateboarding is the shortest road to the Olympics

Ilya Vdovin, president of Russia’s Skateboarding Federation, thinks that the talent pool is created precisely at the Russian Urban Games:

“The Urban Games are competitions for children, for amateurs who don’t yet keep up with the national team’s level. Here our talent pool is created.”

Vdovin claimed: the Uram park is today the best venue in the country for skateboard training and competition.

Skateboarding is “the shortest road to victories by age.” 13-14-year-olds are regularly on world championship podiums

“It is important for us to show other regions an example of using such venues, an example of popularity, here there is really a full house every day.”

According to him, many regions don’t yet consider skateboard as a big Olympic sport.

“Teenagers skateboard, and it is unclear what to do with it. People sometimes are sceptical about the creation of such infrastructure, but precisely such events show the regions where to go, make Tatarstan as a leader of urban games.”

When asked if he wanted to host international competitions, the president of the federation replied there was such a desire, but there were nuances.

“Now we are using this venue for Russian competitions and will hope that we will be able to agree to host international competitions at Russia — Sports Country forum, which will be in Kazan in September, the president of the international federation is expected to come.”

The president of the federation noted that this site is very good and competitors noted this last time and therefore dreamt of coming back.

“The only thing is that it is a bit hot this year, while last year it was very cold, and many rode in winter coats. There were quite tough conditions to ride well, but everybody anyway enjoyed it, didn’t want to go home and hung out till night, as it should be at a skateboard park.”

Ilya Vdovin explained why this sport is the “shortest road to victories by age.” 13-14-year-olds are regularly on world championship podiums.

“For instance, the Russian champion in park is 12-years-old. Alexander Gusev started riding a skateboard for the first time at 6, in 2019 he performed the toughest 540-degree turn. He was noticed in competitions in Moscow in 2017. The Skateboarding Federation paid his trip to the European Championship in Sweden and then the World Championship in China.”

The Games allow finding geniuses from different regions

Sadly, Alexander didn’t manage to qualify for the Olympics because of an injury — he was the youngest competitor in the qualifier.

Valery Shaykhutdinov who won a semi-final of the competition in street skateboarding is a young Kazan star. This year he didn’t compete at the Urban Games because of an injury.

Not only spectacular but also accessible sport

Dmitry Dvoynishnikov is a Russian skateboard champion, winner and medallist of international contests, a referee of the final leg of Lokomotiv competition and the Urban Games, coach of the Russian Skateboarding Federation’s educational project Federal School. He said who participated in the qualification and how competitors were assessed. In Dmitry’s opinion, the advantage of skateboarding is that this is not only a spectacular but also accessible sport. “Lads buy a skateboard and start riding in the courtyard,” this is how a path to big sport often starts.

In the qualification, Dmitry noted Vera Navalikhina’s performance — she is way ahead of other female athletes in park. Children under 16 who had qualified online or pre-qualified competed in the competition. Referees already know many of these athletes: they do sport in the federal school.

“I see quite a good level. These Games allow finding geniuses from different regions.”

In the final of Lokomotiv, it is planned to have the second group for the federal school. Now the school operates in Moscow but holds away events and masterclasses in regions, at local venues. A point scale is used: points for tricks, coefficients are added depending on the figure. The speed, height, style, artistic execution are assessed. Five referees decide who is the winner according to an average point.

“I was at the opening and testing of the park last year, I like it very much, I wait for the opening of the indoor area, it suits skateboarding more, I think.”

The Urban Games are competitions for children, amateurs who don’t yet keep up with the national team’s level

How a New Year present brought to the championship

Rada Tereshchenko is a skateboarder from Tyumen, she is a 2021 Russian champion among amateurs in street, a bronze medallist of the 2020 Lokomotiv competition. At the 2021 Urban Games, she was in the lead in street in qualification. The results of the final leg of the tournament will be known on Sunday.

The young athlete has been doing skateboarding for two years — she started at the age of nine. She rode at an indoor venue first, she learnt from Andrey Melnikov, then she mastered outdoor riding too.

“I liked competing, I did everything I had planned. This isn’t my first competition. Last year, I also competed in Kazan and was third, this time I hope to win.”

“I ordered a penny board by New Year. And Father Frost brought it, I started to ride it at home a bit, then went outdoors.”

“All the youth hang out here, they are busy, play”

Galina Pershina, a master of sport, forward of Torpedo basketball team comes from Moscow but lives in Kazan. Galina is very impressed that such a park was built in Kazan. “All the youth hang out here, they are busy, play.”

As for training, she said the venue is amazing: “I am glad that there is an opportunity to come here and enjoy the favourite game.”

Galina didn’t compete at the 1st Games: she was a pro then but now she retired and is completely immersed in the atmosphere of the Urban Games.

“The goal is to win, but unfortunately, our team didn’t perform very well, and now we will be playing for the third place, but it is also a good result. We will fight for a bronze. We are psyched up, ready, even the weather didn’t influence our morale (Editor’s note: a short but heavy rain was in Kazan on Saturday).”

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Yekaterina Guzanova. Photo: Rinat Nazmetdinov
Tatarstan