‘What drove me for years? Thirst for victory!’: world’s sprint swimming king Alexander Popov visits Nizhnekamsk

The four-time Olympic champion saw Nizhnekamskneftekhim’s plants and met with the youth

“Learn how to overcome difficulties, set goals and tasks, the coach and your parents will help you,” Olympic champion, repeated world and European record holder Alexander Popov shared instructions at a meeting with young swimmers. The legendary swimmer arrived in Nizhnekamsk within joint social events of the united company created by SIBUR and TAIF. Chairman of SIBUR Trade Union Vyacheslav Kharitonov visited Nizhnekamsk together with Alexander Popov. The guests spent two days in the petrochemical capital of Tatarstan, they saw key plants of the company, talked with Nizhnekamskneftekhim’s coaches and youth.

“The united company will do everything with such professionals”

Nizhnekamskneftekhim PJSC is not only a leading Russian enterprise manufacturing plastics and synthetic rubbers but also a company where every employee can demonstrate creative or sports talents. The petrochemists have repeatedly come into the spotlight in contests, competitions and championships at different levels. The development of sport, support for the youth, popularisation of a healthy lifestyle are priority areas of the company. Four-time Olympic champion, six-time world champion, 21-time European champion, repeated world and European champion, cavalier and honourable member of the International Olympic Committee Alexander Popov and Chairman of SIBUR Trade Union Vyacheslav Kharitonov made sure of this first-hand.

The familiarisation with the enterprise began in the company’s core factories. Plastics Plant became the first point of the visit. Polystyrene, shock-resistance and general-purpose, ABS plastics, polypropylene, polyethylene are key types of the products made here.

Then the delegation headed to the new SSBR plant. The solution-styrene butadiene rubber developed by the petrochemists has attractive qualities for tyre manufacturers. The use of SSBR in tyre production allows expanding their service, providing a better grip with the wet, icy road and saving fuel. SSBR can also be used in the production of different rubber goods.

“I have been working at SIBUR for 21 years. I know how its plants were built. I told Director General of Nizhnekamskneftekhim Ayrat Safin that I liked everything very much. The managers’ competency is impressive. They are very smart, responsible people involved in their work. The plant directors are great professionals. The united company will do everything with such professionals. To compare, we can say that Nizhnekamskneftekhim’s workers are also four-time industrial Olympic champions. It is seen that people live and breathe this. Now it is important that Nizhnekamskneftekhim’s workers and those of SIBUR, who are professionals too, be able to sit down, talk and discuss everything,” Chairman of SIBUR Trade Union Vyacheslav Kharitonov told Realnoe Vremya’s correspondent in an interview.

EP-600 plant, which is under construction, became another point on their route. It is one of the company’s key strategic projects. The launch of the complex will allow significantly expanding Russian ethylene capacities to meet growing domestic demand and reduce imports of derivatives. The new production will allow refining 1,800,000 tonnes of straight-run gasoline a year to make 600,000 tonnes of ethylene and such target products as propylene (273,000), benzene (249,000 tonnes) and butadiene (88,000 tonnes).

“We have looked the plant over, visited some shops to understand the scale, integrity of processes. I feel proud of having such huge production in our country. It is a very impressive sight,” Olympic champion Alexander Popov shared his impressions of what he saw.

Own military glory museum and shooting range

Later, the delegation went to Neftekhimik search party’s museum of military glory. Most exhibits in the museum are authentic unique findings members of Neftekhimik search party found during expeditions to battlefields. The search party has been dealing with this activity for 16 years, the remains of more than 800 soldiers have been unearthed over this time.

Here, the guests were told about the peculiarities of exhibits and presented dummies of dioramas The Fight for Solovyov Crossing and Search Expedition to Smolensk Oblast. Also, Alexander Popov and Vyacheslav Kharitonov were presented a calendar for 1941, which was reprinted by the 80th anniversary of the beginning of the Great Patriotic War on TAIF’s initiative. Commander of the search party Olga Lantsova noted the support of Nizhnekamskneftekhim in the patriotic job with the youth and all the assistance with the organisation of expeditions.

The delegation also had a look at the company’s shooting range where competitions among NKNK subdivisions are held. The shooting range was created according to Russian state standards, construction rules and regulations of the Russian Federation for shooting ranges. It consists of three areas designed to practise shooting a bow, crossbow, pneumatic and laser weapons. Experts consider the shooting range of Nizhnekamskneftekhim PJSC one of the best in the Volga region.

By the way, the shooting range is one of NKNK’s numerous sports venues. The enterprise has great sports infrastructure: Neftekhimik sports venue, two sports ice palaces (with a seating capacity of 6,000 and 2,000), Friendship sports and health centre, Fakel gym, Almash educational and training base, The Olympian sports camp. All the sports institutions are funded by the company, everybody can do sport there. Neftekhimik children and youth sports schools and clubs of Neftekhimik sports club are located at the company’s sports venues. 70 highly qualified coaches in 17 sports work there. About 2,400 children attend the classes.

“Our task is to gather the best practices existing in the companies”

After the familiarisation with the enterprise, there was held a meeting where joint social projects of Nizhnekamskneftekhim and SIBUR were discussed. A large-scale social policy, which will only improve, was introduced in both companies.

“Now we are elaborating our further steps. And I know and believe that those steps taken earlier will just grow for the good of Nizhnekamsk,” said Vice Director General of HR and Social Affairs at Nizhnekamskneftekhim PJSC Rodion Bulashov.

“Our task is to gather the best practices existing in the companies and unite them. There must be a balance between production and social policy. Employees must have leisure time. You worked, took a rest doing sport or intellectually. The next day you go to work again after a break in a good mood, to achieve production indicators. This is a correctly organised balance, and it must be sensible,” noted Chairman of SIBUR Trade Union Vyacheslav Kharitonov.

In the evening, the guests met with young activists of Nizhnekamskneftekhim PJSC, young swimmers and coaches of the city. Nizhnekamsk citizens welcomed Alexander Popov with a loud round of applause. The event took place at Carpet youth centre.

“Hi, lads, friends, colleagues. Did you come after training? Did you swim 1,5 km twice per 18 minutes? No? Then you have everything ahead,” the legendary athlete started his speech jokingly.

Alexander Popov told the lads that his mum took him to a swimming club at the age of seven so that he would learn how to swim. “We started in a small swimming pool, then I progressed, more and more. What drove me for years? A thirst for victory! I wanted to win, nobody wants to lose,” the renowned athlete shared his secret of success.

Popov joked that he started to professionally swim only because he didn’t like to run but always felt comfortable in the swimming pool. He dedicated every victory to his parents.

“The parents’ support is the most important thing, if they support you saying something, doing something. If you are tired, don’t want to go to training, you should up and go, this will come in handy in life. Learn how to overcome difficulties, set goals and tasks,” Alexander Popov stressed.

The meeting lasted for over two hours. The youngsters asked tens of questions about the Olympic champion’s agenda, swimming technique, motivation and personal life. After the event, anybody could have the legendary athlete’s autograph and take a photo with him as a memento.

“I liked everything very much. I am amazed that Alexander Popov came to us to Nizhnekamsk. I learnt a lot of new things, about his attitude to sport, training and swimming,” young swimmer German Raskatov said.

“One cannot meet an Olympic champion every day. I am happy to have seen a world star,” said young swimmer Yegor Valikov.

The meeting with Alexander Popov didn’t end here. The next day, there was given a master class for students of the swimming club in the Friendship swimming pool.

The famous swimmer gave them simple and important tips on how to relax in the water, showed the lads how to correctly and easily raise the arm, do a row, taught arm and leg coordination exercises.

At the same time, the Olympic champion was very patient and careful about the young swimmers, which caused real admiration in them. Alexander Popov himself doesn’t like to name such classes as a master class. “It is rather a joint open training,” the celebrity modestly evaluates his efforts. “It is interesting to see how a couple of simple exercises help the children in swimming, brings a benefit and pleasure.”

The feedback from the meeting with the athlete is positive enough. Student of Neftekhimik Sports Club, repeated Russian swimming medallist, finalist of a World Cup leg Alexander Kubasov talked about this.

“Mr Popov is a very pleasant person, simple and free. I liked everything: the presentation, explanation of the technique and correct execution of exercises. It was seen how children grasped and learnt everything the famous swimmer was saying,” he noted.

A swimming competition of Neftekhimik Sports Club for Alexander Popov’s prizes became the end of the event. Students of the sports club competed in the contest. They competed in the 50-metre freestyle in three ages. Winners received deserved awards from the legendary swimmer.

“The lads are incredibly lucky, so many opportunities are open to them. They have everything to come. It is necessary to take everything that belongs to them in life. Nobody will share successes. Sport is legal egoism. After winning once, one doesn’t want to lose. I wish everybody only victories,” four-time Olympic champion Alexander Popov concluded.

Affiliate report

Liliya Yegorova. Photo: Nizhnekamskneftekhim PJSC