Igor Nazarov: ‘For us, badminton is a real find’
A sport that has been developed from scratch in the last 15 years before the Olympics
Two leaders of team Tatarstan — Yevgenia Kosetskaya and Sergey Sirant — won the Russian Cup, which ended at Badminton Centre last week. Head coach of team Tatarstan Igor Nazarov sees a badminton development pyramid with one exception as the guarantee of this success. Read more in Realnoe Vremya’s report.
“Rural children competed in France, Portugal”
Mr Nazarov, how is republican badminton doing?
Several years ago we created some competition basis in our republic that would help to develop our sport as much as possible regardless of external factors. Moreover, we started to introduce this system with no idea of the problems we faced later — the pandemic first, then the isolation of our athletes from international competitions. Clearly, good competition and training infrastructure created almost in all districts of the republic were needed for this. So we started to hold some tournaments on this basis for children from 10 to 12 with our own rankings when children can compete in tournaments up to four times a year, the eight strongest in their age category are awarded valuable prizes. It is a uniform, sports shoes, equipment like a racket and so on. Senior competitors have such tournaments too. And this led to such a growth of competition that we had to leave those who can fight with leaders of Russian badminton from other regions almost as equals out of the team.
The Tatarstan club championship was recently held, First Step is the next project we are going to implement. It is a federal tournament under the aegis of the school sports federation chaired by Irina Rodnina. It is junior competitions for students from usual schools, not specialised.
We started to hold some tournaments on this basis for children from 10 to 12 with our own rankings when children can compete in tournaments up to four times a year, the eight strongest in their age category are awarded valuable prizes
It is important competitions for schools that have small classes, in settlements with some ten students in class. It is hard to give them even a basketball or volleyball class during physical education class because there aren’t enough people, while badminton allows holding even team competitions. PE teachers in rural classes say that “For us, badminton is a real find.” Another advantage is that in some other game sports like basketball, volleyball everything ends at republican level at best, whereas we have republican, Russian and even European competitions. I am not saying this without proof because our junior teams have already competed in such competitions in France, Portugal. And we sent even nine teams from different Tatarstan settlements to a Russian final.
“Now our republic has 15 fanatically devoted coaches”
As I understand, badminton in Tatarstan settlements is developed so well that it is tough for urban players to compete with them. Here one can train up to three times a week as child, while there they can do this even daily.
Yes, I think that we did right starting developing badminton in those districts by laying the foundation for our sport. The federation has done very much by holding competitions first, retraining coaches, PE teachers then, providing them with methodical knowledge. Some enthusiasts who decided to switch from classes to competitions whose development I talked about earlier came from those who were excited to develop badminton. So this is how the pyramid was built, and now in the republic alone, we have 15 fanatically devoted coaches who, moreover, understand that their players should improve and hand them over to more experienced coaches. It is necessary to understand this happens in a sport that almost didn’t exist in the republic at the beginning of the past decade.
Exactly. I remember then Minister of Sport Marat Bariyev ordered to cover the republican student competition in 2007 and I closely talked with different coaches. One of the main enthusiasts Farid Valeyev complained there was no professional badminton player among the competitors, they were either amateurs or ex-tennis players. The strongest badminton players of that time Leonid and Mikhail Kapelyushniki played futsal with me because they didn’t have the chance to improve in their favourite sport. And this was 10-15 years ago.
Right. After moving to Kazan in 2016, I see first-hand how much our sport has developed even since then. A boarding school is the only thing that we need to complete the real badminton pyramid. There is the Olympic Reserve Academy, but it is in the other part of the city, far from Badminton Centre. In Bashkortostan, there is a badminton boarding school where promising athletes study from grade six and European champions were brought up there, I mean Davletova and Alimov. But we have to make up something not to lose talents. For instance, our coaches from Nizhnekamsk moved to Bogatyev Saby but their students couldn’t, though they were third in the republic in their age group. In the end, somebody moved to Kazan, their parents rent a flat for them, two players live with other families, including ours. And it is not only expensive but also very responsible.
The Russian Cup is taking place now, and we see all the leaders. Almost all the elite came to Wingent Zilant Russian tournament to Kazan in March
Talking about senior athletes, there is a series of Russian competitions, there are about 20 including commercial tournaments with all the strongest, which couldn’t happen earlier. For instance, the Russian Cup is taking place now, and we see all the leaders. Almost all the elite came to the Winged Zilant Russian tournament in Kazan in March. Earlier, there was no such thing, leaders could gather only for the national championship, during the rest of the time they competed in international competitions.
“The problem of rankings will arise when our athletes return to the international stage”
Perhaps, this year we will see all the elite in the Russian Championship in Kazan in a sport that’s close to you, which is tennis.
Tennis is anyway huge money, and a sum of 150,000 rubles a winner of the championship receives will unlikely attract these athletes. My colleague Nikolay Kalinsky who works as head of Russia’s badminton team keeps me aware of the tennis backstage because his daughter Anna Kalinskaya is one of the leading tennis players of the country, who by the way studied in Kazan in the past. For instance, the next round of an international tournament costs as much as the annual budget of republican badminton.
Let me return from amazing Russian tennis players to great badminton players. Let’s start with Yevgenia Kosetskaya and her plans. Is she going to start the next Olympic season?
Is there a choice? Especially if there is such a stimulus as the one-year reduction of the pre-Olympic cycle. We had been waiting for Tokyo for so long, as many as five years, while Paris 2024 is around the corner, in two years. We discussed this in winter when we competed in three tournaments in a row playing successfully with Sergey Sirant and seriously improving their individual rankings. But the problem of rankings will arise when our athletes return to the international stage. Moreover, the qualification for Paris 2024 could be much easier for Kosetskaya and Sirant. The men’s main rival Vladimir Malkov wasn’t going to qualify because he will turn 38 in 2024. Sirant’s opponent in the Russian Cup final Georgy Karpov seriously went down in the rankings because Sergey was in the top 60, while Georgy was in the top 120. Kosetskaya in general was 21st-22nd in the world, while the closest rival wasn’t in the top 100.
A year before the Olympics, such a position in the rankings isn’t played back without force majeure. Our neighbours from Bashkortostan — Alina Davletova and Rodion Alimov, newly baked European champions — also had a good chance of playing at the Olympics they had almost qualified for during the previous cycle. Other European Champions, doubles Vladimir Ivanov and Ivan Sazonov (by the way, a year ago they won in Kyiv), in contrast, had the last chance of playing at the Olympics because both are older than 30 years.
We had been waiting for Tokyo for so long, as many as five years, while Paris 2024 is around the corner, in two years
They played in the final of the 2013 Universiade in Kazan too.
Yes, now Sazonov will try his hand at mixed doubles playing in the Cup’s final. In other words, there could be a problem with the women’s doubles, though Russia has won the only Olympic medals in history in this discipline — Nina Vislova and Valeria Sorokina in London in 2012. It is necessary to bring up doubles keeping an eye on suitable badminton players who don’t play individually because these are a bit different disciplines. However, playing at the Olympics is already like a feat because the doubles have only 16 quotas, whereas individual players have over 40. Moreover, there are some wild cards for representatives of developing countries, which reduces the number of Olympic tickets.
The author’s opinion does not necessarily coincide with the position of Realnoe Vremya’s editorial board.