Alexander Krasnykh: ''No matter whether it is Phelps, Chad, a guy from the Tatarstan Championships''

‘‘When an athlete is taken away awards because 12-year-old dope tests had banned substances. It is absurd, not a fight for clean sport.’’

An important event took place in the World Swimming Competition in Canadian Windsor. A representative of the Tatarstan swimming school has stepped onto the highest point of the podium of the World Championships among adults for the first time. Apart from a gold medal in 4x200 free relay, in Windsor, Alexander Krasnykh won a silver and bronze in 400 m and 200 m respectively. The sports staff of Realnoe Vremya decided to talk to the triumphant upon his arrival to Kazan.

''I was a bit lucky in the 400 m''

What are your emotions of the victory? Did you calm down? What helped you to win?

It is a result of the job of my coach and me. I trust my coach 100% and follow all his instructions. This is why there is a result. I prepared for the World Championships without focusing on the Russian Championships. I tried keeping strength before the major contest. In Canada, I swam much faster. Of course, I am glad. I am still full of emotions. But there is an opinion that I could have swum better.

Can we say your results in the Russian Championships were bad? Two gold medals in two heats.

Everything is relative. First of all, in my opinion, a swimmer fights against the timer and himself. It is difficult to do your best without a good competition, even psychologically. If probably there were more fast rivals in Kazan in November, I would have followed them and I would have had another result. Last year, I swam faster at home. The same thing happened in Canada. I could not help but do my best because world and Olympic champions were swimming in the adjacent lanes.

What did you feel at that moment?

I knew that Tae-hwan and Chad would come a long time ago. Of course, they are swimming stars. But I have never had idols. I don't look at their names but current results. No matter whether it is Phelps, Chad, a guy from the Tatarstan Championships. I treat every rival with respect. I will try to swim better. But I don't feel any tremor and fear. I am the major obstacle towards success, and the fight against myself is the most important thing for me. I go to compete to beat my own record.

''I could not help but do my best because world and Olympic champions were swimming in the adjacent lanes.'' Photo: dspkazan.com

You finished second in 400 m in Windsor, though you consider 200 m as your best event. What's the reason?

Here everything comes to the competition level. I was lucky a bit. In the 400 m, the rivals were slow, not ready, they did not show their best level. I just swam as fast as I could, did my best and stepped onto the podium, though even I did not expect it. I was given a chance and I took advantage.

You always noted that relay was of paramount importance for you. Do you really focus on it?

Not really. Yes, I also want medals in individual events. There is a difference. When you swim alone, you are responsible for yourself. When you are in a relay team, you swim for yourself and all guys. It is a teamwork. Joint readiness for a victory of the four is the most important thing. I heard many stories when great swimmers were tired after individual events and refused relays or did not swim full steam throwing them under the bus. Naturally, there was no respect towards them after that.

You swam your heat faster than the others. Do you feel especial pride?

No, relay includes four people, and success depends on them. The best four swimmers of the season based on the results of Russian Championships are in relay team in world championships. It is unfair to say that you were better, it is a big-headedness.

Can you consider yourself the best Russian swimmer in 200 m crawl?

It is difficult to give an accurate answer. In my opinion, sport is now and here. If today you are swimming faster than your rivals, you are better now and here. But everything can change tomorrow. In sport, you need to prove who you are every day. First of all, I try showing myself in big international competitions. I don't have limits, barriers, priorities. I, my own laziness is the main obstacle at times. For this reason, I try not forecasting whether I am the best or not. Dreaming of records, people should dream of world records. People always need to set ambitious, high tasks and goals.

''First of all, I try showing myself in big international competitions. I don't have limits, barriers, priorities. I, my own laziness is the main obstacle at times. For this reason, I try not forecasting whether I am the best or not.'' Photo: olympic.ru

''Every man needs the basic combat techniques''

As a kid, you did boxing first and then switched to swimming. Why did you decide to make such a drastic change?

My dad who is my coach now did swimming. But I started with boxing, to be more precise, kickboxing. Anyway, every man needs the basic combat techniques. When I was in the third grade, there was an intake in swimming, so I decided to try. I did both sports for some time. Then I had to choose. I chose swimming.

Did you need to use fighting skills in life?

Yes, I had to fight and protect myself. In general, I am calm and peaceful person. Probably I have boxing skills. But the last time I used them was a long time ago. Many things are forgotten without practice.

Have you ever argued with your teammates?

No. We are elite athletes. We understand what our disagreements can lead to. The collective of the national team is very friendly. We don't have a gradation, division into stars and non-stars. If there is a misunderstanding, people always can come to an agreement. I think everything needs to be proved by a job. It is necessary to keep silence and did it well. People should ''burn out'' at work but be calm and sensible and think.

''It is absurd, not a fight for clean sport''

Let's remember the recent Olympiad, which was full of stress that started even before the very Games. What did you feel then? Did you worry? How did you handle your concerns?

First of all, it's a pity that some athletes did not go to Rio. They prepared for four years and could not compete. I did not worry for myself, in general. But I was afraid of the expulsion of the entire team, expulsion of the Russian Swimming Federation from the competitions. I have never taken any drug. I was absolutely clean. They had nothing to be able to accuse me.

Did you talk to your teammates? Did you support them?

Sure, athletes are like a family. Here there was an attempt to kill Russian sport. Pressure on the country is greater than on athletes. This is why we tried staying together. It is not normal when an athlete is taken away awards he or she deserved because 12-year-old dope tests had banned substances. It is absurd, not a fight for clean sport.

''Our Kazan is ready to host any championships, even the Olympics. Our championships were certainly much better than Rio.'' Photo: mdms.tatarstan.ru

I would like to remember the recent Olympiad. What etched on your memory?

I won't forget the Games, of course. It was my first Olympics. I waited for it for a long time and hoped to be in the squad. That level of intensity outside sports passion about the Games, awful conditions, crime – everything crossed the festive atmosphere out. I decided to leave before the closing ceremony. I wanted to leave Brazil as soon as possible. Mud, crime, chaos is everywhere. It is not acceptable for a big international event, though very Brazil, Rio de Janeiro are interesting, original. People know how to organise festivals in South America. They easily hosted the FIFA World Cup two years ago. But many things have changed within two years. A political crisis began, the Olympics was extra. Rio has other issues to deal with now besides sport because the Olympics will end, we all came and will go, but people will continue living there.

Can we call Rio your major and the most unforgettable competition in your career?

No, anyway, the World Championships in Kazan are at the top. It was unique experience to compete in my native republic, at a big stadium in front of close people and friends. I remember that a battalion of fans from Bugulma (the athlete's native city). They were so active and noticeable, their support was pleasant to me. They inspired me to victories. In general, Bugulma loves me very much. People always meet and say me goodbye kindly. They even met me after Rio. I did not expect it, but it was pleasant! And the championships in Kazan was held at a decent level. Our Kazan is ready to host any championships, even the Olympics. Our championships were certainly much better than Rio. At the moment it is the best competition in terms of organisation I have seen and competed in.

''World Championships in Kazan are a festival sportand kindness''

Did the status of ''the first hope'' of Tatarstan swimming put pressure on you in the FINA World Championships at home? All people expected and required a result.

An athlete is always expected a result because he is an athlete. It is my job. Every competition puts some pressure. But I found it easier to compete in Kazan than far from home. There is an opportunity to be with your family, distract and have a rest. Moreover, I was not the only representative of Tatarstan. Irina Prikhodko and Ernest Maksumov competed too. It is clear that I wanted a medal. I could have achieved more if the competition had taken place a couple of years later. At that moment the coaching staff and I thought to reach a final with a personal record was an achievement.

What is the most interesting memory of the Kazan championships?

Much time have passed. I can't remember everything, though there were enough curious things. As for unpleasant stories, Volodya Morozov's stolen things before the start. You don't expect it at home. It was very unpleasant. Ocuppied stands, all country's interest in our sport, atmosphere of festival and kindness are what I remembered. Swimming is not as popular as it is in the USA, China, Europe. In America, 50,000 people come to the national championships. In Moscow, the stands were empty before Rio. Organisation of such big competitions in Russia helps to make the sport popular.

''An athlete is always expected a result because he is an athlete. It is my job. Every competition puts some pressure. But I found it easier to compete in Kazan than far from home.'' Photo: dspkazan.com

Sport is an opportunity to travel. Do you manage to see a lot while travelling? Do you compare big cities with native Bugulma? Which city wins?

I am a patriot. I have never aspired to have more, live in big city's luxury. For me, the people I live with, not where and how, are more important. I try seeing how people live in other countries, of course. It is very interesting for me. But East or West home is best.

How often do you visit Bugulma? Are you popular there? Do you think you a pride of the city?

As I said, people always love and wait for me. They meet me together with the whole city. I try visiting it when I can. But it is not always possible. The city has people to boast about except me. First of all, Nikolai Kolesnikov (Editor's Note: 1976 Olympic champion in weightlifting), biathlete Olga Danilova (Editor's Note: a two-time Olympic champion), singer Alsu, all in all. So our city has people and things to boast about even if it is small.

''No sense in moving to the States, I feel fine here''

Our leading swimmers prefer working with American coaches with an overseas system. Have you ever thought about moving to the States?

No. Any sense? I like everything in Russia. I work in my team, with my coach. To go to the USA is like buying a pig in a poke. I don't know what will happen there, how it all will affect my results. Here I know everything. I got used to it and feel fine.

Do you train mainly in Kazan?

Yes, we train here. In general, we train around the world: in the mountains, the subtropics, by the seaside, in different time zones and regions. Organism needs to adapt to different conditions. I like to train in Switzerland. It is a good opportunity to go downhill skiing.

''But probably I started to consider myself a professional only after Windsor. I finally got a gold in an international competition among adults. It is a serious level.'' Photo: mdms.tatarstan.ru

What should be done to popularise the sport in Russia?

Ad is needed. It is necessary to increase the popularity of athletes, speak about elite sport – the young will go to the swimming pool. Sport among kids will also develop. The media actively promoted biathlon in the past. Now all country is watching it. We can say that it is due to Guberniev's charisma. But he also comments us. But people don't know swimmers like biathletes. In other countries, swimming is the most popular sport. This is why their results are better.

Here is another question. Does the popularity of a sport depend on athletes' results?

It is a classical scheme ''chicken or the egg''. Which came first? Undoubtedly, it is important to show records and win medals, it makes a sport popular. But there won't be any medals without due support of the country and coverage in the media.

Did you start to consider yourself as professional after the European Junior Championships in 2013?

Yes, I won a silver then, James Guy was faster. But probably I started to consider myself a professional only after Windsor. I finally won a gold in an international competition among adults. It is a serious level. A junior competition is a junior competition. Not all juniors swim well when they become older.

''I like classical music but Tugan Yak is in my player''

How do you spend your free time? Do you have much spare time?

Not, not much. If I have some time during training sessions, I just want to sleep and do nothing. I like to eat yummy food, watch a film, read a good book, but real cinematography, literature, not rubbish. The game of words, actors, the message, tragedy of the situation are important. I enjoy reading O. Henry. He is a wonderful author. There is a deep sense, so bright epithets – he is a celebrated master.

''Every year is experience. I became stronger, wiser. I achieved a lot, though I could have done more. The more competitions there are, the better it is.'' Photo: prav.tatarstan.ru

It is a rare thing among athletes. Do you have colleagues in the squad? Do your friends understand you?

Not all people understand me. Many of them like light comedies. But it is their choice. What impedes me from intellectual growth as an athlete? Moreover, books are my hobby. I have a rest while reading good literature. I don't have many friends. Indeed, almost all of them are from the swimming world. Sometimes I chat with school friends from Bugulma. These are wonderful evenings of memories. Unfortunately, there is not much time for it. But it makes our meetings especial.

What is your favourite music?

I like classical music, easy jazz, blues. Voice, performance are important for me. I can listen to both Russian and foreign music. I listen to Tatar music at times. Tugan Yak (a popular Tatar song) is in my player. I don't speak Tatar but I can get the idea. First of all, practice is needed. But a song helps especially when you are far from home.

What about your language skills? Do you speak foreign languages?

I understand well that they are important today, especially in international sport. English is needed. It would be good to speak a second language. Almost all swimmers and coaches speak English. I try to learn. But I don't have the time, power or will. I always find excuses because of my laziness. But I will try to change the situation.

What did this year give you?

Every year is experience. I became stronger, wiser. I achieved a lot, though I could have done more. The more competitions there are, the better it is. A lack of international experience impeded me in Kazan to some extent.

What are your plans for the future?

Now we are intensively preparing for the FINA World Championships in Budapest, which will be next year. Then we will be getting ready for the Olympiad in Tokyo in 2020. There is some time. But time flies, there is much work to do. I want to try swimming in cups, European Championships, World Cup. I want to swim everywhere and always. But power has limits. Here I take my hat off to Katinka Hosszú. The ''iron lady'' goes from one championships to another, switches to one event to another, she competes in different styles. She is unique. If there is a person admire, it is she, first of all.

By Rustam Imamov
Sports