Voronezh bobsledders Andrei Lylov, Ilya Malykh, Yevgeny Gura and Pyotr Moiseev will perform at the Russian Championship - the tournament starts on Tuesday, March 24. Their coach Boris Ruzin was one of those who had revived one of the most dangerous and expensive sports in the country. In a conversation with a RIA Voronezh correspondent, the Merited Coach of the USSR recalled the people who changed his fate and explained how to start learning a new sport at the age of 43.
From a runner to a coach
The entire life of Boris Ruzin is an incredible series of circumstances. His parents would never have met if his mother Raisa Sergeevna had not fallen under rubble while working in a Tula mine. Having lost the opportunity to work underground, she moved to Voronezh where she met Anatoly Ruzin. Their son Boris grew up in the area near the bridge construction plat his parents worked at. He spent all his time in the street playing with a ball in a vacant lot near the house. He didn’t starve - there were vegetable gardens around, and boys took cucumbers and tomatoes from them. And after the football, the losers climbed into the open windows of a nearby bakery. Everyone knew that there was white bread on the third floor and cakes on the fourth.
The fateful meeting occurred in Boris’s life at the age of 12. During a physical education lesson, the student of School № 54 found out that jumping 4.6 meters in length was enough to get a five grade. “And what happens if I jump six meters?” asked the student. “You will get a five for the whole quarter and you won’t have to attend classes,” the physical education teacher responded. The extremely motivated boy jumped 6.18 m, and this was witnessed by athletics coach Anatoly Shuvalov. So the gifted teenager ended up in a sports class. The coach specialized in hurdling. Ruzin lived up to the expectations and was invited to a Moscow sports boarding school. Some of his classmates later performed at the Olympics-80, but he himself never rose above the master of sports rank and the finals of the championship of the USSR. Now it’s clear: Ruzin the coach would definitely squeeze more out of Ruzin the athlete.
“The Moscow coach constantly changed his mind on whether I should do short distances or long ones. I trained for one of them but performed at the other. And these are different things. If you run the short distance, you need to develop more technical skills, speed qualities. If you do the long one, you need to work on endurance and rhythm,” complained Boris Anatolyevich.
It became clear that it was time to switch to coaching. In addition, the training program that Ruzin helped pick for his friend Sergei Tsivashov, gave its results: the Voronezh resident moved to Moscow and became a master of sports of international class. The yesterday's runner entered the Dynamo Sports School headed by the aged Shuvalov.
Ruzin’s first mentor promised to help him start a coaching career, but after signing the documents he said: "You have a week to recruit kids and start working." With this, the help ended – the young coach had to develop all the techniques himself. It was then that his scale of sportsmanship assessment was created. The trainer calls beginners “teapots” and masters of sports “coffee pots”. And members of the National Team receive the proud title of “samovar” from Ruzin.
The path to victory was thorny. The older generation coaches were jealous of the novice specialist and his students. Even the winner of many competitions, Yelena Ruzina, was called unpromising.
Boris and Yelena Ruzina, 1997
Later, when the young coach was to be awarded the title of Merited Trainer of the RSFSR, the “elders” openly said to him at a meeting of the regional Athletics Federation: “Junior, stand in line until we get it.” And when entering a school of higher sportsmanship, Ruzin was asked to sign an agreement in which it was spelled out: the coach will work in the organization as long as his students are on the National Team. He agreed, although there had been no such precedent in the region before.
But life put everything in its right place. Yelena Ruzina won the awards of the World and European Championships, as well as the gold of the 1992 Olympics, and all organizations that had turned her down began competing for the title of the school that had trained the Olympic champion. Ruzin, in his turn, has been sending his trainees to national teams every year for 30 years. Although some of them were not wanted by anyone before coming to Boris Anatolyevich.
“I can’t turn people down. Yes, there are those from who there is no point in expecting great results, but everyone has a chance. Sometimes a person who everyone has already given up on breaks the situation. Such people are the most persistent. You never know what will happen to a person. There was one athlete, a member of the National Team for five years, he traveled the whole world. And then at one point, he said that he would not train anymore without explaining the reasons. This also happens. That’s why you just need to commit, help people, and God will always reward those who work. In our country, nobody works with adult athletes at all. Coaches today are trying to quickly get immediate results from children. The salary depends on it. As soon as an athlete is 18 years old, in order for him to continue training in a sports school, he has to meet serious requirements. And if he is not a master of sports or not part of the National Team, then he has problems. Because adult track and field athletes are one-offs, they require individual work, you have to spend a lot of time on them, but there are no guarantees. Not all trainers have the patience to work painstakingly with students. They drop the matured athletes and again recruit groups in the hope of finding some kind of rough diamond.
Boris Anatolyevich changes his profession
In 2001, Ruzin faced a new twist of fate. There was a wave of migration to Russia of athletes who, after the collapse of the USSR, played for the CIS countries. Dmitry Stepushkin, an international class master of sports in the triple jump, moved to Voronezh from Uzbekistan, Natalia Ivashchenko, who dreamed of going to the Summer Olympics as a javelin thrower, came from Ukraine. At that time, they had already begun to engage in the newly emerging bobsledding.
“I still don’t understand why they went to Voronezh. I was invited to a school of higher sportsmanship, offered to take patronage over the guys. It was then that enthusiasts appeared who decided to revive the Russian bobsleigh. One of those who promoted this idea is Oleg Sukhoruchenko, a Pavlovsk native. He himself was a famous bobsledder in the past, a participant of the Olympic Games. They built a flyover in the district center – a slide with rails where thy practiced the running start. And I knew almost nothing about bobsleigh! But then I figured it out. Bobsledders are virtually runners, only bigger and stronger. This is why this sport is most often switched to from athletics. I just tweaked Stepushkin’s technique a little bit and he became the best pusher in the world! He is a hard worker if I ever saw one. Just as Yelena Ruzina and sprinter Ruslan Mashchenko. They are training freaks who I had to kick out from practices. After the training, they were ready to drop, but later they came up and said: “Let's do something else,” the coach recalled.
The Voronezh Region became the base for the bobsledding team, and Ruzin became the coach of the National Team. The outstanding duo of sleigh rider Alexander Zubkov and Dmitry Stepushkin rallied at the flyover in Pavlovsk, and world arm wrestling champion Alexei Voevoda, future champion and prize-winner of the Olympics learned to run correctly at the Dynamo Stadium.
Ruzin and Stepushkin
“An amazing sport! I tried to slide on a bobsled myself. You might say it’s like sitting on the floor. The speed is crazy, but there is no cushioning. And the ice in the track is never smooth. The bob hits about very hard, you feel all of it. Did I like it? It was awesome, pure adrenaline! Last year we were in Norway at a training camp, the track there was prepared poorly. After the practice runs, the guys were simply pulled out of the bobsled. They said that the g-load was crazy, at some point the athletes thought that their eyes would fall out. About 15 years ago there was a case when Stepushkin and Zubkov flew off the track. They darted past the ice, then the concrete section and flew into the field. In the end, the guys needed medical care. But as soon as they recovered, they went back to training. Schumacher once came to St. Moritz for a competition. There were demonstration races, stars were put into a bobsled and given a chance to ride. Schumacher climbed out of the sleigh and said that there was no way he would dare do it again - it’s dangerous. In bobsleigh there are falls, flipping over. When a bobsledder takes off his carbon helmet, he looks like a cracked chicken egg. And if the bean flips over, you are guaranteed to have an ice burn - the surface of the track grinds both the clothes and the skin,” the specialist said.
At the Turin Olympics, the team won the silver. There are already nine Olympics under Ruzin’s sports belt and over 30 world championships. And as for Russian championships, our hero has long stopped counting them.
“I would like to tell something heroic, consistent with the spirit of the Olympic Games, but I only remember hard work from morning to night and a sense of crazy responsibility. This is a holiday for fans. But there is a reverse to the medal. In Turin, we lived in the Olympic Village with two coaches, one was a Nordic combined coach and the other was engaged in ski jumping. The room is three meters wide. We stored our things on the balcony. One coach got up every day at five in the morning, the other came in at two in the morning. And that’s how we lived. I also remember how I had to cover Dmitry Stepushkin who had no accreditation. We dressed him in uniform in the yards somewhere - the Italians were looking at him from the windows stunned. We distracted the guards and gave them badges for him to sneak into the Olympic Village. We risked terribly! And then the issue of accreditation was resolved, and he performed normally,” Ruzin told.
After the successful Olympics, the president of the Bobsleigh Federation of Russia, Valery Leychenko, died at the age of 46. The managers who replaced him asked Ruzin to draw up a training plan for the bobsledding team - ostensibly in order to prepare a reserve team during the coach’s departures. Having received the training program, they fired him. And the coaches who replaced him began to work in accordance with Boris Ruzin’s program.
While working in Voronezh, he continued to train local bobsledders for the National Team - granted there has not been and still is no full-fledged bobsled infrastructure in the city.
“In 1972, the coach told me that my generation was lucky because we would soon train in good conditions. I tell this story to the seventh generation of my students, we laugh together. Can you imagine wrestlers training on the street? Or climbers climbing trees and buildings? But we do not have our own base. Throughout this entire fall, Voronezh bobsledders trained at Dynamo Park. We ran uphill, practiced on an outdoor sports ground. And in July everyone is sent on vacation so as not to pay for the rental of sports facilities. Never mind that bobsledding is a winter sport, which means that summer is an important preparatory period. We come to the arena of the Central Stadium of Trade Unions and train with the lights off. Sometimes we run in the dark. And the people who train under such conditions perform at European and world championships. Our city provides only pushers. It’s impossible for pilots to appear, they are too expensive to train,” the Merited Coach of the USSR admits.
In 2018, the president of the Bobsleigh Federation of Russia, Zubkov, returned Ruzin into the National Team. At the end of the season, the performance of the National Team was recognized as the best in the last six years. But Ruzin can no longer think only in momentary results.
“How can we make our sport massive and popular? It is very expensive. The cost of a 2-crew sleigh starts at 50 thousand euros. A 4-crew sleigh costs up to 100 thousand. They are made only abroad. Under our law, the procurement must pass the bidding. How do you explain to foreign firms that they must participate in this? It’s easier for them to sell sleighs to Koreans. But apart from the sleds you also need to buy a special truck to transport them. The track is in Sochi. It must be maintained, the artificial ice must be kept in good condition, you need a special machine to lift the sleigh back to the start, a single run costs about 2 thousand rubles. And you need to do three or four runs during the practice. Add to this accommodation and meals for athletes in Sochi, in Krasnaya Polyana. Can you imagine the prices there? We need to open pilot schools, give the sleighs written off from the National Team to the regions. This must be dealt with by the Federation,” the expert believes.
And while bobsleigh is looking for ways of being popularized, Boris Anatolyevich says that he dreams of a vacation. In all his life, he has only been on vacation once, after the wedding. Now he is planning to go to his tenth Olympics in 2022 - and then to retire. But who knows - maybe there is another fateful meeting ahead.