Yelena Mamedova, a Voronezh native, won the Russian Bobsleigh Championship in March 2020. The athlete gained points for Krasnodar Krai, which she now represents after leaving her hometown. The RIA Voronezh correspondent recalled the athletes who, having not yet reached the peak of their abilities, left and began representing other regions at a high level.

Yelena Mamedova, bobsleigh

Mamedova started her career from athletics and then switched to bobsleigh. This story is not new for Voronezh - under the guidance of eminent coach Boris Ruzin, physically strong runners often end up in bobsleds. Defending the honor of her native city, Mamedova, a pusher, became the champion of Russia. The athlete was considered the future of the Voronezh bobsledding, but Mamedova’s mentor, Alexei Polonnikov, held successful negotiations with representatives of Krasnodar Krai that he would transfer his trainee there and gain the position of a coach. The athlete was not opposed to her native region being listed as second in the parallel standings, but the leadership of the regional Department of Sports took a principled stance: Voronezh, which had invested a lot of money in the bobsledder’s training, should not be listed second.

Now Mamedova performs for Krasnodar Krai. She is one of the most promising athletes of the National Team.

“Mamedova‘s trainer began negotiating on the transition behind our backs, it was unseemly. Afterward, I told this coach all I thought about him. Mamedova is a smart girl, an excellent athlete, but at that point, she listened to her mentor,” recalled Boris Ruzin, the Head Coach of the select team of the Voronezh Region.

Vladimir Lysenko, athletics

Lysenko is a trainee of famous runner Ruslan Mashchenko, vice-champion of the world and Europe, a participant of three Olympic Games. The young man born in 1998 was the leader of the select team of the Voronezh Region and showed good results in hurdling at a distance of 400 m. However, after one of the successes, the runner began to be lured to Moscow. The mother of the then-minor athlete asked to let the young man, who was supposedly going to study in the capital, go. Lysenko was allowed to play for the Moscow Region and Voronezh in the parallel standings. But the young man did not leave for the capital - he brought points to the capital region while living and training in his native city. The contract was signed before the end of the Olympic cycle, and as soon as it came to an end, Lysenko was free. A new contract with him was never made.

“In Lysenko’s case, it was probably the financial component that had worked. Although at the moment, our region provides its leading athletes with the support that is quite comparable to Moscow. Our region did not extend the contract with the young man because he was making points for another subject of the Russian Federation while training with us. I believe that this decision was right. He is a good athlete though, there’s no arguing about that. He is in demand, he’s a member of the Russian National Team,” explained Andrei Babkin, the head coach of the select athletics team of the Voronezh Region.

Yulia Inshina, gymnastics

The trainee of the Shtukman Sports School was a representative of a galaxy of talented athletes who made a name for herself in the 2000s. In the 1990s, the region lost its best coaches - they went abroad, and when Kristina Pravdina and later Victoria Komova and Yulia Inshina started showing results, people immediately started talking about the revival of Voronezh gymnastics. At the 2011 World Cup, Komova won two “silvers” and “gold”, and Inshina won the “silver” in the team events. A year later, she became the third in the all-around at the Russian Cup, and in 2013, unexpectedly for many, she decided to represent Azerbaijan.

The leaders of this republic decided to develop gymnastics and looked for "legionnaires" who would become an example for girls who had just come to the local sports clubs. Athletes who went there received good salaries, housing conditions, and a chance to qualify for international competitions at a lower level of competition. While performing for Azerbaijan, Inshina won two gold medals and one silver medal at the Islamic Solidarity Games.

“At the time Inshina left, she had little chance of joining the Russian National Team. Gymnasts should always have some specific goal before their eyes, and Yulia didn’t have a chance to go, for example, to the Olympics as part of our National Team. That is why she went to Azerbaijan, which needed ready-made athletes. There, Inshina no longer faced such a fierce level of competition and, at the same time, extended her sports life, so her choice was justified,” said Vera Kolesnikova, senior coach of the select gymnastics team of the Voronezh Region.

Yulia Kalgina, Sambo

The trainee of the Talovo Youth Sports School won the “silver” of the Central Federal District Championship in 2018 and received a “ticket” to the all-Russian championship. The specialists were encouraged by this success - shortly before that, sambo received the recognition of the International Olympic Committee, and the region received this news having a promising trainee. In 2019, the girl from Novaya Chigla won the European Championship. After that, Kalgina was offered a personal scholarship, and she left.

“Kaluga offered Yulia good conditions, with a decent financial component too. It’s a shame that this happened. Kalgina was our leading athlete in this sport, this is a heavy loss,” confessed Andrei Lebedev, head coach of the region’s sambo team.

Margarita Mkrtchyan, Taekwondo

The fan of Jackie Chan and Jean-Claude Van Damme started doing Taekwondo at the age of 13 despite the fact that her parents were against the girl’s passion for martial arts at first. After the first results came, they changed their opinion. At 16, the girl became the European champion among juniors and a year later, she won the world championship as well. Mkrtchyan was perceived as the first Voronezh Taekwondo athlete who had a chance to go to the Olympics, but already at the beginning of the cycle, the girl left the city because of disagreements with coach Vadim Ivanov and began to perform for Stavropol Krai. While representing this region, she won four European Championship medals and performed at the Olympics in Athens.

“At that point, several factors came together at once. The parents of the athlete moved to live in Yessentuki, and the Taekwondo athlete’s relationship with her coach started going bad. This happens, these types of things are hard to factor in. But it is always disappointing when an athlete changes the region, Mkrtchyan really had every chance of becoming the first Voronezh Taekwondo athlete at the Olympics,” said Alexei Zenishchev, the head coach of the select Taekwondo team of the Voronezh Region.

In 2013, Margarita Mkrtchyan died in an accident on the territory of the Karachay-Cherkess Republic.

Alexander Varlamov and Andrei Mamontov, diving

Varlamov, like Mamontov, started doing diving from the age of seven. Both specialized in diving from 10-meter towers. In 1997, they became silver medalists in the European Championship in synchronized diving. Before the 2000 European Championship, Varlamov broke his wrist and lost the chance of going to Sydney for the Olympics. And after the Games, the management of the Russian National Team decided to conduct a sharp rejuvenation of the team’s composition, so the Voronezh athletes, one of whom was 21 years old and the other 19, realized that there were few prospects in Russia. In 2002, the athletes moved to Belarus, for which they immediately won two “bronzes” at the European Championship. In 2003, they won the FINA Grand Prix finals. The peak of the duo's career was the performance at the 2004 Olympics in Athens: Varlamov took 27th place, Mamontov – the 30th.

“The guys left because they were good athletes but still could not get into the Russian National Team. Unfortunately, they could not climb above the Russian Cup. They were appreciated because they dove from a 10-meter tower – there has always been a shortage of such specialists in our sport. And in Belarus, they could succeed and make their way to the Olympics. And that’s how their departure turned out to be justified. Yes, they did not win medals there, but this is where the Olympic motto is applicable: "It's not the winning, it's the taking part." After that, Mamontov stayed in Belarus, started a family there, and even worked for some time as the head coach of the national team. And Varlamov returned to Voronezh and now works as a trainer at a sports school,” said Yelena Zagrebelnaya, the head coach of the select diving team of the Voronezh Region.

Ksenia Dobrynina, cycling

While representing the Voronezh Region, the athlete won the “bronze” of the Russian Youth Spartakiad, won the Russian Cup, and became the silver medalist of the European Championship. In 2019, Dobrynina began performing for the Rostov Region and brought this region the “bronze” of the Russian Road Cycling Championship in the individual 30 km race. At the international level, the Voronezh athlete represents the Italian Servetto - Piumate - Beltrami TSA club.

“Dobrynina is our Voronezh athlete, who at some point began to perform for our region and the Rostov Region as part of the parallel ranking. And then she moved and began to represent Rostov-on-Don on an ongoing basis. Of course, this is a loss for us. After all, she is a Russian National Team level athlete, she is a candidate for performing at the Olympic Games. But such episodes regularly happen nationwide, athletes go where they are offered better conditions,” explained Alexander Yeliferov, the head coach of the select cycling team of the Voronezh Region.

Alexei Voronin, freestyle wrestling

The athlete was considered a rising star. Heavyweights have always been rare, so experts kept an eye on Voronin with special interest. The trainee of Vladimir Skudnev won the o Russian Championship among juniors, the Open Moscow Cup, the Cup of Russia, and the European Championship. After that, the Voronezh Region began to cooperate with CSKA, and the leading Voronezh heavyweights began to perform for Moscow in parallel.

After performing for two regions, Voronin focused on representing the capital and claimed to participate in the 2008 Olympics. But the Voronezh athlete did not get to the Games. In December 2007, he defeated Bakhtiyar Akhmedov at the Cup of the Governor of Krasnodar Krai, and Akhmedov rushed to prove his superiority with his fists. Voronin suffered a double jaw fracture, and the instigator of the fight underwent only a conditional disqualification, which allowed him to participate in competitions and qualify for the Olympics. In Beijing, Akhmedov took the second place, but eight years later, the winner of the fight Artur Taymazov was deprived of the "gold" for doping, and the offender of the Voronezh wrestler was declared the winner of the Games. And Voronin, after what happened in Krasnodar, had never recovered. According to the coaches, he was disappointed with the outcome of the proceedings. Having left for Kaliningrad, he ended his career.

“There wasn’t even a fight in that episode, it was just a sucker punch. After that, Alexei desponded, he didn’t have the zeal he used to anymore. He left for Canada for a while, then returned. He didn’t manage to endure and redo the great work that he had already done,” complained Alexander Tambovtsev, the head coach of the select freestyle wrestling team of the Voronezh Region.

Marina Nekrasova, gymnastics

The athlete was a prominent gymnast at the level of the Central Federal District Championship, but she did not get into the Russian National Team - the level of competition was too high. Only once she was invited to the National Team, but the girl did not go because her coach could not go with her. Nekrasova already wanted to end her career at age 18 when she was offered to move to Azerbaijan. The girl decided to give herself a second chance and surprised everyone. She brought the “gold” of the Islamic Games to Azerbaijan’s National Team, a medal of the World Cup, the “gold” of the Universiade. Even now, at the age of 25, she is successful in one of the “youngest” sports.

“Nekrasova won the Russian Championship, she was a good gymnast, but still did not qualify for our country’s National Team. Azerbaijan began to assemble a team and invited good Russian athletes and coaches. In addition to Nekrasova, the Pravdins family left too. Marina Nekrasova is a good athlete, she was selected for the Olympics and is still in good shape. She comes to Voronezh and always visits Shtukman Sports School’s gym ur. She took part in top competitions and benefited Azerbaijan, she justified this country’s trust,” said Vera Kolesnikova, the head coach of the select gymnastics team of the Voronezh Region.