Our today’s interlocutor Viktor Petrovich Alekseev is an Honored Master of Sports of the USSR in freestyle wrestling, an Honored Coach of Russia. In the rank of an active athlete, he is a two-time winner, silver and bronze medalist of the world championships, two-time European champion, USSR champion of 1979, 1981, 1983 and 1985, winner of the World Super Cup and five-time World Cup triumphant, winner of the Spartakiad of the Peoples of the USSR … Alekseev’s pupil Adam Saitiev won the title of Olympic champion at the 2000 Games in Sydney. His other student, Zaur Botaev, is the silver medalist of the World Championship. Last week, the regional team won the Russian Cup under his leadership.
Viktor Alekseev grew up on the outskirts of the Krasnoyarsk right bank near the Pier. As a boy, he began his sports career with hockey and football. Everything seemed to be going well. And suddenly – a sharp change of course.
– Viktor Petrovich, why is it still free-style wrestling?
– (Smiling) A coincidence: my father was given an apartment from the pulp and paper mill where he worked. They settled in the area of the Stone Quarter, where there was a sports complex “Builder”, now – “Healthy World”. I always wanted to fight, and my friend Volodya Muryzin was engaged in freestyle wrestling in the “Builder”. He brought me there. He began to learn wrestling from Vladimir Leonidovich Gusev. And that’s all – disappeared for hockey and football.
– Was it hard after sports games on the carpet?
– My brothers – Valera and Volodya, my childhood was not easy. We used to live in a private house. And they dragged water, sawed and chopped wood, and helped around the house … We grew up in labor, so for me the transition to such a difficult sport as wrestling brought only joy. In terms of my physical data, I did not stand out in anything: when I came to Gusev, I weighed only 35 kg, but apparently God gave me the talent to work. I never dreamed that in five years – in 1975 I would become the winner of the USSR youth championship. I just wanted to be strong. I also brought Valera and Volodya to the section. Both became good wrestlers, great coaches.
– Did you set high goals for yourself from the very beginning?
– When the first successes appeared, I wanted to become a master of sports. Then, when I felt that I could achieve more, I set myself the goal of becoming the world champion. There were reasons for the dream: in 1975 I became the champion of the Spartakiad of the Peoples of Russia among adults, a year later – the European champion among youth, and in 1977 – won the European Championship among adults and went to the World Championship, where I became the second. If someone like that told me about this in 1970, when he just started to fight, he would not believe it.
– That is, to achieve a high result, you need to train for at least five or seven years?
– Yes, but sometimes more. I only came into the fight at fourteen. And the focus on the work of the athlete himself is very important. When Adam Saitiev arrived in Krasnoyarsk, he was also a small, nothing like an unremarkable young man. However, he was so charged for wrestling, he tried so hard that five years later he became the Olympic champion in the weight category up to 84 kg.
– What was your most memorable personal victory? Probably the first at the World Championship in 1983?
– You know, I am so arranged that I remember almost all the significant fights. Both won and those who lost. But perhaps the most important thing for me was the victory in the USSR Championship in 1979.
– How does this compare?
– Winning gold in those years was tantamount to winning the battle area victoriously. It was very difficult to become a champion because the competition was extremely high. I fought in the weight of 57 kg, but over the years it became harder and harder to cut the weight before the start. Dmitry Georgievich Mindiashvili, however, did not approve of the transition to the 62 kg category, but when I said that I was either moving or leaving the fight altogether, he gave the go-ahead. Such a transition to a higher weight is usually difficult, but in my case it was not so – I immediately burst into the ranks and became the champion of the country. It’s a pity that I didn’t get to the Moscow Olympics, because I was injured in a car accident when I was driving to the final camp. It was not my fault: I was sitting in the passenger seat.
– And when you became the world champion, did you feel different than after victories in the country?
– When I first went to the world championship, there was no excitement at all: I was fighting as in training. Everything was easy, I performed freely. It was more difficult in Europe – the first two fights had to be fought with the main contenders for gold. The fight was very difficult, because, in fact, for the first time I fought against adult athletes at competitions of this level. Before that I had only the experience of the international tournament in Tbilisi, which became victorious for me. But closer to the final and in the final of the European Championship, I easily figured out my opponents.
– How did you become a coach?
– At one of the trainings of the USSR national team, its head coach Ivan Sergeevich Yarygin took me by the hand and put the athletes in the ranks of coaches. Everything happened quickly and easily. (Smiling) I didn’t have time to feel that I became a coach. But, of course, when I was training the national team for the first five to seven years, I didn’t feel like a coach to the full. Such an understanding came only after their own students appeared and began to grow in sports terms. He trained the wrestlers, though not from scratch, he picked up the guys who had already passed the initial training and brought them further. Of course, Mindiashvili, Yarygin and my first coach, Gusev, helped me to become a good coach. It also helped that, being an athlete, he always kept diaries. I noticed and wrote down in them the peculiarities of carrying out certain techniques of outstanding wrestlers, with whom I trained side by side or performed at competitions. And the very method of training, the distribution of loads in training cycles, I remembered with each of my cells.
– Your student Adam Saitiev became an Olympic champion. Were there other talented guys under your command?
– Of course, even more talented than Adam. They became masters of sports, even played for the Russian national team. However, success depends not only on the coach, but also on the athlete himself, his character.
– It is generally accepted that talented people have a difficult character. Was it hard to work with Adam Saytiev?
– Students like Adam meet as a coach, probably once every hundred years. He is not only a gifted person: Adam literally burned in training. He had such a desire to fight, to fight well, that few could compare with him in this regard. Besides, on the carpet, Adam was a master of improvisation. Seeker, active athlete. We spoke the same language with him. Show, tell, how to perform the throw, and he will immediately create several more variants of it. I absorbed everything like a sponge and added my own. If something didn’t work out for him, he left the audience and continued thinking, analyzing … The next day he came – and everything worked out as it should. We had a co-creation that every coach can only dream of. It is a pity that the injury prevented Adam from achieving more in sports.
– Why are you expelled from the group?
– I’m not expelled – I work with everyone. After all, a person has the right to make a mistake and the right to correct it, to reconsider his attitude to business. Even if he does not win an Olympic medal, he will certainly become a strong, skillful person who can protect his girlfriend, family, and his country. Many guys come to me asking to train in our group. I immediately warn them that wrestling is a hard sport and the way up lies only through work, there is no other way.
– Why did you graduate from the Faculty of Law, and not the sports faculty?
– It so happened that at the Krasnoyarsk State University I was able to provide a free schedule for attending classes, passing exams, and at the Pedagogical Institute at the Faculty of Physical Education – no. Such a schedule was necessary because at that time I was an active athlete, played for the national team and spent a lot of time away from Krasnoyarsk. At the same time, I understood the need for higher education. Dmitry Georgievich Mindiashvili helped to correctly identify the situation. He introduced me to the rector of KSU, the dean of the law faculty of the university.
– Was it difficult to study?
– Interesting. And, although I myself now tell the guys that it is impossible to successfully combine two things, I am a maximalist by nature. I don’t stop halfway. If I started chopping wood, then I will chop everything and put it in a woodpile. We must do everything well and bring it to the end. The Faculty of Law is a serious faculty, but he also studied and graduated with grades no worse than everyone else’s. And I’m even a little proud of it. Although at first it was really very difficult. Seven years of study at the university gave not only knowledge, but also a deeper understanding of life, its various aspects. Communication with people like Boris Kirillovich Rzhepko and Valery Vasilievich Pitetsky was a gift of fate for me. Both were unique personalities, and I am very grateful to them for the fact that they taught me how to study at a university, taught me how to gain knowledge myself away from the classroom, taught me to better understand people and find contact with each person. All this remained with me for life. Like the university friends we meet, we help each other.
– When I was young abroad, I was amazed, surprised by the life there?
– I was always proud that I live in the USSR, in Krasnoyarsk. When I stood on the podium at the World Championships, and after my victory our flag went up and played the anthem, tears flowed in me. On the other hand, indeed, when I came to America, I compared how people live there and how we live. But he did not lose his head, although it was very sad: I thought that Soviet people deserve a good life, perhaps to a greater extent than Americans. I wondered why we ourselves cannot live like this. For all that, I have always admired and admire our people, Siberia, where I grew up – I have never met anyone or anything more worthy of this feeling.
– So what do we need to do to live like a foreign country?
– We need to respect each other more, to be more collected, concentrated on our affairs, to do them honestly – then our country will become better. We have already taken a big step forward, and even with all that we do not like, I believe that everything will turn out over time. I believe in young people: they are more courageous, more initiative. She does much more in life than even people of my generation.
– Do you regret that you were born early – would you turn around now?
– Every time is good and interesting in its own way, if you do your job honestly. In whatever city, whatever country I come to now, I meet friends everywhere. So, apparently, I did not live my life in wrestling in vain.
– What advice would you give to the boys from the outskirts?
– Indeed, mostly boys come to us in free wrestling and remain from the outskirts, as I was myself. I would advise them to understand that our bread – probably to a greater extent than in any other kind of sport – comes with hard work. But thanks to wrestling, for example, both my brothers and my childhood friends, although they grew up, as they say, on the street, they all grew up and took place in adulthood. And in the sense of a career, and in terms of family. A computer, discos – all this in itself is not bad. However, you have to be an active person – not just a user of life. The passivity of some young people themselves leads to the same drug addiction. After all, you don’t need to do anything yourself to get pleasure. And none of these guys really think about what will happen next …
– That is, sports is a panacea for many troubles?
– Not only sports, but also other creative, constructive hobbies: music, dancing, drawing, modeling. But sport is very important. Boys and girls grow up healthy and strong. Having gone through work in training, they are more prepared for life, for work, for the struggle for their future. I know many athletes who have become prominent figures everywhere, no matter what they are doing now. We all aspired to become leaders, to become the best – in wrestling, skiing, hockey … And we tried to study better at school: the competition continued in the classes. And we all need to appreciate the fact that at all times the leadership of both the city and the Krasnoyarsk Territory paid a lot of attention to physical culture and sports. We still have excellent conditions for sports: somewhere better, somewhere a little worse. But neither the parents nor the children themselves need to wait for the coach to come to class, take you by the hand and lead you to the section.
– Would you also start your life again by signing up for a section?
– Of course. The fight is very interesting and captured me entirely. The first 10-12 years after the end of the athlete’s career, almost every night, fights on the carpet dreamed.
– Victories or defeats?
– More victorious fights: your own or those of my students. And if you compare my experiences as a wrestler and a coach, it is easier for an athlete. He splashes out his own emotions on the carpet, rises to the pedestal already calm. The coach keeps everything to himself, therefore, when he left with the national team – already as one of her mentors, it was much harder. It seems to be young, healthy, and the heart squeezes like never before. (Laughing) You sit on a chair, take the second, but you just want to run out onto the carpet – to hold the reception yourself. But standing on a pedestal is more pleasant than looking at a student from the side. Feelings are different, but both are remembered for life.
– What is the most important thing, what have you managed to do in your life?
– I would like to prepare one more Olympic champion. I would like to finish building a house where my wife and I could invite all our friends. Sit, reminisce about young years, just talk, discuss something from our present life. And also – that the national freestyle wrestling team of the Krasnoyarsk Territory was the strongest team in Russia.