President of the National Olympic Committee of Armenia Gagik Tsarukyan gave a big and informative interview to “Aravot” daily.
-Mr. Tsarukyan, there is little time left to the Summer Olympics. Have our athletes begun the preparatory trainings?
-The preparations have begun after the 2012 Olympics and this refers not only us but all those countries that have big expectations form the Olympics. The modern sport leaves no time and it is a dynamic process which can’t be delayed for a month or two. So, our coaches and athletes started preparing for the most important event of the sports world 4 years ago. My task as a president of the National Olympic Committee was to create all conditions for athletes and everything was done for it. All modern methods, all effective scientific and coaching innovations have been applied. The whole technical base designed for athletes have been equipped and modernized. In this respect a lot of work has been done and is being continued. We have created a fair system of incentives and rewards for athletes and coaches and no one's effort and work won't remain without appreciation. The athletes are psychologically prepared which is very important and, perhaps, the most important. Our every athlete is conscious of that he is going to represent a state and realizes the idea of the state's authority and national dignity, especially, against the background of recent events.
-What do think how many athletes will represent Armenia at the upcoming Olympics?
-We do everything possible to take part in the Olympics with a larger delegation. It gives a great pleasure to participate with many athletes, especially, with strong athletes pretending to medals. Many issues depend not only on sports but the country's economy, people's well-being, sports infrastructures’ development. Create it and more people will be involved in both amateur and professional sport. There are countries that have more athletes than Armenia's population. I think we'll take part in the Olympics with 25-28 athletes. Our athletes should fight, perform well and take prize places at the Olympics. Of course, we know that the fight will be tough and every athlete has a different potential and not everyone can conquer a medal but we also know that our athletes are not going there as tourists. Our team spirit should be high and that's what I am trying to get.
- And what expectations do you have in terms of medals?
-I won't mention any name and the most likely candidates. I don't want to think of it though I know our abilities. Undoubtedly, we are going to do everything to win gold medals. We have an unprecedented strong team and every member of it is able to struggle for a medal. Time will show.
I want to say that we are pinning our hopes on the Greco-Roman and freestyle wrestlers. The four-year preparation period and brilliant success of our wrestlers inspire us with hope that we can achieve serious success at the Rio Olympics. We expect medals, particularly, gold medals. We have also expectations from our weightlifters as well as gymnasts. Our gymnasts' results at the World Championships and World Cup strengthen us before the Olympics. We have good judokas and boxers. The athlete that has gained Olympic qualification, performed well at European and world championships, reached semifinals of a qualifier can pretend to medals. Anyway, no one can predict or say by 100% that he will win a medal. Some athletes are accompanied by great success, others by painful and unexpected defeat. This is sport.
-Is there any probability of making a new discovery?
-Surely, it is probable. I even hope that some of the athletes will surprise us. We have such expectations because Olympic atmosphere gives more strength to athletes and it is possible we will witness an unexpected medal or victory. But I repeat that besides having a talent one should work hard.
-How unexpected was our weightlifters’ success at the European Championships. Did you expect it?
-Such accomplishments are never a surprise. Such surprises never happen in modern sport. It was preceded by a prolonged work. As for the number of medals it isn’t possible to guess it. These European Championships were special for us and our country and the fact that our team could deliver moments of happiness and pride to our people was important than the results. During welcoming the team at the airport I said that I was sure we could succeed not only in sports but also in other spheres in Europe. For it we need conditions, diligence, unity and faith in our own strength. I want to stress that the weightlifters have worked hard during the last 2-3 years and it isn’t casual that we are the best in Europe. After the London Olympics we drew some conclusions and now we can already see the results.
-How is the problem of complete trainings resolved in today’s economic and financial situation?
-We do our best to perform at the Olympics at a high level. Huge recourses are required to have proper trainings. Unfortunately, our country is lacking finances for sport development. For example, the National Olympic Committee of Armenia took on all expenses of the Weightlifting Federation of Armenia after the Federation President and Vice President had resigned in February of this year. Naturally, we couldn’t leave the federation in this situation and as a NOC President, I assumed all financial problems.
Anyway, I am confident that our athletes will represent Armenia in Rio with dignity. It’s not easy to compete with superpowers but our country has its special place in the Olympic family. Of course, the state supports us with all possible means but we understand that it impossible to solve serious problems with the state’s means. It is important to find the right formula for the state and private sector cooperation.
-Nowadays, the world is fighting for anti-doping values. What should we do in this situation and do we have any concerns?
-We are dealing with a problem which concerns not only athletes, coaches, sports doctors but also hundreds of millions of fans. And why not, also refers to states.
We have no right to lose in the anti-doping fight. We should multiply our efforts to protect the fair play and the universal principles of the Olympic movement.
The National Olympic Committee of Armenia has always put a lot of effort to avoid injustice and unfair competition. Our position is clear; we are in favor of a closer and more effective collaboration with international structures.
We are confident that any partiality and political context must be excluded within the anti-doping fight and we always mention it during the meetings with our partners.
It is obvious that an effective fight implies an investment of considerable financial resources. Not all states and national Olympic committees are in position to provide it. We should find mechanisms of cooperation between anti-doping organizations, Olympic committees and states. I am very happy to say that the National Olympic Committee of Armenia has advanced much in this issue and provided a new high level of cooperation.
We are in favor of fair play, I have given strict and special instructions to the presidents of all federations and sports doctors to be alert and follow all decisions of the WADA. We must succeed through honest struggle without harming our athletes’ health. We have held several conferences dedicated to Sports Medicine which were attended by representatives of anti-doping agencies and sports medicine, athletes and coaches. Moreover, we have allocated a huge section in the newly-built Olympic village for the anti-doping center which is outfitted with modern equipment. The center is headed by a wonderful specialist, Professor Areg Hovhannisyan who is also the president of the Eastern Europe anti-doping board. By the way, the last meeting of the agency was held in Tsakhkadzor.
We have to become one of the leaders of the anti-doping fight. I’ve even said that the athlete who will use stimulants will be disqualified with his coach. We don’t need such athletes and coaches.
-Your vision of sports development in our country.
-I think we should develop sports infrastructures, apply all innovations including all medical and coaching innovations, undertake professional training of coaches and involve more people in mass sports.
Undoubtedly, in our country the base of sports development are children. We should have sports schools where children will train and create necessary conditions for healthy growth. We need not only strong athletes but healthy and trained population. Those who serve in the army should be in good shape. Our country is small and we can’t ignore all those talented people you live in regions and villages. We have always worked in this direction. At present we work on a construction of new sports facilities and reconstruction of old ones.
We must do everything for modernization of old sports schools. Particularly in Sisian, a large scale construction of sports complex is being implemented nowadays. Athletes engaged in combat sports such as boxing, weightlifting, wrestling and judo are going to train here. Moreover, Armenia’s NOC always keeps in the centre of its attention all talented athletes of Armenia.
Simultaneously, we are building a sports school in Gyumri which will be a rather big complex and will host weightlifters, wrestlers and boxers. I have to say that there is a huge potential in sports in Shirak region, especially in Gyumri. The new building in Gyumri will have 4.000 square meters with a hotel where athletes and talented children from villages can also stay. Unlike the Sisian school we are going to construct here a playground designed for gaming.
-And when will Olympavan be ready?
-Before answering your questing I want to stress that we build such constructions on the basis of a further activity. Of course, great attention is paid to the four-year period but we should look farther to the next Olympics. And Davtashen’s Olympavan is designed not for these but the next Olympics and other four-year periods. We will reap its rewards in the next Olympic Games World and European Championships. I am hopeful that it will be in operation in September. The complex is comprised of three buildings – the NOC’s building, sports base and a hotel designed for athletes. In the sports base there will also be an anti-doping agency and a medical rehabilitation center equipped with creo refrigerators. Eeverything is done on my own initiative without a single penny from the state.
-And at the end what will you wish our athletes and fans?
-We have still much to do before the Olympics and our coaches and athletes are conscious of it. Our athletes are real professionals and I am confident they will approach with great seriousness to the last stage of preparation. I’d like wish them to be patient and remember that our state and entire nation support them, I wish them Olympic calmness, good luck and Olympic health.
As for our fans, I wish them a great faith and belief in our athletes, world famous and really patriotic athletes. You know I become an ordinary fan during tournaments and, perhaps, it is the most difficult moment for me. In a few months we all will be watching their performances, holding our breath, and I am sure feeling happiness and pride for them. God bless us all.