Yuriy Borzakovskiy, photo by PhotoRun.net
Borzakovskiy Adjusts to New Role and Predicts World Records
Just two years ago, the Athens 2004 Olympic champion the 800m Yuriy Borzakovskiy was aiming to compete at the home World Championships, but a severe cold got the best of him. This summer the 34-year-old father of two is definitely going to the World Championships in Beijing, as the head coach of the Team Russia. Being in this role for just __ months, he has already won two big competitions – the European Indoor Championships in Prague and the European Cup Race Walking in Murcia. Next goal – the home victory at the European Team Championships.
Adjusting to the new role
What does the typical day in the life of the Team Russia Head Coach Yuriy Borzakovskiy look like?
– I wake up at 6.30am, feed my kids, feed my dogs, drop the kids off at school and go to the office. After the day at the office, I take care of my fitness. I either go for a run or play soccer. That is pretty much it. Sometimes, of course, I get to travel – to training camps or competitions.
How did it feel switching from being a full-time athlete to a 9-5 desk job?
– I’ve gotten adjusted by now, it feels more comfortable than it used to and the work itself feels more comfortable. Having a great team in the office helps. And anyways, we sometimes get up and walk back and forth along the corridors (laughs).
Your first big competition as the head coach was the European Indoor Championships three months ago. How nervous were you? More than when you were competing yourself?
– You should ask my athletes whether I was nervous (laughs). Of course, I was. But the event was very well organized, all team and personal coaches as well as team physios did their job perfectly, too. We got a good result medal wise, as well, so no complaints.
Right training methodology – the key for development
We were on top of the medal table in Prague, but we still have our traditionally strong events (pretty much all field events and women’s 400m-3000m) and weak events. What is the key to making the national team more balanced?
– Some events need their training methodology restructured, deeper insights science and medicine wise. If we take, for example, men’s endurance events where I’m coming from, I had high results due to improvements in those areas. If we could apply that to younger athletes, we’ll see results.
Do you see a new middle distance star to follow your footsteps among our youth athletes?
– We do have strong boys in middle distances. Look out for Konstantin Tolokonnikov, who was second at the World Youth Championships in 2013. It’s too early to make big predictions, because they are still young, still growing. But their youth performances are promising. Some other names in the 800m-1500m are Denis Bashkirtsev, Anton Kozolv, Konstantin Kholmogorov. They are around 18-20 years old now, while their bodies start to get to full strength at 23, so we’ll see what happens.
Do you coach or mentor any 800m runners?
– Of course, I give a piece of advice to any coach or athlete who turns to me. Head coaches for endurance events do that too, Evgeniy Pudov and Dmitriy Bogdanov. Dmitriy was a competitive runner just recently, he was my training partner. I’m absolutely confident in these people; we can provide up and coming athletes with good advice.
You are actually strongly involved with youth track & field development in Russia being the president of the Youth Spike (combined events competitions for athletes aged 10-15 and kids master classes held across the country). Is this movement growing?
– It definitely helps in track & field promotion. Every year, we have more and more participants and the results are growing, as well. School coaches are working in the right direction, but it’s important to keep the balance. Overloading such young kids can make them hate the sport forever, so we have to keep the game element in that. And we need to make sure we pay attention to coaches’ development, as well. We are planning to bring national team specialists in for seminars with school coaches.
I feel like many leaders of our team don’t compete enough abroad before the national championships, which negatively influences their media and marketing exposure. Would you agree?
– I actually don’t think it is so. We have a pool of athletes who start doing Diamond League events early in May, such as Dmitriy Tarabin, Mariya Abakumova, Ivan Ukhov, Svetlana Shkolina, Darya Klishina, Segey Shubenkov. So our leaders aren’t hiding at home.
But the lack of media attention is definitely something we have to deal with. What can we do to make our athletes more marketable?
– Would be great to have more sponsors who would use our athletes as ambassadors. Like in soccer. I respect our soccer teams, but they are not the best in the world. Still, every Russian knows the national squad members. Why? Because they are in TV ads of everything, starting from snacks to Gazprom. Track & field athletes could have been just as good at that, but they get overlooked. It makes sense though, because athletics is less popular than soccer. It’s like a vicious circle. We need more investment in athletes to make them more successful and popular and then to host a circuit of international meets in Russia to give them more exposure within the country.
“Sub-1:40 is definitely possible…”
Do you still follow your event on the international level? What do you expect from Rudisha this year?
– I hope he recovers after his injury struggles. I’ve talked to him back when I was still competing myself. His levels of training intensity are extremely high. It’s understandable, he is going for fast times. But fast times are not always easy on the body. Every athlete chooses what’s right for him. I like him as an athlete and as a person, so I wish him all the very best.
How low do you think the world record could go?
– It’s possible to run sub 1:40. Most certainly. I probably could have tried that too on my peak. But I chose a different approach. One can run a sub-1:40 once or twice in your career and see your body give up on you. Or one can ran less stunning times, but have a long career.
Gearing up for Cheboksary and Beijing
Who are the athletes who can surprise us this season in the Team Russia?
– First of all, the pole vaulter Anzhelika Sidorova, definitely has a huge potential, we can see 5.00m from here soon. Yekaterina Koneva, Mariya Kuchina, decathlete Ilya Shkurenyov, Yelena Korobkina. In the middle distances, look out for Anastasiya Bazdyreva (Russian indoor champion in the 800m). She is 23, but she hasn’t been training as a pro athlete for that long, so she is still improving rapidly and her time is about to come. We have good 400m hurdler runners coming up, Timofey Chalyi, Denis Kudryavtsev.
Russia is hosting the European Team Championships in Cheboksary in June. We’re trying to gain the revenge on Germany at home. Can we pull that off?
– I hope so. Our athletes are very ambitious; they want to win at home. Especially as they have competed in Cheboksary’s stadium so many times during the Nationals. It definitely feels like home for the whole team. And we will definitely find the right words to keep them focussed over those two days.