Ilgar Mamedov: "In this difficult moment for the country, we have tried not only for ourselves but also for those barred from the Olympics"
The Russian team's success in fencing became one of the major surprises and sensations of the Olympic Games in Rio. No other country has been able to win five gold medals at one Olympic Games in this intellectual sport since 1920. The head coach of the Russian national fencing team, two-time Olympic champion Ilgar Mamedov, told Vestnik Kavkaza about the Olympic victories and the doping scandal.
- How did the doping scandal affect fencing?
- The doping scandal largely affected those sports where doping can be used. There is no doping in fencing, and we experienced only minor stress. It was unfortunate that our other athletes were suspended, Yelena Isinbayeva's dismissal from the Olympics was totally unfair. She could have become a three-time Olympic champion. For every athlete it is a tragedy when they are not allowed to perform.
The President of the International Fencing Federation, Alisher Usmanov, said that only officials and those athletes who used doping should be punished, not those clean athletes who do not use and have never used it. Athletes from other countries also voiced their support.
- Are you satisfied with the results of our fencers?
- Of course! The result is outstanding, it's a pleasure that we finished these four years with such a phenomenal result. We are very pleased that in this very difficult moment for the country we were able to do a little bit more. Because we have tried not only for ourselves, but also for those who were not allowed to participate in the Olympic Games.
- Who were your main rivals?
- They are different in different types of weapons. The Italians, Americans and French are good in the men's foil. Ukraine and the United States in the women's saber, and all the rivals in the men's and women's epee are equally dangerous, because many teams have equal strength. We knew the toss in advance, were preparing specifically for these meetings, knowing with whom we will compete.
- How do you assess the performance of the Azerbaijani fencers?
- Sabina Mikina lost the first battle to the Tunisian Azza Besbes, who trains and lives in France, like most Tunisian athletes. The French fencing school is very strong.
- Do you think enough attention is paid to fencing in Azerbaijan?
- Previously there was more. My father is not the head coach anymore [honored coach of the USSR and Azerbaijan, a participant in six Olympic Games, Yashar Mamedov, resigned as the national team's head coach in 2008 – VK]. Of course, age begins to tell, he is 81 years old now. Unfortunately, there are not many athletes and not enough funding, including for the payment of salaries to coaches and athletes.
- And how is it going in Armenia and Georgia?
- The athletes in men's saber are very strong in Georgia. The head coach of the Georgian national team, Merab Bazadze, who is a former saber fencer, got funding for the Georgian men's saber. He coaches his sons and other children, although his son Sandro Bazadze lost to future bronze medalist Kim from Korea to reach the quarterfinals at the Olympics. Despite the fact that Georgia has fewer financial options than Azerbaijan, more attention is paid to fencing there.
- How would you assess last year's First European Games in Baku?
- The European Games were great. Now Baku can easily make an application to host the Olympics. The Games were held at a very high level, beautiful gyms were built. And of course the hospitality of our people is something that has always been and will be. I haven't visited Baku as often as I would have liked. I don't spend much time in Moscow either – I live on the plane. But my brothers and my father live in Baku, this is my home town where I was born, where I grew up and took my first significant steps in fencing.