Sport Invitational Games

Sport gives children faith in themselves

On the first day of the Special Olympics Russia Winter Invitational Games in Kazan, a light frost, hundreds of fans at the stands of the Burevestnik Stadium and a pleasant surprise all gave a warm welcome to the athletes and coaches.

The Opening Ceremony was attended by the Olympic champion Aleksandr Legkov who had a snowshoeing besides his welcoming speech. Even after the end of his career, the winner of the 50km marathon in Sochi is in good shape. But in a new sport, he had to work hard to get into the top five. Alexander himself, after the training run, pointed out the good fitness shape of his rivals.

“Only physical and sports health will not let you win. You have to train right in this sport. Today the athletes showed that no matter who you were in a past sports life, it’s difficult to win with physics only,” Legkov said and wished good luck to all participants.

Having received additional positive energy, the athletes one by one went on a special snow track. On Thursday, spectators saw the divisioning at 25 m, 100 m, and 400 m distances, in which 196 athletes from 31 regions of the Russian Federation competed. Moreover, some participants represented regions where snow is rare even in winter.

“We are from the Krasnodar Krai, and we had little snow this winter. Almost all the time we trained on the grass, and in Kazan, it is fair to say, we are racing in the snow for the second time this year. We are happy with the result. Well done!” said the coach Igor Steparev, whose ward Alexey Kruglyakov ran at a 25 m distance. “Sport is our entire life. I want the guys to get engaged in sports, and it brings them happiness, health and joy. Eight children represent the Krasnodar Krai. The very idea of the Invitational Games is just great.”

Emotions during the races were over-the-top not only for the participants, but also for their coaches, who heartily congratulated the athletes at the finish line, regardless of their places. The head coach of the Sverdlovsk region in snowshoeing Svetlana Starikova was very active in supporting her team and told about the preparation for the Invitational Games.

“These competitions are very important for the guys. You may see how happy they are. We have been preparing and waiting for this event for a long while. The atmosphere is very friendly and positive. Everything is very well-established and goes really well. My girls practice snowshoeing from 4 to 6 years. We have already competed in Tyumen and Novosibirsk, and now we are in Kazan,” Svetlana Starikova said. “Over than this, we do track and field, so it was not difficult for us to swap for snowshoes.”

The geography of the races participants was very extensive. Athletes from the Central part of Russia, the Urals, Western and Eastern Siberia were represented at the Burevestnik stadium. As the coach Olga Lomaloma, who helped athletes from Irkutsk region, noted the sports festival was especially important in the period of the pandemic.

“For me, the Invitational Games is a big event. During this period of the pandemic, we were searching for the ways for the children to show themselves, not to sit around. Snowshoeing is a new sport, and it gives great opportunities to fulfill yourself, to believe in yourself,” Olga Lomalova emphasized. “Many of children live in boarding schools, some do not have parents. Sport gives them a boost to their future life, gives them faith in themselves. And when they gather together at sports events, communicate with each other, it helps them to socialize among people, to believe in their own strength.”

Alexandra Lisitsyna from the Arkhangelsk Oblast has been combining sports and studies since childhood. She took up a “cook and waiter” job, and after the 400 m winning race she shared the recipe of how she manages to keep up with both jobs.

“Studying does not interfere with sports; neither does sport do with learning. The main thing is not to play truant and pass the tests on time. You need patience, diligence and skill,” the athlete explained. “Today I was mentally supported by my coach and friends from Severodvinsk. Everyone was rooting for me, and it gave me strength. I understood that you need to try very hard!”

The first final snowshoe races will be held at the Burevestnik Stadium on Friday. The competition starts at 10.00.