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    “It would be unpleasant to walk around Paris spat upon.” Bright interview with Zaitseva

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    For almost 15 years, Olga Zaitseva has forced millions of fans across the country to follow biathlon broadcasts. Two gold relays at the Olympics in Turin and Vancouver will forever remain in the memory, as will many other outstanding performances of the athlete. In an interview with Sport, Zaitseva spoke about what she is doing now, recalled her work with Wolfgang Pichler, outlined her position on the neutral status of Russian athletes and spoke vividly about the head of the IOC, Thomas Bach.

    – How What is your typical day like now?

    – Now I work at the Moscow Academy of Ski Racing and Biathlon in the sports department. This is an organization that provides sports training in cross-country skiing and biathlon. We are raising a new generation of healthy champions, instilling in them a sense of patriotism, instilling in them a love of work through training. As for my children, one is already big and independent and continues to play hockey as a goalkeeper. The youngest is also signed up for hockey, but is a field player. I take him to training during my lunch at work and am very grateful to our parents who help take Stepan back home.

    – Looks like a busier life compared to when you were running at the World Cup.

    – So it is. Sometimes you want to become an athlete again (laughs).

    – You didn’t realize this then either?

    – I didn’t understand. I was sure that life after sports would be easy. In fact, it is also interesting and good, just in a different format. My sister and coach Oksana often said that we should enjoy the current period, the future will be more interesting. I always want to convey to athletes who are worried that some things don’t work out and they want to stop halfway. They need to learn to overcome difficulties, continue to do what they love and go to the end of their plans, as long as age and time allow.

    – Did you have a hard time after finishing your professional career?– It seems a bit difficult to me, but more because of the accusations. In 2015, I finished biathlon, then our second child was born. All mothers know what the first years after pregnancy are like. And then 2017 happened and all these unpleasant processes related to doping. In general, in parallel with all this, I was also involved in social activities, I never got bored.

    – There was no desire to just take a year off and enjoy life?

    – It turns out that when I finished my career, it was a rest. And I also perceive the period of proceedings as a period of rest.

    – There is an opinion that after the birth of a child, biathletes’ results improve. There are many examples, including the World Cup. What is the secret here?

    – When I had my first child in March 2007, I didn’t train at all during the summer. We went to an independent training camp for the first time in October, followed by participation in competitions in January. It was very difficult. And only with the permission of the management I was included in the national team in June 2008, where I slowly got involved in the workload and was able to win the main place in the team only in December 2008. But in 2009 I returned fully and became the world champion. Yes, there are many athletes who quickly recover and improve. For me, this process dragged on a little after two years, but in general there really is a tendency that the body is renewed after childbirth.

    – One of the brightest and most controversial periods in Russian biathlon is associated with the work of Wolfgang Pichler at the head of the women's team. How did you see all this from the inside?

    – I just wanted to end my career and, in principle, did it in 2011 after the World Championships in Khanty-Mansiysk, but after a short break and conversations with management, we decided to try to train with a foreign specialist. It was actually a good period and a very interesting experience. I enjoyed working with him. This is a competent coach who brought new knowledge to my career. Before the 2014 Olympics, I really wanted to celebrate the New Year at home in Moscow with my son. In the end, Wolfgang agreed because he understood how much I missed the child. Perhaps it should have been banned, but he is too human in this regard. As a result, I got sick, which affected the performance in Sochi. In general, yes, I had a good relationship with him. Perhaps, due to experience, I was not afraid to communicate with him, but someone else was probably shy. I don't speak English super well, but if two people want to understand each other, you can always agree.

    – Communication Has it survived?

    – Yes, we wish each other a happy birthday. Pavel Rostovtsev also regularly communicates with him. Wolfgang was still quite ill. Thank God now, as far as I know, everything is fine with him. He continues to work as a coach, but he’s just not as active anymore.

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    – Do you still have contact with other foreign coaches or athletes?

    – Honestly speaking, no. Of course, when we met, we were always ready to exchange a few words, but nothing more.

    – Have you noticed that the attitude towards Russian athletes has changed over time? Previously, the IBU positioned itself as a stronghold of the biathlon family.

    – At the moment I can’t say whether it has changed or not, since I don’t go to competitions. There was a biathlon family when we were present there, but now it is a community where there is no important part and therefore there is no family.

    – Has your process of struggle for justice stopped?< br>

    – It has already actually ended, everything is in the past. What could be the process?

    – That is, there is no point in filing new appeals?

    – It's useless. You can see for yourself what the situation is. Now our heroic fighters in the Northern Military District are defending the country. And we were the first defenders of Russia in terms of sports, because the attacks came precisely in this area. But we cannot be broken, difficulties strengthen us and, on the contrary, we become strong and united.

    – What do you think in this regard about the participation of Russian athletes in the Olympic Games in a neutral status?

    – I have an opinion that may not please everyone. If I were an athlete now, I would not go to any Olympic Games. There is no certainty of safety in Paris. And there is no point. You will become an Olympic champion in neutral status. They will not count points in favor of Russia, and the athletes, as I said above, are the defenders of their country in the sports springboard. We are constantly being punished for unknown reasons, and this has been going on for years. Complete double standards. Israel is easily allowed in, but we are not. So let every athlete think and make his choice, agreeing with his conscience.

    – Can there be provocations, including when entering the country?
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    – Undoubtedly. Although no one knows this for sure now. It would just be unpleasant for me to go there and be spat upon. In theory, you can, on the contrary, walk with your head held high and convey the truth to everyone. I probably would have done so, although with such a position I would not have been at the Games. I am a patriot of my homeland to the core, I will do everything for the prosperity of our country. Someone will say that it’s easy for me to say this because I’ve already been to all the Olympics and World Championships. But I really think so and am confident in my opinion.

    Young athletes will still have the opportunity to participate in major international competitions. Moreover, there are more than enough starts within the country. There are great prizes. We didn't have so many tournaments when we competed internationally! Russia has everything for development. The money stays in the country, no one spends it abroad. Little athletes look at Bolshunov, Stepanova, Ustyugov, Loginov, Kazakevich and many other athletes of national teams, see how they work in training in summer and winter. And for them this is a great example and incentive.

    – What is your opinion about Thomas Bach?

    – What can you even think about him? To be honest, I have even stopped reading his statements. The person is not for sports, not for Olympism. As he was told, so he does. This is simply an appointed person who carries out instructions from above. We all understand that someone else is in charge of the process. If he were a man with a firm hand and his own opinion, that’s one thing. And so he obviously can’t cope. Therefore, he follows the herd of sheep.

    – After our victory, how, in your opinion, will the process of returning to world competitions take place? After all, we will have to deal with the same people with a high degree of probability.

    – They are afraid that we will create an alternative system. We just need to return the Olympic values, read the Olympic Charter and follow it, create something new and real. I'm sure the world will return to normal at some point. It’s hard to break everything, but they do it themselves. Everything will be fine, just not so fast. The whole country needs to fight for this. And victory will be ours!

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