Prime Minister Vladimir Putin visits the Moskovsky sports and fitness centre in St Petersburg and takes part in a practice for Russian wrestlers


During his visit to the centre, Vladimir Putin inspected the pool and talked with an instructor, who told him that about 400 children swim at the Kometa sports school, including about 90 children aged six.

Then Mr Putin took a look at the presentation of the plans for the "Fight and Win" programme to develop wrestling until 2020.

Mr Putin also inspected a model of the Olymp youth sports and recreational centre.

After viewing the presentations, Mr Putin went into the locker room and changed into a judo gi to participate in a joint practice for freestyle and Greco-Roman wrestling, judo and sambo, which was being held as part of a programme between the Sport and Tourism Ministry and the national wrestling federations to prepare for the Olympic try-outs in 2011.

Mr Putin went to the mat and practiced four kinds of martial arts. After a warm-up with the judoists, he sparred briefly with European judo champion Yevgeny Stanev, as well as Arsen Galstyan, winner of the 2010 World Championship. Another of Mr Putin's sparring partners was the coach of Russia's national judo team Enzio Gamba.

Having spent about 40 minutes with the judoists, Mr Putin moved to a nearby mat, where samboists were warming up. Mr Putin listened to the coach's explanation and then tried to execute some moves of this Russian style of hand-to-hand combat.

At the end of the practice, the prime minister tried his hand at Greco-Roman and freestyle wrestling. The wrestlers demonstrated different types of holds and throws, and then Mr Putin himself tried to perform them. He started with basic throws, similar to those used in judo, before moving on to a rather complex throw, during which the wrestler flips his opponent while dropping to his back and turning over in the air.

After about an hour-long workout, Vladimir Putin thanked the athletes and talked with them on the mat for about 20 minutes.

Transcript of the meeting:

Vladimir Putin: Let's sit down and have a talk. We will talk about plans, problems and questions we have. Since Vitaly Mutko (Minister of Sport, Tourism and Youth Policy) is here, we can also discuss the problems of all types of wrestling. We have made a lot of progress in this sport, thanks to you and your results, of which we are proud, in judo, Sambo, and freestyle and Greco-Roman wrestling. Russia, and before it the Soviet Union, traditionally did quite well in Greco-Roman and freestyle wrestling, which is logical as we have a wonderful wrestling school. Whenever necessary, we borrow from our partners abroad by inviting coaches. Still, there are certainly many questions and problems...

Remark: Mr Putin, what you said is true, that our tasks are quite challenging due to the goals, traditions and level of responsibility. As for judo, I have expressed my opinion: those who want a shower of medals from the Russian judo section immediately...

Vladimir Putin: I want it. Are you talking about me?

Remark: All of us want it, but you cannot get it overnight. Only consistent and systematic work will produce the necessary result, which is also why, as you said, the best foreign specialists are hired. As for wrestling, we must live up to the traditions and heritage of previous generations, including the late Ivan Yarygin – God rest his soul – and many other champions, who have left a heritage we must not squander, because the London games are ahead. Of course, we have problems, but they are [not insolvable]... There has not been a single occasion when we were unable to deal with a vital question...

Vladimir Putin: But you mentioned London, where the next Olympic Games will be held rather soon ...

Vitaly Mutko: Yes, the evaluation process has begun.

Vladimir Putin: Exactly, the path is straight ahead, along with the training facilities and material, medical and biological support. You love your sport, of course, and you are healthy and training hard. But we know everything about the sport of records, and must ensure that all these elements make their contribution. Do you have sufficient material, medical and biological support?

Remark: The situation in this respect has changed dramatically in the past few years. Of course, we would also like the training sessions ...

Vitaly Mutko: Yes, there is a problem. Speaking about all types of wrestling, we still don't have a single federal training centre for the wrestling sections. They can train in Novogorsk and in Adler, where we will be moving. But we don't have a specialised federal centre, nothing in the mid-mountains. So, your decision to turn over the Kislovodsk centre to us is ...

Remark: ...salvation!

Vitaly Mutko: We have agreed that we should complete restructuring within a year, and our wrestlers will have a training centre in the mid-mountains. We will build a wrestling centre in Sochi, where a hotel has already been completed.

Next, we have agreed with the trade unions regarding the training centre in Podolsk: the state will regain ownership of it and turn it into a wrestling centre. And a wrestling centre will also be built on the site of the former Cherkizovsky outdoor market. It will be like the one in Kazan, which we have presented to you. But now we rent whatever premises we can.

The medical and biological support will be greatly improved as of January 1. We have signed off on a programme worth 4 billion roubles. At the same time, we are working with the Federal Medical-Biological Agency to train about 100 physicians for this work.

Vladimir Putin: You should know that we spent 140 million on medical and biological support in 2009 and 2.5 billion in 2010. We have increased allocations manifold. But the most important thing is to turn this money into quality.

Vitaly Mutko: The first problem concerns massage therapists. There is a shortage of specialists and of physicians because their salaries were very low. The salaries for massage therapists and sport physicians will be raised on January 1. Next, we need to find qualified specialists, because sport physicians have not been trained in decades. We have resumed this training at the First Moscow State Medical University, which has enrolled 100 people for this speciality. The first group of sport physicians will graduate on January 1. Even if only 10% of them work as sport physicians (some may choose other specialities), it is good that the process has begun.

As for a research support programme, we provide sufficient financing to all the existing comprehensive research groups. I have told the guys that their salaries and the salaries of their coaches will be raised on January 1 – you supported the idea after the Vancouver games. All of those who are being considered for our national team at the London games are to sign state contracts at the national teams centre beginning on January 1. The lowest monthly pay has been raised from 15,000 roubles to 75,000. Merited masters of sport and world champions will get 115,000–120,000 roubles a month.

We have also resolved the second problem, which was a real challenge: insurance. Each athlete will be insured for 200,000 euros when travelling abroad for competition. There will be no problem like we had with Skvortsova, who was injured and we actually had to collect funds wherever we could to pay her hospital bills. Our athletes will be insured. We have settled this problem.

Vladimir Putin: In fact, sport is a health hazard. This is true of nearly all sports, including curling where you can lose your footing, not to mention wrestling which involves spectacular throws.

Vitaly Mutko: Yes, sport is like fighting. It is a pleasure working with the Wrestling Federation, as you see. It's a wonder they are always grateful even with so many problems. There are no low-skilled athletes here, only merited masters of sport and world champions. Yes, we will definitely create a powerful deferral centre here in two or three years. We will do this!

Remark: Mr Putin, I'd like to add one more thing, if I may, considering that the competition has grown manifold in combat sports. Many countries understand that in these sports you can win many medals while spending relatively little money on training. Indeed, unlike skiing, which requires special facilities, the government can spend relatively little on wrestling.

Take the recent world championships, where 114 countries took part. Suppose in every of 50 or 60 countries there is a talented wrestler, who is sent to every possible championship, which means there are at least 50 competitors in each category. But spending is minimal, which is why many countries have opted for this scenario. We must take this into account... Mr Mutko was right, we have not been training in such a base like one in Kislovodsk for years.

Vladimir Putin: Yes, I know.

Remark: It is the best training centre. It looks like... I grew up in that centre during the Soviet era, and became a wrestler there...

Vladimir Putin: It is located at 1,500 metres above sea level, if I'm not wrong?

Remark: Yes, between 1,250 and 1,300 metres.

Vladimir Putin: It's quite high, the mid-mountains, however.

Voice: It’s an ideal place. A minimum number of days for adaptation upon arrival. Practically, you are ready for peak loads within a couple of days. Incidentally, I defended my dissertation on training at medium elevations above sea level, like in Kislovodsk.

What is it like normally? If you come back from a training camp in the high mountains you need several days to get back to normal. In the actual event, if you come here, to a  mid-mountain level,  you can go right into special training…

Vladimir Putin: Will it take about 18 months to restore the base?

Answer: Yes. It will be opened on January 1. But of course, it is about 80% worn down.

Vladimir Putin: You would need security.

Voice: We’ll take care of everything. It’ll be the national team’s base.

Vladimir Putin: Sambo wrestling has been included in the Universiade programme. We should push further and get it included in the Olympics.

Voice: Yes, we are working on that, like all types of wrestling – Graeco-Roman, freestyle, judo. We feel uncomfortable because we are not an Olympic sport. If we work with the Sport Ministry and think over the problem together…I think if sambo wrestlers took part in the Olympic Games we would stand a good chance to bag the lion’s share of the 18 sets of medals (both men’s and women’s).

Voice: That’s why they are keeping you out of the Olympics. …

Voice: Nobody likes a strong Russia…

Voice: They have now thought up something called short track…

Vladimir Putin: Short track is an interesting sport, nonetheless we must...

Voice: We are doing this now… First, the entry procedure: it takes eight years and a certain number of countries, about 50 and five continents to be involved to stimulate and encourage the spirit of rivalry and competition.  At present all these requirements have been met. We can file an application. There is a long waiting list….

Vladimir Putin: Latin America, they do it in Asia, the Koreans, Cubans, Venezuelans.

Voice: That’s it. Five continents. Sambo is an international sport that qualifies for the Olympic schedule. But the process takes eight years; it’s serious work, and we are now serious in pursuing it.

Vladimir Putin: Our judoists have promised to win several medals in London, I won’t divulge how many.

Voice: I’m absolutely sure that when we go to London in 2012 we will win four or five Olympic medals. As far as the men, there are seven categories and we could win in six categories right now.

Vladimir Putin: Are you sure they will let you?

Voice: Really, the athletes are ready to win in six weight classes. They are ready to win Olympic medals.

Vladimir Putin: What about the training process? Do you have any problems with the bases? They have an excellent base in Sochi now.

Voice: I was there four months ago, I saw that centre and it was not yet finished.

Vladimir Putin: It is finished now. It is an excellent facility.

Voice: We also have women here…

Vladimir Putin: Our pretty ladies will trounce all of them.

Voice: It’s a shame not all the women are here. But those present, I am sure, will pick up medals. I hope I am right.

Vladimir Putin: The trick is to be in peak form and to have no injuries.

Voice: And of course, thank you again for being the first prime minister to meet with the Graeco-Roman and freestyle wrestlers in many years (there have been occasional meetings with judo wrestlers). Your reputation in the world and in the sport world is so high that I think they will appreciate it. This will give a boost to our training efforts for the London Olympics. Especially for the women who perceive everything with their ears and eyes, they won’t let us down. The multi-national Russian family is sure to make a big splash.

Vladimir Putin: I am very glad to hear it. You said it, and I would like to latch on to your final words. When the athletes were introduced, it sounded like a truly international squad.

Voice: They come from the whole Russia.

Vladimir Putin: Georgians, men from Abkhazia, South Ossetia, from all the North Caucasus republics, from Siberia, from the country’s south, from Petersburg, Smolensk. Truly, they all work towards a single goal, for the interests of Russia in fact. Well done, guys, I wish you success. The country is proud of you. We watch your performances, we support you and always hope you will win, we want you to win. As for Graeco-Roman and, for that matter, freestyle wrestlers, well, if somebody loses we think, how come? We are used to seeing you win. The good thing is that our athletics geography is spreading; we have a champion from Yakutia, for example. Where is he?

Answer: Viktor Lebedev. We haven’t had a champion in 35 years, but this year he became a world champion in Moscow.

Vladimir Putin: Great. So, the geography of sport in general and of wrestling in particular is expanding. Last year we opened, I think, 124 facilities financed by the federal budget.

Vitaly Mutko: Yes, and that’s only under the federal programme. On the whole, together with United Russia, the planned and additional parts, it’s 390 facilities. Between 2006 and 2009 we launched about a thousand facilities financed from the federal budget. And if you add the Gazprom for Children programme it makes about 4,000.

Vladimir Putin: In other words, it has lots of money…We should get some money from Gazprom for the martial arts too..

Voice: Everyone would agree that this is a great stimulus for us.

Voice: That is very true. This is a great stimulus for us, and the fact that you sending us on our way today is also very important. London is our next big stop. This is a regular world championship, a licensed event. In fact tomorrow there will be no excuses. After the Olympics, nobody will listen to our excuses like “I didn’t know,” “I didn’t get enough sleep,” “I had an ache.” So, it’s a great motivator for us… Thank you very much.

Vladimir Putin: Thank you.

Vitaly Mutko: Mr.Putin, we will finance the whole programme even if the training camp is not built. We built some gyms in Chekhov where we prepared for the Beijing Olympics… We will go along with the guys’ choice.

Vladimir Putin: The athletes who bring real results… We should concentrate on the top ones, those who achieve results. Of course we should not forget about the others and we should work with them also…

Voice: We are working…

Vladimir Putin: The traditional Russian sports which have always brought us results…

Voice: We reported to you on the programme to develop wrestling in the country. You are aware that we have been expanding our geographic coverage this year, over the past three years… We will buy at least 75 mats a year for children’s schools across the country. We bought 75 mats this year, the last four just recently.

Voice: I would like you to present a certificate to our school in Petersburg.

Vladimir Putin: Four mats?

Voice: Yes, four mats. Russian-made. We reported to you, quality is certified.

Voice: Can you do us one more favour? You posed for pictures with everybody. But can we now bring all the head coaches?

Vladimir Putin: Yes, of course.

Voice: Can we have a picture taken with them. Do you mind?

Vladimir Putin: No, I’m all for it.

Voice: With your permission, my comrades in (peaceful) arms will not forgive me if I don’t do it. Here is a 100% replica of an Olympic gold medal. We would like you to have an Olympic medal so that only triumphs, achievements and creative endeavours are associated with your name.

Vlaidmir Putin: Very well, I will count your medals. I’ll make a notch for every medal.

Voice: Thank you very much.

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