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‘Invest in the children for Olympic success’


When he entered the 86kg judo final at the 1996 Olympics, Armen Bagdeserov thought it was all a dream.

Uzbekistan was competing at the Atlanta Olympics as a separate country for the first time after gaining independence in 1991.

“First of all, I asked my coach, ‘can I pinch you to make sure this is all real?’” said Bagdeserov on the sidelines of the Asian cadet judo championship at the Rajiv Gandhi indoor stadium here on Thursday evening. “We trained like crazy before the Olympics, still, when the silver moment came, I couldn’t believe it. I was not sure whether it was all happening in a dream.”

Armen’s 1996 silver was Uzbekistan’s first-ever medal in any sport at the Summer Olympics. The Uzbeks were part of the CIS team (of former Soviet states) at the 1992 Games in Barcelona.

Indians too can enjoy such a wonderful range of emotions at the Olympics if they start early enough, said the 44-year-old who went on to become the head coach of the Uzbek judo team and later president of its national federation.

“This is a huge country, you have a lot of promise. If you want to change your sport, you must start with these children, with the cadet level,” explained Bagdeserov.

“When you build a house, you don’t start with the roof, you start with the foundation. So, the cadet (15-18 years) age group, is very important. I see you already have a few bronze medals at the Asian championship here; and there is a girl in the final too. If you spend money for these children, for this age group, you could have an Olympic medallist in judo after six to seven years.”

The tall and well-built Bagdeserov took to sport with swimming.

“One day, when I was around seven and watching the Moscow Olympics on television, I spotted my neighbour, Vladimir Pyataev, who was working with the national team. He was a coach in Moscow. I immediately wanted to take up judo,” he recalled.

That changed his life.

He said the changes in judo rules have made the sport more transparent.

“Earlier, many judokas tried to win bouts through penalties, through too many negative things; too many tried to score by flags,” said Bagdeserov, also a multiple World championship medallist.

“Now, after the rule changes, things are very different for the athletes, officials and for the spectators. The sport is more transparent and the crowds are coming to watch it,” he said.

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Printable version | Dec 9, 2019 8:19:14 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/sport/other-sports/%E2%80%98Invest-in-the-children-for-Olympic-success%E2%80%99/article14628839.ece

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