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Interview with Victor Krovopuskov

Victor Krovopuskov: “I do not like modern saber fencing”

In the middle of February the capital of Russia saw the accomplishment of the World Cup stage in fencing “Moscow saber”. For the thirty-third time saber fencers competed for the title of the champion, as for women saber fencers, they fought for the same title for the fifth time. The duel meets were watched by the most titled fencer of the 20th century Victor Krovopuskov. More than 30 years ago Victor got the Olympic “gold”, for many times he rose to the highest step of the victory rostrums of world championships. He worked as a coach in Russia, Iran, China, Turkey and Egypt. He was a judge at the largest competitions. His heart and soul still root for the favorite kind of fencing - saber.

Our reference. Victor Alexeyevich Krovopuskov.

Born on September 29, 1948 in Moscow. Was a member of the team of the Central Sports Army Club (Moscow), service person. Merited Master of Sports (1976). Was a member of the picked team of the USSR from 1973 till 1986. Champion of the Olympic games of 1976 and 1980 in the individual and team championship in saber fencing. World champion in 1974, 1975, 1979, 1983, 1985 in team championships, world champion in 1978 and 1982 in individual championship. Silver prizewinner of the world championship in 1974 in individual championship, and in 1973 – in team championship. Champion of the USSR in 1976 in individual and team competitions. In 1979 was recognized as the best saber fencer of the world by the International Fencing Federation. Was awarded with the Lenin order (1980). Lives in Moscow.

Using the opportunity, our correspondent Tatiana Kolchanova asked the outstanding fencer to evaluate the evolution of the saber during the last 30 years.

- What has changed in saber fencing during these years, to your mind?

- Everything has changed. I fenced, when there were no electrical fixers of strokes, and the refereeing was subjective. Sometimes judges “saw” the stokes delivered by you only because of your previous victories at Olympic games and World championships. Your authority worked for you. And on the contrary, those sportsmen, to whom judges did not want to confer the victory due to various reasons, had to work wonders on the track. Our glorified saber fencer Yakov Rylsky, who became the world champion in the individual championship for three times, for thejudges to notice his strokes in a duel meet with the famous Polish sportsman Yezhi Pavlovski, methodically chopped off the buttons on the jacket of his rival. No judge, even the most biased one, could help noticing that. And how many times did the rules change during these years? Remember, how spectacular and beautiful the duels were, when cross steps and “arrow” attack were permitted! Today it is quite a different kind of sport. Strange as it may seem, many alterations were adopted as if to contribute to increase in staginess and to make fencing more understandable for viewers. And as a result in blitz combats an efficient stroke can be noticed only by a specialist of extra class, and even out of each ten strokes at least five will be seen by each of the judges in a different way. It is happening also because the International Fencing Federation has chosen not quite reliable policy while selecting judges. As for big-scale competitions, up to the Olympic Games, they nominate judges from the countries, where fencing is just breaking fresh ground. And we know perfectly well that no one is born a judge. In order to be quick in understanding the situation that is happening on the track, one should be a fencer or a coach himself. As a result of this policy sportsmen avoid complicated attacks, defenses, to say nothing about multi-stage fencing phrases, which earlier enchanted even those spectators, who were not so sophisticated. “Moscow saber” competitions were attended, in order to get pleasure watching the stars of saber fencing. It was possible to shoot the duels of the Soviet saber fencer Victor Sidyak and of the Italian Aldo Montano as a feature film. There was so much expression, power and artistic impression in them!

- What has the saber lost and acquired during these years?

- I will express my subjective opinion. It seems to me that a dozen years ago saber duels were more interesting. Because they consisted of a great number of bright movements. Today I see no movements. Practically no saber fencer in the world today performs counter tempo, interception of a stroke, there are few attacks affecting the weapon, even counterattacks with the breach of the distance are rare nowadays. Yes, the sportsmen have become more spectacular: taller, more athletic and with a higher speed. They are well trained, but they are just scared of making movements. Because it turns out that the right one is not the sportsman, who managed to get his rival round, but the one, who struck a fraction of a second quicker.

- Did the changes in saber fencing affect the alignment of forces in the world?

- At any international competitions of my time and even 10-15 years after I ensheathed the saber, it was always possible to distinguish rivals by their belonging to the national fencing school. The Soviet, Italian, Hungarian, Polish and Romanian schools had their own peculiarities. I am not talking about the French school, at that time the French were average level fencers. Now the situation has changed. The differences are minor, and they do not characterize the school, but individual peculiarities of a concrete sportsman. Practically everyone does the same. 70% of success on the fencing platform is achieved by the one, whose strikes are quicker. And it leads to the loss of staginess, which is always increasing, if there are beautiful fencing combats, multi-stage attacks, counter defenses. Today the average level of saber fencers is very high in the world, but there are almost no real stars.

- And who wins today, if everyone is the same?

- The one, whose shape is better at the moment, who feels better on the track plus performs a bit more movements than the rival. It is a pity that coaches exploit only physical qualities of fighters – height, speed, and endurance. But fencing has always been called quick chess. Everything that was happening on the track was calculated in the mind of a fencer for several steps forward. That is why various sportsmen were winning – tall and short, quick and slow, thin and thick. Those sportsmen had advantages, who had mastered the tactics and strategy of a duel. To be honest, I do not like modern saber fencing.

- Even a few years ago our outstanding saber fencers watching the duels of girls with their kind of weapon were openly laughing and used to say that it was not the saber, but quite a different kid of weapon.

- And I watch women’s saber fencing with pleasure. Due to the fact that in women’s fencing the speeds are naturally lower, in the duels of girls one can find the features that have almost faded away from the men’s saber fencing. They are showing movements! Attacks, counterattacks, defenses, and if we add to this mixture the expression of emotions that is higher than in men’s duels, it becomes clear, why spectators like this new kind of fencing. I think, duels of women saber fencers will collect the greatest number of spectators at the Olympic Games in Beijing.

- On the one hand, modern saber fencing rules have reduced staginess in duels, but, on the other hand, they are sure to have enabled the sportsmen from the countries that some time ago were not considered as possessing a good fencing school to approach leaders by the level of skill. In particular, it refers to Chinese sportsmen.

- I worked as a coach in China. I can say that any Chinese sportsman, who arrives at international competitions, has a good average level. All of them are solid sportsmen. They train a lot, take part in many international competitions, their coaches are thoroughly studying the rivals and passing on this knowledge to their fosterlings. Thanks to that, more and more often they get into the finals of the biggest competitions. And in fencing, the same as in figure skating, it is very important for you to be noticed. If we are speaking about Chinese fencers, one more fact is of great importance: before getting into the national picked team, they go through a colossal selection in their country. For example, I worked in a province, the population of which makes up 250 million people. Imagine, how motivated a sportsman becomes after passing through such a furnace. Besides, the Chinese have been trained by the leading world coaches. That is why in the near future these sportsmen will constitute a danger for all the rivals.

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