The Russian Swimming Team on the Way to London and Beyond: Problems and Solutions by Andrei Vorontsov, Russian Swimming Federation (2012)


[introduction by Matt Kredich]
It is my pleasure this morning to introduce to you Andrei Vorontsov. He is one of the most prolific coach-scientists in the world, having authored or co-authored over a hundred different publications on topics such as hydrodynamics, swimming technique, strength training and long-term athlete development. And over the last 30 years, he has coached national champions in both Russia and Great Britain, as well as European and World Championship medalists. He is currently the performance director and head coach of the Russian National swim team. So he is going to speak to us today about the Russian preparation for 2012 and beyond. Andrei Vorontsov.

[Vorontsov begins]
Andrei Vorontsov: Matt, thank you very much for great commercials, so I will skip mine. I will start [with] my story. Dear friends and colleagues, just a few weeks ago we have been at great Olympic Games in London. We witnessed excellent performance of United States swimmers—well done guys. It will be very hard to repeat this result in four years time, but you did a great job. Of course, I will celebrate with you tonight: I will visit the banquet. But I came here not to celebrate, but to share you with my experience. To tell you the story about [the] situation in sports Swimming in Russia; to tell you about problems we stumbled in[to] on the way to London, decision we made, and the outcome we finally get at the Olympic Games in London.

So the reason why I was called back to Mother Russia, and to pick up the flag and lead the Russian team to Olympic Games in London, was very simple: three Olympic Games in a row Russian Olympic team had very weak performances. In:
• Sydney [2000 Olympics], just two medals: 1 silver, 1 bronze—[Alexander] Popov [100 freestyle] and [Roman] Sloudnov [100 breaststroke];
• Athens [2004 Olympics], just one medal: silver medal—[Stanislava] Komarova, 200 backstroke;
• Beijing [2008 Olympics], three medals: 1 silver, 4×200 Men’s relay, and 2 bronze medals in backstroke, Arkady Vyatchanin;
Six medals in three Olympic Games, and no gold medals.

On the way to London, I experienced some limited success with [the] National team. At European Long Course [Championships] 2010, we won overall 2nd place behind France. At European Short Course Championships 2009 and 2011, Russia won LEN Trophy as the best team of championships. At the World Short Course Championship in Dubai in the year 2010, Russia, first time in its history, won overall 2nd place behind United States. And did some good performance in World Champs in Rome [2009] and Shanghai [2011].

But I have never had any illusions about possibilities of Russian Swimming; the situation in the country was very hard, very complex. This picture [on slide] shows you a representation of best Russians swimmers in world rankings: in top-50, top-25, top-10, top-5, top-3; just one year before Olympic Games. You see a lot of red zeros: that means that Russian swimmers are not there. Best Russian swimmers are not there. And in some events we did not have any swimmers, at all, in top-50 in the world: long and middle distances, males and females, 400, 800, 400 to 1500, 400 IM females, 200 IM males. And we had very poor representation in many other events. And the second, #2 and #3 in national rankings, were far behind our best swimmers. What does it tell to you? Also take into account that Russian Junior team did not enter four swimmers, for three years in the row, in these events at the European Junior Championships. It tells to me that the country has stopped to train, stopped to swim. What happed in Russian Swimming?

This picture shows the efficiency of the national program of preparation reserved for National Team. So how many boys aged 20 and younger, and how many girls aged 19 and younger, performed [an] Olympic qualifying time before this Olympics and took part in London Olympic Games? You see that Russia had their worst performance, among all other teams that are presented in this table. We had only one boy 20 years-old, but that boy was prepared in United States: Vlad Morozov, University of South[ern] California, Coach Dave Salo. So zero here. We had only one girl who performed Olympic qualifying time, but she did that at European Junior Champs after the deadline. So she was selected to represent Russia in relay 4×2. So, actually, we had really poor performance on this criteria.

And please notice for yourself, this picture shows you the potential of the countries. These swimmers, represented in this table, will perform at the next Olympic Games. And look, the best possibilities, the best potential, has Team Australia; look 18 swimmers will be there in four years time—very strong older gen, at the very top of international performance. Team of Japan; actually they had 12 swimmers perform Olympic qualifying time, but they had higher national standards so not all of them were included in the international Olympic team. So these people will compete against us at the next Olympic Games.

Russian Junior Team had a long history of success at European Junior Championship. It created an illusion that everything in the county [was] going well—everything good with Swimming in Russia. But first whistle was blown in the year 2008, when Russia lost 2nd overall place to GB team, to Great Britain. And performance of Russian Junior Team during the years 2009, ‘10, and ’11 was just disastrous; very hard to get [in the] first ten teams at the European Juniors.

The success of Russia post-Soviet Swimming, in 1992, in 1996 when we had good Olympic performances in Barcelona and Atlanta, was based on the wide net of specialized swimming school, national training centers, which were working under State program of multi-year training, long-term athletic development. That program was based in instance of the profound studies in the field of human growth and development. So we know age boundaries of these stages of multi-year training; we know what to do with children, with young swimmers during late childhood, before onset of puberty, during puberty and after puberty. We know how to use sensitive periods for the benefits of individual’s development. So we had the system, which was working pretty much efficiently.

And we had a pyramid of participation. We had from 65-75 young swimmers, junior swimmers in Soviet Union. And this pyramid was delivering, through training and selection of, the most talented young swimmers from the bottom of the pyramid to the very top. But this system, this pyramid, were capable to work when they were filled with the people. People were [the] moving force.

In Russia, in middle of ‘90s, we had a very economic hard situation. And hundreds, hundreds of best swimming coaches, they left profession because they were not capable to feed their families. We lost huge, huge coaching potential. Another problem: demographic disaster in Russia. During 15 years, from 1993 until 2008, the population of Russia lost 20 million due to very high death rate and very low birth rate. Only in the year 2008, birth rate exceeded [for the] first time since 1993, the death rate in Russia. As a result, [the] number of school children last year in Russia was only 44% of the number of school children age from 6 to 18 [that] we had in year 2000. These children had not been born. We have only 50% population. These young children will have to do. So [there are] many sports now competing with each other to get best young children for their sports. And Swimming is a not more popular sport in Russia; not in 10 most popular sports, maybe not in first 15 most popular sports. And last year we had audit in the Swimming Federation; we found we have 28,000 competitive swimmers in all age groups and performance categories. Less than half [the number] we had in Soviet times.

And we have economical reason. When I came back from United Kingdom back to Russia, I was shocked by the cost of facilities. The cost of swimming lane in 50-meter pool in UK, at least at Bath University where I was working for 10 years: £27-£28 per one hour. The cost of the same facility, one lane, in Moscow, Saint Petersburg, in other big cities, maybe as high as £50-£60. The country [is] selling petrol and gas overseas. And look, the more money… and money coming from school budget. The more money you pay for facilities, you have less money for development, less money for coaches’ salaries. As a result, many pool’s training practice time was reduced in many places from two hours to one and half hours. In many places in the country, morning training sessions were cancelled due to the high cost of facilities—just one training session a day not double sessions.

Then we have very old facilities; majority of them were built in ‘60s and ‘70s. They work very intensively in the wintertime; we have very-long winter: five and a half months, almost half a year, in Moscow. During that time, pools working very intensively, so they need to repair and service. By the 1st of July, almost all swimming pools in Russia closed. And what about learn-to-swim program? What about training camps/summer camps for young swimmers? No summer camps. No learn-to-swim program. So in Soviet times, every swimming pool, 25 meters and longer, was obliged to have learn-to-swim program and Swimming sports school. So now in Moscow, we have more than 100 swimming pools, but only 17 Swimming sports schools left. In Saint Petersburg, they had, 20 years ago, 17 specialized Swimming sport schools; now, only four left.

Very dramatic changes also at the top level, at the elite level, of Swimming. In Soviet Union, we had a network of army sport clubs, police and KGB sport clubs—they named a system—we had sports clubs at the universities. All these networks cease to be exist; they do not exist anymore. We have only two small groups of student swimmers in Russia now: one in Moscow, 12-15 top swimmers/national-level swimmers; one in Omsk in Siberia, 10-12 swimmers. We may have maybe another dozen of universities, each of them has 1 or 2 swimmer of national-level. That is all. As a result, last year at the World University Games, Russia won only two bronze medals, in non-Olympic events. We sent over there not but 3, 4, 5, 6 of national ranking, and those swimmers were not capable to compete against students from other countries.

And this table shows you how many swimmers now we have at the elite level. Maximum number of Senior swimmers now in Russia is about… last year it was:
• 127 males, age 18 and older,
• 92 females, age 17 and older.
If you will take just age-cut [of] 20 years and older, you will see that we have only 80-90 swimmers at Senior level in the country—Russia is not superpower in sport anymore. And this is a list of college training teams in the United States: 26 pages, more than 300 student teams. Now imagine that 200 swimming teams have only one swimmer: how do they compete?

So we cannot compete in numbers with the United States, but we cannot compete in numbers with our European partners. This is a French pyramid of participation in competitions. You will make section 20 years and older, you will see that is still hundreds and hundreds of swimmers over there. Want to relate to young swimmers? This is numbers of structural swimming lessons in France. So young swimmers, boys and girls age from 7-13 years: more than 120,000; four times more than in our recent pyramid of participation in Russia. We cannot compete in numbers in France either.

So Russian Swimming Federation, considering the situation, declared a state of emergency. And then decided to make something to make performance of the Russian National Team at the Olympic Games in London better than before. So they tried to make that through:
• Management changes, to make better vertical and horizontal structural Swimming sport.
• The fusion of scientific and the medical support structure.
• Building of new swimming pools. Now we have State program to build 500 new pools in the country, but we have no coaches for 500 pools. We have no coaches for 15 new pools. This is a problem for us.
• And at last, they decided to select and invite new head coach.
New head coach had some laurels/declaration as pool-deck coach, as academician, as sports scientist. But I did not realize when they invited me, that my most valuable quality for them is long absence from the country. So I lost my connections to swimmers, coaches, and sports science and so on. They decided that it would be a person easy-to-manage, but they did forget that I had British passport in my pocket, so it was not so easy.

So from very beginning I know what to do. When I came, there was no national program for next four years; I did four-year planning, based on international calendar. I did seasonal planning every year. Personal work on pool deck at National Training Camps. I did a little work with coaches and swimmers, including approval of individual training plans, club visits, control of training process. I did team selection for national and international competitions, and organized continuous professional development, learning, for Russian coaches. I knew it would demand of me a lot of moral and physical strength to do my duties. So I start my preparation in advance: it is real pictures, 80 kilos, 90 kilos. I am still capable to make that. I can do more, but I do care about my joints. [applause]

So I came back to Russia having in my mind some ideas and ready to make some actions. Very simple ideas. Rejuvenation of the National Team. So it would be nice to make the lucky build [unclear wording] like they get in Britain. To create faster and smarter groups, working under supervision and under the program of the head coach. Sound idea. To build a network of regional training centers with a nice sports science and support services. And to pay some attention to metrics of training, lane training and swimming training.

During my first year in the country, I visit all major age group and junior competition in Russia, having dual purpose. First, I wanted to invite the best young swimmer and their coaches to work within the National Swimming Team at the national training camps. And second, to select young swimmers, preferably girls, for the fast-track-smart-track program. But very soon, Russian Swimming Federation decided to split the work of the Head Coach and the National Performance Director. I was just left to be National Head Coach.

And National Junior Team was taken under the supervision of the First Vice President of Russian federation, Mr. Viktor Avdienko. You know him; he is a very good pool deck coach. The best coach of quadrennium, coach of [Evgeni] Sadovyi and [Denis] Pankratov. And he is [the] owner of only private swimming club in Russia: Club Volga in Volgograd. So the Junior Team chief coach was made accountable directly to Mr. Avdienko. I was cut from Junior Team. So in response, I was promised that in two/three years, I will get for Olympic team 2012 at least 4-5 swimmers from National Junior Team. Unfortunately, it did not happen.

Under supervision of Mr. Avdienko, Russian federation began two projects. First project called I Shall Become a Champion, started in October 2010, two years delay. 10-12 camps for 30-40 swimmers; rotation of swimmers, so 300-350 swimmers per year passing through this system, all training camps in Volgograd. Girls age 13-14 years, boys 15-16 years. Main purpose of the camps: scouting of new talents and coaches education. Good ideas. Second project: centralized training of the National Junior Team in Volgograd, under the supervision of the First Vice President. 40-45 swimmers, 6-8 camps throughout entire season, training in brigades according to swimming strokes and distances.

What results of the first project? We all know these statistics. I took these statistics from American sources. How many young swimmers, age group champions, becoming champions at the top level? Not many. Anyway the efforts of the Russian Swimming Federation brought their results, and the Russians Junior Team again won the European Junior Championships with 21 medals, 12 of them gold medals.

So another sound idea: creation of network of original training centers. In Soviet Union, we had original training centers in all Soviet Republics; in some Republics not only one, a few, two/three. Very simple idea: to assemble together best coaches, best swimmers, and create environments for success—sound idea. So to create Swimming Center you need to provide: training facilities, support service, medical, physiotherapy, recreational facilities, sports science same as in the National Team, education, access to the university, access to college or elite school, and full-board accommodation near the site of training, at least at working distance.

The structure should include three levels:
• very top level, that is high-performance, National squad: 10-15 best swimmers;
• then the Junior squad: 20-25 swimmers; and
• then bottom-level, specialized Swimming Sports School: another 250-400 swimmers.
It should be unified structure, working under supervision of the head coach of the regional training center.

I was promised when I came to Russia that every next-year of Olympic cycle, two new centers we will start to operate. We had only two centers in the year 2008: in Volgograd and Penza. Now, in this year [2012], we still have two; so the program failed.

We have federal training Swimming center near Moscow, just 15 miles from international airport, Sheremetyevo. It is beautiful facilities: 50-meter Swimming pool; now, we have two more pools over there for Diving, Water Polo and Synchronized Swimming—we can use those facilities [from] time-to-time. So, sports science support, fitness gym, weight rooms, full-board accommodation—four-star accommodation, very good rooms over there—medical service, physiotherapy. And this facility, and this set, is available to all members of National Team. You just need to book in advance; to let me know in advance, 6-7 weeks, that you are going to have a camp over there.

But the problem is the cost. Three years ago, the cost per one swimmer per one day of stay there: 90 US$; this year: 177 US$. It is all budget money, so the State [is] taking money from one pocket and putting in other pocket. But this money is from my budget—budget of the National Team. For me, much easier and cheaper to have training camp in Tenerife [Canary Islands] in January—beautiful. Last two years, we did that. In Talaia, Spain. So €90, including airfare—much cheaper.

So as a head coach, I needed to build a team; to build a team of coaches and staff bound together with common goal and professional ethics. So the problem, as I said before, we lost hundreds and hundreds of coaches from Swimming. And now we have old coaches, guys who are 50 and over; in National Team, the youngest coach is female age 48, the youngest male coach is 52. I am 60 now. We have coaches 35 and younger, and nobody in between. We are not capable to share our traditions with the younger generation of coaches.

So when they came, I established very simple, clear and reasonable requirements in the rules for coaches. So they must be professionals; knowledge, experience, professional skills. They must be looking and acting as professionals on pool deck and around the pool. Is big problem in Russia: 80% of coaches, male coaches, are heavy smokers; 90% of coaches, they drink too much, sometimes. And during… when I just start to work as the national coach, I sent back home two coaches from my first National Training Camp, because they were drunk. I sent home another other two coaches, just one week before World Championships in Rome—we had the standing camp in Slovenia. So I sent home, back home, two more coaches, at their own expense, €500 each. I expelled them for one year from National Team. But very soon I understood that I have no other coaches. They are the best, they have experience, they have knowledge. So as we had verbal agreement: 10:15 p.m., swimmers going to bed; 10:30, coaches’ time, stay in your rooms, you may assemble together. Stay in room, I do not care what you do in there. But in the morning, you must be clean shaved, well-smelt and to work at your utmost.

Then, these people must be positive personality: they must be positive under any pressure, any circumstances, to help the team. They must have a positive attitude towards sports science. At first they did not want to make testing this—I do not want this, I do not want that. It was made compulsory. After some time [of] compulsory participation in testing in sports science, they start to make it voluntarily, so now I do not need to press them anymore. And they must have the ability to work as a team together.

Another problem: female coaches. If you come to any Russian swimming pool now, you will find out that more than 50% [of] coaches are females. 10 female coaches prepare 13 swimmers for the Russian Olympic team this year. You have to take into consideration that the 6 swimmers were prepared by foreign coaches, and another 13 swimmers, of 32 [total], were prepared by male coaches. 50-50. Female coaches, they have many positive sides, many positive personal traits. They do not smoke. They do not drink. They are open for learning and knowledge. They have high working discipline and ethics; compassionate, accurate. Very well is the communication and the bookkeeping. But it might be held, they have a lot of negatives: intrigues, moody, hysterical outbreaks, blackmailing, outbreaks of disobedience, unpredictable. But I must say to you, they are the best workers in Russia. [applause/laughter]

Athletes. Also I had some requirements for members of the National Team. Professional lifestyle, high working ethics, drive to excellence, independence, responsibility, and so on. The money came into sport. The government [is] not ready to pay to develop structural sport, but it is ready to pay to athletes for their performance. And the money is spoiling people.

So, in Soviet times, we had training in brigades; we had brigades according to swimming strokes and swimming distances. So we had 5 or 6 breaststroke brigades, each brigade gets 6-7 top-level swimmers and so on, and flyers and sprinters and backstrokers. Now, we have situation in Russia: 1 coach/1 swimmer; 1 coach/2 swimmers. And I have only one coach in National Team who has five swimmers on the team; all the rest at national camps: one-to-one. I have 20 swimmers [and] 17-18 coaches—they are colliding their backsides on pool deck. Nobody wants to work in brigades anymore: I did give you my swimmer, but I never will take yours; I don’t want to accept responsibility.

Now, the morale of swimmers. I showed before the table that no Russian swimmers in top-50 in the world. But we had… just a few years ago, we had Danila Izotov who won the Junior World Championship in Monterrey in 400 freestyle, 3:51 in 2008. We had Nikita Lobintsev in the [2008] Olympic final. But they do not want to make 400 anymore—no use, no money in that. This Chinese guy, Sun Yang, this Korean guy [Park Tae-Hwan], [Peter] Vanderkaay, [Yannick] Agnel: no prospect for medals. I will be better to make 100, 200; I have a high chance to make the relay team: four plus two substitutes. I was in top six. Now, everybody doing 100 and 200 in Russia. But very soon after they left 400 distance, their performance in 200 also went down. They are not good 200 swimmers anymore.

So a lack of competition during training, lack of emotions, moved some of our swimmers to train overseas. The last two years, we had six swimmers who trained within foreign lands:
• Evgeny Korotyshkin [and] Sergey Fesikov, ADN program [Italy], under Coach Andrea Di Nino;
• Yuliya Efimova and Vlad Morozov, University of South[ern] California, Coach David Salo;
• Arkady Vyatchanin in Florida with Coach Gregg Troy [and] Assistant Coach Anthony Nesty; and
• Andrei Grechin in Switzerland with the Coach Gennadi Touretski.
I must say that not panacea: not remedy for to cure all diseases of Russian swimming. For some swimmers, it may be a real stairway to heaven; but for some, just support system in emergency room—they slowly fading.

And performance was different. Korotyshkin won silver, 100 butterfly, but Sergey Fesikov fell. He [Fesikov] still got a medal in 4×1 relay. He swam in the morning and did the worst relay [leg] among other Russian swimmer: 48.68—third leg in a relay. But still got a medal. Yuliya Efimova won bronze medal with European Record, 200 breaststroke. Vlad Morozov did good performance in 4×1 relay freestyle, bronze medal. Arkady Vyatchanin, 7th place in 100 backstroke and 17th in 200. Andrei Grechin, very good morning swim in the relay 4×1: 48.19; in the final, it was disaster, 48.57—and only because of very good swims from [the] three other swimmers, they got a medal over there and beat [the] Australians.

So since I was relieved of a big part of my duties, I was capable to focus almost entirely on the National Team, to work with National Team. So I did what I do best: structuring plenty of preparation, altitude training, specialization of stress training, quality training at race pace organization of sports science support, and team cohesion. I felt myself very comfortable during the last two years.

So, [the] training season in Russian National Team [is] divided into three macrocycles—the big cycles. Each has duration from 16-19 weeks. Each macrocycle, in its turn, subdivided in four mesocycles—or medium length cycle—or block:
• first block, slow aerobic plus functional strength;
• second block, fast aerobic plus specific strength;
• third block, race build-up, quality training; and
• fourth/last block, tapering and competitions.
So this [slide] is an example of training plan. This is my plan I did as template for my coaches for Olympic cycle, for Olympic season. You see here the boundaries of microcycles and training camps, including overseas training camps and altitude training camps and competitions at the very top—measure the swimming events. This was not compulsory for coaches, but this is common strategy for the team.

Altitude training was optional, not compulsive. Altitude camp was planned for each macrocycle, and every swimming coach was capable to choose: whether he wants to go to altitude one time/two times/three times a year, or whether he does not want to make it at all. So we have two venues of choice. One, Tsaghkadzor in Armenia, we used for maybe 45 years, since Soviet times. We start to use that before Mexico Olympic Games; 1967, I think—one year before the Games. And another place: Sierra Nevada in Spain.

We have a model of training altitude, and we stick to this model. So I must say that we use altitude training not like in other countries. We [are] doing altitude training most… or swimmers doing not in the end, not before competitions; but we doing in the aerobic cycles, in the aerobic blocks, in the beginning/first half of the macrocycle. And straight after altitude, we go down and we compete in international competitions, usually Mare Nostrum or Seven Hills in Rome, and so on.

Strength training. Very important for National Team, so we just make minor focusing. Several directions of training: maximum stress and power training, development of core-body strength, development of joint stability, injury-prevention training, development of active and passive flexibility, mobility of joints, elimination of muscle disbalance, and posture correction. So we always remember that only small portion of strength you develop in land training, you can transfer in useful propelling force in the water, in pulling force—only small portion. Actually to speed the velocity 2 meters-per-second, you create resistance 12-15 kilograms; so you need just 12-15 kilograms to develop your pulling movements to overcome that resistance. It made it more technical preparation, not on his strengths.

But we doing a lot of work in the water. We are using pulleys-past, you can see this system pulleys-past, or power rack—“swim stack” they call it in Britain. Our machine allows you to see from 25-30 meters. It is very portable; easy to move in the swimming pool. We using a lot of towing devices, built by our engineers. We are using draft swimming, so resisted and assisted swimming, to improve force applications in water.

Here you can see our training facility in our National Training Center. It is a big gym; we have also two weight rooms—also very big. You can see here [term in German], East German machines—they are pulling machines—with ergometer and kinetic systems. So we use all these to improve strength and take to preparedness our swimmers. But, again, the focus on swimming training. So you can see here draft swimming and towing swimming.

Sports science support. So I never forget that I had scientific backgrounds. So I put a lot of efforts to revive and modernized sports science support group for National Team. Again the problem: in Soviet times we had huge group of people working for National Team, for all national team—team #1, team #2, junior teams, cadet teams, and so on. We had to from 30-35, even more, people. Now, we have staff [of] 3 people only left. Two of them in this picture: Director of the Complex Scientific Group (over there taking air samples) and our best sports scientist, Alexander, (making underwater video and the registration of intercycling swimming velocity).

So actually two people doing everything biomechanical: analysis swimming technique, video analysis, race analysis, evaluation of metabolic power to put in mechanical efficiency, measurement effective directed during swimming, analysis of training work or training workloads. Everything done by just two men in the team. But time-to-time we invite other doctors to take part, and specialist from other fields of sport science, to assist us. So, control of body weight of composition, development of after-race recovery methods, nutritional support of training and competitions, blood screening: we are all doing these jobs at training camps.

So we are using a simple program for analysis of efficiency of training programs. So we did very simple: Russian Swim Federation bought 20 notebooks [computers] for the best 20 coaches in Russia, and the program was installed on each notebook and the computers were handed over to so many coaches. But the problem was: most of the coaches [are] older than 50; some of them [have] never worked with computers. So actually only two or three of them are capable to make the job. Two other coaches, they ask their swimmers—who are very, very good with computers—to help them and to make that their jobs for them.

So I saw this picture in the upper-left corner [of slide], I saw on CNN program. It is a science fiction story for us: 32 underwater cameras. How many people storing the system? I just wonder if you can use the system on a daily base, or on weekly base. It would be very nice, of course, if you can to do that. We cannot do that: 3 people cannot service 32 underwater cameras, sorry. So we have a more simple solution. [slide] We made it stupid simple. So video and registration of intracyclic velocity. You can see the picture, change your arm pull; in a few seconds you can see what happened to your intracyclic velocity. Change your leg kick, what happened? Change the timing of your stroke, and you can see in a few second what happened to your stroke. It is very portable and we carry this methodics of the National Team to every overseas and national training camps.

So here you can see how member of scientific group helped a coach to excel backstroke start for Anastasia Zueva. Both in picture are working on swimming turns. It is pneumatic starting blocks. Did you see? Pushing the swimmer over there. We are doing race analysis and compose a new race models, as in many other countries doing people so. We use our sports science to test swimsuit: [Arena] Carbon Pro versus Speedo Fastskin. And it helped us to choose the best swimsuits for each swimmer: for some the better were Carbon Pro; for some swimmers, not Fastskin but old Speedo suits—nobody actually swam at the Olympic Games in new Speedo suit. Here you can see facing metabolical power of swimmers in swimming flume; 6×2:00 test using cortex system. We do the same test, step test, in swimming pools—6×200—at every national training camp.

And now we are coming back to performance preparation, performance at Olympic Games; so, Russian Olympic team 2012. We had selection in the end of April: 21-26 of April this year. 32 swimmers were included in the team: 15 females, 17 males. Olympic Qualifying Time demonstrated only 6 females and 13 males: 19 swimmers only, altogether. 4 swimmers, they had Olympic Standard Times; 3 of them were selected to swim relays, so we gave them possibility to in individual event also. We had relay-only swimmers: 6 females and 3 males; we qualified in all 6 relays.

But this [slide] is a ranking of Russian-based swimmers, Olympic swimmers, three weeks before the Olympic Games—just [one] day after American selection trials were finished. So you can see we had in top-5 just three swimmers: one female, Zueva, 2nd in 100 and 200 backstroke; and two boys, Izotov 200 freestyle ranked 5th in the world, and Lobintsev 100 freestyle 5th in the world. So actually our medal-potential was very weak, possibilities very slim. Six people in top-10. One of them Korotyshkin, who won silver later. Never give up: he was the last in the final, make the final 8th, but won actually silver medal—never give up. Seven in top-16 and five teams in top-20, three weeks before the Olympic Games.

So I did all my best to build good support team. First time in Russian history, we had two massageists at the Olympic camp. We had a doctor. We had a head coach, physiologist [and] three coaches. Eight coaches and a specialist got accreditation in Olympic Village; three specialist and four coaches got accreditation outside of the Village. I asked my European partners and Australians: How many support staff you had in the Olympic Village?
• [Russia: 32 swimmers, 9 in the Village]
• France: 29 swimmers, 17 specialists and coaches.
• Germany: 27 swimmers, 11 people at the Olympic Village.
• Australia: 42 swimmers, 21 support staff and coaches at the Olympic Village.
So we are far behind all the best teams.

This is preparation, the final preparation, to Olympic Games. Straight after selection athletes had one week at home, then sea-level camp in Calais, France. All Russian-based swimmers, 27 swimmers, took part in the camp. We did not take part at European Long Course Championship—I will tell you why a little bit later. So straight after Calais 12 swimmers including Zueva, [Veronika] Popova, [Anastasia] Chaun went for altitude training to Armenia. At the same time Korotyshkin, Fesikov had altitude training camp in Sierra Nevada. These two groups meet together in Rome for Sette Colle—Seven Hills competition. After that, Zeuva and the Russian-based swimmers moved back to Russia; Korotyshkin and Fesikov moved to Italy.

Then we had National Cup in the very end of June, 20th of June/1st of July. Straight from National Cup, by bus, we went to our National Training Center. Another 11 days, 25 swimmers except foreigners and except group from Volgograd. Three swimmers from Volgograd, they had separate preparation under Victor Avdienko’s guidance: Izotov, Morozov, [Vyacheslav] Sinkevich. On the 14th of July we fly to United Kingdom to have a final standing camp in Millfield.

Why I did this? Why I did not send Russian swimmers, Russian Olympic swimmers to European Long Course Championship? It was a very unpopular decision. It was widely discussed on TV and newspapers: this guy doesn’t care about national traditions or about national interest. So three best teams at European Long Course: Hungary, Germany, Italy. Germany, Italy did not score any medals at all; Hungary scored two medals. But the only gold medals at the Olympic Games for Hungary, brought by swimmer Dániel Gyurta who did not take part in European Long Course. And here you can see top-10 performances at the European Long Course; only one swimmer of this top-10 won Olympic medal: László Cseh, bronze medal. And he missed the final in his top event: 400 IM; he did not make the final. So I was completely right. It caused me a loss of my nerves, but I was completely right.

We had final standing camp in Millfield School, southwest England; almost my home—just 30 miles from my home. So we had all Russian-based swimmers plus Yuliya Efimova. And we had Korotyshkin and Fesikov for the camp, and those two guys came to Millfield even one week earlier than the rest of the team. And we had good time. We worked a lot of race pace, race technique, starts and turns, relay takeovers; we had time for race to the recovery. And on 25th of July, we moved to Olympic Village.

Olympics were very hard for us, very tough opposition, and finally we scored only four medals: 2 silver, 2 bronze. But better than we did in Beijing. And very good teams, like Germany, Italy, Sweden, Denmark, all these teams last year at the Worlds in Shanghai, they had World Champions in Olympic events. They did not score any medals. Team GB, home Olympics, only three medals: 1 silver, 2 bronze medals. And look on the bottom [of the slide]: comparison of the potential of British team and Russian team. We had only 19 swimmers who did Olympic Qualifying Time; British 36. We had only 6 swimmers, 3 males and 3 females, who swam in 8 finals at the Games; and they brought 3 Olympic medals. We had… Britain’s 15 swimmers swam in 18 finals. So it is a very weak consolation for me, but still a consolation. So anyway we did a bit better just slightly better than in Beijing. Four medals… in 3 previous Olympic Games, 6 medals for Russian teams; and now in one Olympic Games, 4 medals.

But I want to say a few words about role of mass media in creation of positive or negative atmosphere around the team. It happened in the very first day of finals. So I have a few coaches who had no Olympic accreditation, and I had tickets to finals for them. I went out to hand the tickets over to them, and came back late. The first heat, first final, was on the starting blocks; it was 400 IM. So I look around, I was on pool deck, and I did not see where my team was sitting. So I stand, and I unfortunately stand near American team. The same time, the same moment, it was on Russian TV. Next day, it was on Russian newspapers [laughter]: head coach of the Russian National Swimming Team, Andrei Vorontsov, cheers for Ryan Lochte on the U.S. supporters’ tribune during the final of the men 400 meters Individual Medley. Sorry: my apologies to Ryan Lochte, I was cheering Michael Phelps [laughter]—he is my hero. And sorry to Eddie Reese: no royalties for this photo. What would… (I just wonder, what would they say if they saw this? This is my new team.)

So as I said before, we had a very hard Olympics. First day, no Russian swimmers in finals. Second day, one bronze medal 4×1 relay. Next two days, no relays. Our beautiful girls, Efimova and Zueva, they lost their chances in 100 breaststroke and 100 backstroke; no medals. And the Russian press was just furious. This bloody head coach should be dismissed, just now during Olympic Games. I assembled journalists and said: “We have still a few more days to perform here. We have potential to win more medals. Just leave us alone; let us compete normally.” Day number seven, Korotyshkin and Zueva won two silver medals for our team; we surpassed the performance in Beijing. Nevertheless, next day, the headline in newspapers: two silver medals on the day of the resignation—my resignation. Sorry, I did not sign any resignation note or letters. And the text: Coach, himself, denied the information, and failing on my watch. As a normal human being, at first I must use my annual leave (I am doing this now, here), then to write a report, and after that, I will start to think about future. And for comparison: Germany; the team which did not score any medals at all. And they respect their swimmers, they respect their coaches. Look perfect day, perfect day: In 4th place for Steffen Deibler, Britta Steffen in the final. Do you see any difference in approach?

That is Russians TV in Monaco, Monte Carlo. Four years past like an eye-blink. I had a beautiful journey through time, events and venues. I did… I think I did all I could for National Team; I did my best. I was caring about my swimmers and coaches.

This is it. [applause]

[inaudible question from audience]

[Vorontsov]: I cannot tell everything—a lot of politics. Actually, swimming federation of Russia in the state of civil war. And much will depend on people who would come, from new Head Coach of the team. I will do my best to help him, who had my experience, to make him familiar with the team. And I wish the new man all the best for the next four years. It is still possible to make good performance in the Rio de Janeiro [2016 Olympics].

[inaudible question from audience]

[Vorontsov]: It is very different. You know for coaches who are national coaches, they have a salary plus they have grants. If your swimmer did 1st, 2nd, 3rd—until 6th place for freestyle 100 and 200—at the Europeans, you are getting special grant for preparation. Your basic salary may be, for national coaches, may be around 35,000-45,000 rubles—$1,200 a month. Plus you may get this grant: another 35,000-45,000—another $1,000. Plus you may have grant of the regional governor, maybe another 15,000-20,000—$500-$600. And all together, for best coaches of course, it may be up to $3,500-$4,000 a month for best. Very few coaches: maybe 5-6 in the country, like that. Then we have very big difference in salaries in different regions. In the richer regions, like Moscow, you can earn very easily as Moscow coach $2,000-$2,500 a month, very easily—it is still very big money for Russia, now. But in some regions, at the same time, you may have only 15,000 rubles—£300, $500, that’s all. So very big difference.

[inaudible question from audience]

[Vorontsov]: You know, I did not tell you about the salaries and scholarships of athletes. Because some of them, they did not win any gold medals, or even medals, but still they are getting big money. Those swimmers who won medals at the Olympic Games, the very same evenings they were taken to one of Russian oligarchs and all of them receive watches—£3,000-£4000, each watch. They came back, the very next day, they have been given from State, from the President of Russia, new cars. Gold medals—we have no gold medals in Swimming—Audi 7; silver, Audi 5; bronze medal, Audi 3. And money. Officially, you have money from the State, Olympic gold medal: 4 million rubles—it is about $120,000, something like that. Second place, it may be 60,000; third place, 40,000. Plus they are getting bonuses from their regions: the governments give them also money very much comparable the sums paid by the State. Actually they may have very good money.

Thank you very much for your patience.

##### end #####

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