SAMBO Legends in Moscow

1 August 2012 Sergei Grishin

The legendary sambists - Champions of the First Open European SAMBO Championships in 1972 - met in the capital of Russia 40 years after the Championships. Everybody who won in 1972 still consider that victory as one of the most important ones in their sporting career. 40 years have passed since the Open European SAMBO Championships in 1972. The First Open Championships of the Old World was held in Riga (Latvia) which was one of the centers of European sports life at that time. Athletes of eight countries - Bulgaria, the UK, Spain, the USSR, Yugoslavia, Iran, Mongolia, and Japan - competed in Sports Hall of Riga. 40 years ago. The first Champions of Europe were: Kyullenen V. (USSR) - 58 kg, Khosh A. (USSR) - 62 kg, Gerasimov K. (USSR) - 66 kg, Nevzorov V. (USSR) - 70 kg, Fedorov A. (USSR) - 75 kg, Yezerskas Ch. (USSR) - 80 kg, Nisinaki N. (Japan) - 86 kg, Sato N. (Japan) - 93 kg, Novikov S. (USSR) - 100 kg, Kuznetsov V. (USSR) - over 100 kg. The meeting organized 40 years later by the International SAMBO Federation at the European SAMBO Championships in Moscow was attended by four of the legendary sambists. The living Champions of the past are extraordinary people in all respects. Sergei Novikov and Vladimir Nevzorov are Olympic Champions in Judo; Cheslovas Yezerskas is a three-time World Champion in SAMBO; Konstantin Gerasimov is the winner of the first SAMBO World Cup. Nobuyuki Sato who could not come to Moscow due to the participation in the training of Japanese judokas for the Olympic Games in London is a two-time World Champion in Judo, a famous coach who trained the unique Yasuhiro Yamashita, and the President of Japan Students Judo Federation. By the way, it was Sato who overpowered Valery Rukhlyadev (USSR) in the final. Now Valery Rukhlyadev is the President of Russian Federation of Disability Sports and also took part in the ceremony in Druzhba Sports Hall. The eminent sambists were the embodiment of a "SAMBO legend"; although they are all over 60, they looked fit, cheerful, and successful. Sitting at the VIP table, they indulged into reminiscences about their young years recalling some seemingly long-forgotten facts: who was the captain of the USSR national team; what was the attitude towards Japanese sambists; which was their favorite technique at the time, and many other things. From the battles on the sambist mats in 1972, they proceeded to the present and future; they told each other about their lives after sport, about families, children and grandchildren, and surely about the realities of today. They also could not escape remembering those who had left this world - Vitaly Kuznetsov (SAMBO and Judo World Champion, and the winner of Judo Olympic Games), Alexandr Fedorov (SAMBO World Champion and famous coach), Voldemar Kyullenen and Alexandr Khosh (many-time USSR SAMBO Champions). It was nice to hear that SAMBO also was among the topics of the conversations of our famous sambists. They always have their own unconventional opinion with regard to what should become of SAMBO and how it should develop. The heads of European and International SAMBO organizations who were sitting at the VIP table near the living legends hang on the lips of the people embodying the pride and glory of SAMBO. All those pleasant and important conversations were followed by the Opening Ceremony the key topics of which were exactly the Champions of the First Open European SAMBO championship in 1972. The honoring of the legendary sambists included a complimentary speech of Mr. Vsevolod Zeleny, Vice-President of Latvian SAMBO Federation. Inter-generational bonds and respect for those who won the first international victories in SAMBO were the key ideas of this Riga-Moscow linkup. Moscow as the organizer of European Championships 2012 received a memorable gift from Mr. Nil Ushakov, the Mayor of Riga, with the engraved legendary words of FILA ex-President Roger Coulon which he said at the first international SAMBO tournament in Riga back in 1967: "The future belongs to SAMBO." I am sure that everybody who was in the Sports Hall at the moment would gladly support the slogan. After the words of Roger Coulon, many other words were spoken - the words of gratitude, respect and admiration. The heroes of the evening also received unusual presents: the peculiar uniform of those times with the names of the athletes and commemorative inscriptions which the legendary sambists tried on immediately and with great pleasure. But, as it turned out later, neither the words nor the gifts were the main things; much more important and touching were the eyes of the children who were looking at the famous sambists of the past with deep respect and appreciation. Not all of those kids will be famous sambists in future; but the human qualities fostered by such ceremonies will forever stay in their souls. Which is I believe the most valuable thing about sport. Natalia Yukhareva FIAS Press-service

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