Few Russian sports fans know what wakesurfing is. But in vain, because in the autumn our athletes in this discipline will compete at the World Championships and win medals under the flag of Russia!
It seems that this is almost impossible these days, but the fact is that the Russian team was allowed to the World Wakesurfing Championship in the USA without restrictions! Another thing is that it will be very difficult to get to the tournament, but in any case, even logistical difficulties will not be difficult to get around – everything has already been thought out. Olga Zaitseva, General Director of the Russian Surfing Federation, told why our athletes were allowed to participate in the 2022 World Cup.
And by the way, wakesurfing is riding a board behind a boat that creates a wave. And Russian athletes in this sport are among the world leaders.
“We didn’t know 100% that we would be allowed in”
– Olga, Russian athletes in almost all sports have serious problems due to the political situation. Given the trends, the most obvious question is: why hasn’t Russia been banned from wakesurfing?
– First, let’s make a little clarification. The Russian Surfing Federation in our country develops surfing in the following disciplines: short board, long board, paddleboard, wakesurfing and wakesurfing. In general, this sport is being developed at the world level by the International Surfing Association (ISA). And she, unfortunately, banned our athletes from participating in international competitions. But wakesurfing and wakesurfing also belong to the large commercial organization CWSA – it is universally recognized and it is prestigious to perform at a professional level in it. And this organization in the current conditions announced: “Sport is out of politics.”
Accordingly, CWSA allows our athletes to compete in tournaments without depriving them of the flag and anthem, and to hold international competitions on the territory of Russia. Therefore, our athletes are allowed to use all kinds of state symbols of Russia at the next World Championships in the States. Russian surfers were given the way forward, the opportunity to grow and develop. This is really very cool!
Now CWSA is actively holding competitions inside Russia in order for athletes to meet certain criteria for admission to international tournaments. Some athletes participating in these tournaments also play for the Russian national team.
– Was there a threat of suspension from the World Cup?
– The ISA on the very first day after the IOC statement announced that Russian athletes were not allowed to compete, since the ISA accepted the position of the IOC and the decision was not disputed. And CWSA almost the same day issued a statement that does not allow discrimination. But here we must understand that this is still a commercial organization and it has the right to make decisions independently of the International Olympic Committee. We in the Russian Surfing Federation are very grateful to them for this opportunity. After all, participation in tournaments is an exchange of experience for athletes, even though our surfers occupy leading positions in sports. We, as the Russian Surfing Federation, are in close contact with the president of the organization, John Shields, and with the CWSA Russia team, which works directly in Russia. We plan to hold joint international events in order to expand the sports geography within the country.
– Were you surprised by the decision to enter the World Wakesurfing Championship or, given the position of the CWSA, was it expected?
– Of course, I was surprised! We did not know 100% that they would allow it. CWSA President John Shields explained that we cannot take away the opportunity for athletes to compete and develop professionally. It was the right decision. If you look at their statements, social networks and attitude towards Russian athletes, such an outcome was essentially expected. We believed that CWSA would not be able to turn its back on Russian athletes. Although we thought this about all organizations, but, as you can see, the story turned out to be different.
Wakesurfing in Moscow
Photo: Getty Images
“The Russians will perform under their own flag”
– The World Championship will be held in the USA. In recent years, Russians have had problems obtaining visas. Has the federation already worked on this issue?
– Last year, due to restrictive covid measures, it was decided to make the World Cup in two formats: online and offline. Accordingly, in the online format, the athlete must record a video, the so-called module, consisting of three races. He takes them off and mails them. Further, the associations mount all the videos sent not only from Russia, but also from all over the world, into one big video, the judges watch it and evaluate all the races. So we can reduce the risks associated with flights, obtaining a visa. Let me emphasize that Russian athletes can participate both from the territory of our country and go to the United States, in the absence of problems with a visa and difficulties with flights.
– Will it be clear on the video which country the athlete is from?
– Oh sure. I repeat, Russian athletes are allowed to participate in the World Championships, so they will all compete under their own flag, even on video.
– Will most athletes from Russia participate remotely?
– Yes, given the current realities, probably remotely. Based on the results of all qualifying stages, it will become clear who will take part. The offline competition will take place from October 6-8 in Texas, USA, so there is still time for athletes to get visas and arrange flights. But, given the situation in the world, we would recommend that they still participate in the online format.
– Has the federation already considered a plan of action if someone decides to personally go to the United States? How to provide assistance with obtaining a visa, organizing a flight and accommodation?
– The federation can assist in obtaining a visa, but this applies only to the athletes of the national team. That is, those who actively participate in Russian competitions, those who will perform at the Russian Championship, which is scheduled for September. Accordingly, if an athlete of the national team applies to the Russian Surfing Federation with such a request, we will help him.
Wakesurfing in Moscow
Photo: Getty Images
“It’s too early to say how many people will qualify for the World Cup”
– There are only five people in the wakesurfing team on the Federation website, but there are many more Russians in the world ratings on the CWSA website, and many of them are higher than the collections indicated on the website. So who gets on the team?
– The athlete enters the Russian national team after he takes the top lines in the Russian championship. We do not select a person for the national team if he has placed high in CWSA competitions. Our organizations live by different rules. For example, the rules for admission to the Russian Championship stipulate that athletes with categories can take part. In regional competitions, an athlete can compete without a category, but fulfill certain criteria and qualify for a category for further professional growth. That is, in fact, one category. There are many more categories in the CWSA: “pro”, “semi-pro”, “amateur” and so on.
– That is, the Russian team is those who are listed on the website of the federation?
– Yes, but the team is larger than on the site. Athletes on the site are those who sent a questionnaire and a photo to the federation. And so the national team includes about 20 athletes, the information is posted on the official website of the Ministry of Sports of the Russian Federation.
– The Kalinka Wakesurf Cup was held recently, which was a qualifying round for the World Championship. Is the lineup already formed? If not, then on what basis will it be formed and how many people will go?
– The exact answer to this question will be clear after all the stages. This year, in order to qualify for the World Championships, athletes must attend two Gold Level Championships and place in the top 10 of the world rankings.
– Is it clear how many quotas we have for the World Cup in general?
– It is still too early to say how many people will be selected for the world. But athletes around the world are fighting for this opportunity. Let’s see.
Wakesurfing in Moscow
Photo: Getty Images
“We want to show the world that we are from Russia!”
– The wakesurfing team is one of the few able to compete under the Russian flag and hear the anthem at the awards ceremony. Do you expect medals at the World Championships and in general what are the prospects for our team?
– Of course! We want to win and show the world that we are from Russia! I repeat once again, our athletes are among the world leaders both in terms of training and tricks. We will definitely have the second or third places, but we really hope that there will be medals for the first places as well. Rather, we do not even hope, but are confident that our athletes will take a leading position. But it seems to me that all the restrictions, including holding the tournament online, relax the athlete a little. It is a completely different matter when he is inside the competitive process. But, on the other hand, online relieves stress, helps to show your best side. So it all depends on the mood of the athlete. We believe in gold!
– You said that international wakesurfing tournaments are still being held in Russia. Foreigners do not refuse to come?
– There are restrictions. For example, only athletes from Russia and Belarus took part in the Kalinka Wakesurf Cup. Another tournament, in which not only Russians will participate, will be held soon in Volgograd. And in September we would like to hold another tournament together with CWSA. We are working on the issue of admitting athletes from Armenia, Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, Belarus and other CIS countries. Let me give you an example from stand-up surfing: we are planning an open international tournament in August, where we plan to bring athletes from more than five countries. Wakesurfing will be in a similar situation. The Russian Surfing Federation will apply to different countries with a request to send their best athletes.
Let me give you another example: at the end of July, an international glanders event will be held in the village of Nikel. It was planned to invite athletes from Egypt there. Due to difficulties with communication and delivery of documents, the athletes did not have time to obtain visas. As a federation, we plan to assist and prepare invitations for foreign athletes, but we cannot go to the embassy or consulate and somehow speed up the process of obtaining a visa. Such a problem occurs.
Wakesurfing is a non-Olympic sport. Does the Russian Ministry of Sports somehow help to develop it, does it support it financially?
– Everything is the same with us as with the Olympic sports. The only thing is that we cannot put athletes on bets so that they receive a salary, and we cannot send an athlete to competitions at the expense of the Russian Surfing Federation or a regional federation. Financing implies the holding of all-Russian competitions and championships of Russia.
Wakesurfing in Moscow
Photo: Getty Images
– Are there any problems with the supply of inventory: boards, uniforms due to the withdrawal of companies from the Russian market or sanctions?
So far we have not encountered such problems.
– And if we are talking about Olympic surfing, and not just about wake?
– In surfing, too, have not yet encountered. Purchases of equipment for athletes of the Olympic discipline are carried out through the Ministry of Sports of the Russian Federation, so far we have not received a refusal from them or information about the difficulties with delivery. As far as I know, the issue of local cooperation is being worked out. In Russia, there are a number of companies producing boards. I would like to contact Russian manufacturers and raise production in Russia to a new level. We plan to give boards to our professional riders who are ready to share their impressions and give professional advice, which will allow Russian production to grow.