400 Medals   –  150 Golden

A talk with Leonid Arkajew (RUS),  the most successful trainer of the world..

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Leonid Arkajew, member of the UEG Executive Committee,
president of the Russian gymnastics
federation, head coach for the men's and women's
teams, is a legendary phenomenon in world gymnastics. Since Munich 1972, he can claim participation in nearly every single Olympic Games, World Championships, and European Championships.

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GY Mmedia correspondant Hans-Juergen Zeume Hans-Juergen Zeume (Berlin/GER) spoke with him.
(Russian-German translation by
Karl-Heinz Zschocke (Berlin/GER)
German-English translation
Kerry Bleasdale Kerry Bleasdale  (Georgia/USA)

You've gotten somewhat portlier. Is that an expression of worry or of joy?

L. A.:  I can't exactly say. I have a lot of work and can no longer exercise enough myself. I used to have time to run a little and ride a bike, but all things considered, you can look at my weight gain as an expression of joy, because work satisfies me and brings me joy.

How many hours a day do you work?

L. A.: Mornings from 7 to 1 and evenings between 5:00 and 7:30. Besides these training sessions in our old Olympic facility, I drive into Moscow three times a week.

How long will you be able to keep Russian gymnastics at the level of the past 20 years?

L. A.: I can't answer that. I don't know how Russia will change. I've been coach there for 27 years now. There's still the presumption that we will develop world-class gymnastics. For how long, I don't know.

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(Foto:  GYMmedia-archiv)

How many gymnasts are there near the top in Russia today?

WCh 1981, Moscow:
USSR victory team

L. A.: I've already picked out 10 boys and 10 girls who can realistically be seen candidates for the 1999 World Championships in Tianjin and the 2000 Olympics in Sydney. Their abilities are, as ever, very good.

  With what thoughts do you go to the World Championships in Tianjin, in October 1999?

L. A.:  The Chinese are our strongest opponents, and I know that they're not just preparing technically for World Championships, but are also trying to resolve other questions organizationally, so that they will win, both the men and the women. I have already received very interesting information that I can't talk about-- how the Chinese are preparing themselves organizationally.

Are you already thinking past the 2000 games to 2004 in Athens?

L. A.: We're already preparing parallel a team for 2000 and another for 2004, for both the men and the women.

   What percent of elite gymnasts are there still in Russia today, compared to earlier?

L. A.:  About the same.

Compulsories have been eliminated, and many say that "compulsory" optionals have been introduced. Many, as Karl-Heinz Zschocke, don't like this. What do you have to say about this development in world gymnastics?

L. A.: I support Karl-Heinz Zschocke's opinion. It's not so bad for our country, because we have a special training program for young gymnasts, but for the other countries, especially the weakly developed countries, it's not good, of course.

Is the team or individual success more important to you?

L. A.: The victory of the team is more important. Team competition has always been the priority to me. Team victory, however, always means good chances for individual success.

In the Sydney Olympic Village, the streets will be named after famous Olympic athletes from all over the world. One will be named after Larissa Latynina. What do you have to say? How is the most famous gymnast of the old Soviet gymnastics school?

L. A.:  She is retired and lives in Moscow. She's earned it; she has won the most medals of any female athlete in the Olympic Games. She had an outstanding appearance in Melbourne in 1956. The Australians will surely still remember.

At the 1966 World Championships in Dortmund, 32 year-old Latynina stood on the world gymnastics stage for the last time, where the young gymnast Leonid Arkaev also wanted to be...

L. A.:  I was too weak in Dortmund, and was for that reason only the alternate, but that made a big impression on me. I understood that because of my not-so-good behavior, I hadn't made it to world-class sport. Because of that I try to make sure that the young gymnasts I coach behave otherwise.

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  Who were to you the most outstanding gymnasts you coached and coach today?

L. A.:  Dina Kochetkova and Nikolai Andrianov. Today I personally train Elena Produnova, Anna Kovalyova, and Evgeny Pogdorny.

In action:
Arkaev and Produnova

  Was Dimitri Bilozerchev the most complicated situation to you?

L. A.: No. You could work with him. He enjoyed doing everything, with a little convincing, but you could also convince him to stick to a certain training regime. It was no problem for him to stick to certain rules, and it was pleasant coaching him.

Do you keep statistics on the number of Olympic, World Championships, and European Championships medals that you, as the coach, have helped win?

L. A.: I used to have those statistics. I haven't been keeping up with the numbers anymore, but I can say, of course, that about 400 Olympic, World Championships, and European Championships medals have been won under my leadership, about 150 of those gold. As far as the team medals are concerned, every single medal isn't counted, but rather one per team.

  With those numbers you are the most successful gymnastics coach of all time, maybe even the most successful coach of all time...

L. A.: As far as gymnastics goes, I agree, but I haven't really thought about the second part of the question.

Is the fact that you never competed in an Olympic Games, World Championships, or European Championships, although you had the skill, the reason that you have become such a succesful coach?

L. A.: I think so. This circumstance motivated me to achieve with my gymnasts what was denied me as an athlete.

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(Foto: Zschocke, privat)

(P.S.: Arkajew (left) was the captain and the best gymnast of the URSS national team in May 1966 in a friendship competition against the GDR in Schwerin (Foto, right)

Leonid Arkajew (left) and Werner Doelling, in background Gerhard  ("Fly") Dietrich and Siegfried Fuelle (former GDR gymnasts, 1966)

If you were young again, would you want to be a coach again?

L. A.: Yes!

What is the hardest part, and what is the best part about this job?

L. A.:  If you don't love gymnastics, it's very hard tohave success in this job.

  Thank you for the talk, and good luck for the Russian teams on the way to Tianjin in October!

(For GY Mmedia:
Report:  Hans-Jürgen Zeume/
Translation:  Karl-Heinz Zschocke/Kerry Bleasdale)
Red.online:  Eckhard Herholz)

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GYMmedia-info-service / 13-08-99
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update 07/10/99