Anna Abdulova: “Triathletes should work on creating their media image”

Two months ago, during the FTU Reporting and Election Conference, the interests of athletes at the Triathlon Federation of Ukraine were first represented by Anna Abdulova from Zhytomyr. Her candidacy was nominated by athletes, and during the Conference itself was supported by the majority of delegates. According to Anna, the Athletes’ Commission should not be limited to the right to vote only once every four years… This structure should become a bridge between the athlete and the Federation. Details – in our material.

Congratulations, Anna! In November, during the election of the FTU President, you represented professional athletes among the other delegates and had the right to vote. Given the density of the struggle in the first round of the election of the new president of the FTU – perhaps it is the voice of the current athletes in the end became decisive! What does the status of the Chairman of the Athletes’ Commission at the Triathlon Federation of Ukraine mean to you in general?

The Athletes’ Commission is a very important structure that should influence the processes within the FTU and have a representative. We will submit a version of the relevant document on cooperation to the Presidium, which we are currently working on. Now, under my chairmanship, I am assembling a Commission of a certain number of athletes, approximately five or seven people, who will join the working group. I think that by the end of January we will announce the full membership of the Athletes’ Commission. Our task is to form the position of athletes and the needs that I, as a representative of athletes, will articulate before the Presidium of the FTU. I want to emphasize that any of the Ukrainian triathletes can write or call me, ask their question or problem – I am freely available and ready to help.

What will the Athletes Commission be directly responsible for, what are the needs in the first place?

First of all, these are the main moments that athletes encounter during their careers – both during competitions and training, and at the basic level of everyday life. These are the needs and wishes for equipment, methods, conditions and locations of the meeting, accommodation, nutrition, vitamins, etc. Anything that could simplify the athlete’s training and competition process and work on the end result. After all, I am far from confident in the flexibility and communication skills of our coaches – so in the face of the Athletes’ Commission, Ukrainian athletes will have their voice at the Federation level, and that’s great!

How do you see this cooperation: it will be a struggle of “two towers”? Or vice versa – though not easy, but no less constructive work for the common goal?

Fighting the Federation, working “from the opposite” are remnants of the past. If you do not work clearly in communication, do not stick to the parallel “athlete-coach-federation” and so on – nothing good will come of it… If there is no common goal and all participants in the process go their own way, it will be something like “swan, crab and pike.” Therefore, we are all interested in constructive work for a common result!

I think we can already reveal a little secret: in the coming days there will be a presentation of our joint project of the press service of the FTU and the Athletes’ Commission…

So! This is the page of the Triathlon Federation of Ukraine on the social network Instagram. It should have been done a long time ago – but better now than never. We will fill it with interesting, high-quality and useful content to get maximum pleasure and results. This is our good initiative to help develop our sport. Triathlon should become super-interesting for everyone! I want to bridge the gap between triathlon as a professional sport and ordinary people who have never heard of it. So, as they say – stay tuned!

How to move our athletes to be more active in that regard as well?

I think that for the first time we, as the initiators and implementers of this idea, will devote a lot of our personal time to fill the page. I hope that when Ukrainian triathletes see feedback, they will take the initiative, join the content of the page, share interesting facts from their lives and careers.

We are all looking for sponsorship – but if athletes do not pay time and attention to creating their media image, then what are we talking about? To be lazy to send a photo, not to answer a few questions from the press service, and then to make claims – what kind of common cause and development can we talk about?

At the last Presidium, the task for the upcoming Olympic cycle before the 2024 Games was clearly outlined – three or four Olympic licenses. What do athletes say about that? Will it take us the strength and time to realize the goal?

It will be very difficult – but possible! The problem is that we usually spend a long time “rolling around” and think that we will have time for everything… As practice shows, the tactic to stretch the process of obtaining licenses for the last two years of selection – it does not work. You need to start this work now! We need to focus on specific athletes, which was not the case before. We need to identify candidates for Olympic licenses, sparring partners and keep the focus. Of course, a lot can change in four years, but without clear planning we will not realize our tasks.

Previously, a lot of money was allocated for the training of youth, junior staff – we took children in groups of forty to Turkey, and then the Federation did not have enough money to take the main team to the World Cup relay… Still nothing, but then the vast majority of children who were taken to the collection – they are nowhere to be seen or heard! They do not start abroad, often throw triathlon at all. As a result, we were left without young people and without claims for additional Olympic licenses. This can and should be changed!

Dmytro Chernitsky: “We came to create new triathletes”

So you’ve been in triathlon for at least five years! Did you make a preliminary section of the situation in our sport, what is the request – what do fans, sponsors want and what they do not currently receive from the organizers?

It’s very simple – fans want to get quality starts! If we talk about certain details in the organization – this is the level that they see and feel at the start abroad. In Poland, Turkey and so on. We know that in total there are about one and a half thousand amateur athletes in Ukraine who compete in large-scale competitions – but at the same time we see that only 300-400 of them compete in Ukraine! The lion’s share of amateurs prefer to perform abroad. The year 2020 became an exception and many of the fans willy-nilly performed at home, took part in the Ukrainian starts. On the one hand, it’s good! However, on the other hand, the borders will open tomorrow and they will all go to competitions outside Ukraine again.

It’s simple: the number of high-quality, really high-quality triathlon starts in Ukraine, which the athletes themselves talk about, can be counted on the fingers of one hand! Therefore, our task today is to create a quality product, especially if we are talking about the city of Kyiv. In my opinion, the capital lacks a large class triathlon tournament in the city center, where Kyivites and guests of the city would get acquainted with triathlon as a sport.

When it comes to commerce, sponsors and partners, this is one of the key areas we are currently working on. So far, this case is zero, so to speak – as of now we do not have a general sponsor for Triathlon Ukraine, but at the same time there are potential sponsors and partners who are interested. There is our model of relations with various companies, which has fully justified itself in working with marathons. Contracts with companies can vary in the duration of the contract and the content. We also develop a sports and running corporate culture in many companies, among their staff, in many business areas. This is a two-way job! And I believe that in Ukraine there are companies and business structures that are interested in getting involved in triathlon.

How important is it to involve opinion leaders, show business stars, famous people with a certain reputation weight in the triathlon starts?

Of course, this is the standard way we go. When there really are thought leaders, running, cycling, swimming, and playing sports in general. It is in triathlon that we are very interested in starting to work with new people! Perhaps we will thus create opinion leaders – who in fact already are, but in other areas. The same goes for running: many of the people who are currently Run Ukraine ambassadors were not big runners at first. Masha Karachyna, Slava Varda, Anatoliy Anatolich – all these people started running, taking part in our events. They grew in that sense, began to run and promote a healthy lifestyle. In general, this is our strategy, and I would even say the value – we help to unite such thought leaders, and we work with them constantly afterwards. We give each other a lot, and it seems to me a very good synergy.

We’re not running after some super-hype stars with half a million Instagram followers. For example, the well-known businessman Yevhen Chernyak: we know that he is running – but we are not running after Yevhen Chernyak to be our ambassador! We are interested in working with those people who live this sport, who talk about it, how this or that sport has changed their lives. I think we will work with triathlon on this principle. For us, not only the sports component is important, but also the social component, which is carried by the sport and creates opportunities for other people to transform their own lives. Triathlon is a very interesting challenge for many today. After all, laziness is a thing that prevents a large number of people from feeling happy. And it is at the expense of sports that you can work on it, acquiring certain skills and getting used to self-discipline.

You mentioned that some local Athletics Federations or local authorities of certain regional centers blocked your oxygen, relatively speaking – did not allow you to go with their competitions in their cities. How important is it to cooperate with the Triathlon Federation of Ukraine at this stage of creating Triathlon Ukraine?

It is very important to be able to unite! This is the right principle, which we also learn. I understand that there is much more to this principle than if you work for everyone individually. That is why cooperation with FTU is a good opportunity to create something common, big and important today. The time has come, and together we want to create this story. I see exceptionally great advantages from cooperation with the Triathlon Federation of Ukraine. The more organizers and competitions there are, the more widely the FTU will be able to promote such a sport as triathlon. The main task of the Triathlon Federation is to create the rules of the game that all organizers will follow. We are talking again about licensing, standardization and so on.

How important is the club approach to training amateur triathletes on this path?

All events and competitions, where mostly amateurs perform, are connected with clubs in one way or another! After all, if there are no events – there will be no clubs, and vice versa. From my experience with marathons, I can say that clubs are a kind of community, a community within a community that works directly with the participants. Clubs not only train amateur athletes, provide training, support and so on – they do it, relatively speaking, “under a very tasty sauce”! There are more fan clubs, there are professional ones, there are those that rely on communication – there are various projects. It is very interesting and speaks of how different running or triathlon can be! This is the basis of the sport itself as such.

I remember you brought a few Kenyan stars to one of your first marathons! The rest of the participants looked at them as aliens – they were active marathoners of a high level of training, who performed at major international competitions, which added status to your competition. I really wanted to run after them! Do you plan to include, perhaps, current or former triathlon stars, so that their presence at the start adds interest and entourage to your competition?

Yes, we invited top athletes, it seems it was 2012 or 2013. But these people go for serious fees, we then paid a considerable sum for the arrival of Kenyans. But here’s the thing: when you don’t have the budget to buy bananas or water for all the participants in the marathon, and you bring Kenyans, I have to admit that it was a mistake then! This needs to be approached step by step. We understand that it will be great, but not immediately. In the half marathons, we have Kenyans only in the 8-9th year of the organization, now we have the opportunity to pay for the arrival and select certain athletes whom we can and want to invite. It’s not just Kenya – Ethiopia, Poland, Turkey and other countries also have their running stars. At the same time, we create both a general test and an all-Ukrainian test – so that our athletes still have the opportunity to win awards and earn good prizes.

In general, I am not for populism – I am more for systemic development. And not only me, but all of us. Populism is cool at some stage, you bring someone, you spend, it will be interesting for a certain audience who knows these people… And there are participants who do not know these athletes, and they do not care who came there and on what terms. Therefore, our strategy will be more based on working with amateurs, Ukrainian amateurs. After all, we came to create new triathletes. First of all, it is the creation of new conditions for amateurs, clubs, so that they develop. There will be some training programs that we will promote. For the first year, we need to establish ourselves fundamentally so that Ukraine can start triathlon! And then you can bring stars, athletes, make some prizes and so on. And now we have a serious layer of basic work that needs to be done.

The first vice-president of FTU organized a meeting with the fastest marathon runner on the planet!

Alexei Shcherbina, who currently holds a training camp for amateur triathletes in Kenya, introduced his wards to Eliud Kipchoge.

Probably, in the world of sports there will be a very small number of people who would never have heard of Eliud Kipchoge and his epoch-making achievement! Rio de Janeiro Olympic marathon champion, holder of numerous world records, gained popularity on a planetary scale a year and a half ago. On October 12, 2019 in Vienna in the Prater Park as part of the Ineos Challenge, a Kenyan overcame a marathon with a crazy result of 1:59:40 – thus, Kipchoge became the first person in the world who managed to “run” a full marathon in two hours!

Former triathlete, and now coach and first vice president of the Triathlon Federation of Ukraine Oleksiy Shcherbina has been taking a group of amateur triathletes to Kenya for the second year in a row. According to Alexei, the crazy idea to meet Kipchoge, taking the opportunity, slipped into his head last year. And already in 2021 the dream of millions of runners from all over the planet became a Ukrainian reality.

“I wanted to meet Eliud last year when I was gathering in Kenya. But at that time, as far as I know, Kipchoge was somewhere on the road – it was physically impossible to meet him. And now we had to make some effort, spend some time to find his training camp and arrange a meeting. I will say so – it would be desirable! If we analyze everything, it was not so difficult to materialize our plan.

In fact, when we met with him – even the language was taken away for a moment… We did not discuss with him the moments of training processes, the specifics of training, or something. There was not much free time in Kipchog. We exchanged courtesies, took a few photos, in principle, even that was more than enough for us. But we managed to meet him again, literally on the second day! Moreover, I managed to talk a little about the specifics of training with his sparring partners, this information is no less valuable.

Eliud Kipchoge and the rest of the top Kenyan runners, oddly enough, train in a sufficiently ascetic environment and away from prying eyes, so as not to distract from the training process. The schedule of the week is quite typical and does not change during the year. It is very noticeable how his team takes care of him, respects him and protects him in every possible way – it is noticeable in communication and behavior.

There are ten of us at the meeting – amateurs are preparing for their competitive season, and I help them. In general, our traditional winter gathering in Kenya is scheduled for three weeks. We are already returning to Ukraine on February 7, “Oleksiy Shcherbina said.

We will remind, on November 7, 2020 within the limits of the Reporting and election Conference of Federation of triathlon of Ukraine Alexey Shcherbin was elected the first vice-president of FTU. While in the presidential race, the undisputed victory in the first round was won by an entrepreneur and sports official from Kyiv region Yuriy Gorobets.