Over the last few days, the Internet has been ablaze with gossip about why Oleg Ostapenko turned down the Ukrainian Gymnastics Federation to start working with the Russian juniors instead. It was rumored Russia offered him more money, which is undoubtedly true. It was also assumed Ostapenko had found working conditions much better in Russia than in his native Ukraine, where many gyms are woefully unprepared for the exigencies of modern gymnastics.
Turns out there's more to the story than that. According to the article below, which was posted on a Ukrainian gymnastics site yesterday, Ukraine doesn't even have a national training center anymore. The national training center at Koncha-Zaspa has been closed. No wonder Ostapenko went to Russia, where many clubs (and, one would assume, the national training centers at Round Lake and Malakhovka) have just been re-equipped with state-of-the-art equipment.
Irina Krasnyanska (photo: Jasmin Schneebeli-Wochner/Gymbox)
Anyhow, here's the article - the Ukrainian perspective on the whole affair, which is bitter and incredibly pessimistic. Rightfully so, we fear.
Oleg Ostapenko is appointed senior coach of the women's junior team of... Russia!
So here it is. Just a few weeks ago, Victor Korzh, President of the [Ukrainian] Artistic Gymnastics Federation, told us the happy news about Oleg Ostapenko's return to Ukraine. Yes, Korzh had succeeded in interesting the experienced coach and persuading him to work with the Ukrainian gymnasts. Oleg Vasilyevich [Ostapenko] had foregone other, more advantageous proposals. He undertook the work with enthusiasm, all the more so because even while training the Brazilian team, his soul had always kept pining for Ukraine. Everyone was excited and revived. Hope dawned for the revival of bygone glory. But no sooner had Oleg Vasilyevich been introduced to those under his care than the terrible news (you can't call it anything else) came – there would be no training camp for the gymnasts. Everybody is going home. The gymnasts will train in their own towns. That shouldn't have to be a problem, but in which towns can you find gyms with up-to-date equipment? Yes, and where can you get good, experienced coaches? For the first time in our years of independence, our gymnasts don't have a training camp. Even in the more difficult 90s, the country found the necessary means for the development of this beautiful sport. And results were forthcoming!
Alina Kozich (photo: Vladimir Rys/Bongarts)
I cannot imagine what is going on now in the hearts of the girls and boys who have dedicated their whole conscious lives to gymnastics. They dreamed of medals, they dreamed of singing the Ukrainian national anthem while standing on pedestals all over the world. But our country does not care about them. You can say there is a crisis, that it is difficult for everyone... But at the same time, the Supreme Council has proposed a law providing additional tens of millions to support the Ukrainian national football [soccer] team. On the eve of the 2012 European Football Championships [which will be hosted by Poland and Ukraine], any sacrifice is deemed acceptable. It's always football; football is everywhere! Only how many medals have our football players won at World Championships, European Championships, or the Olympics? [The answer is none.] Their wage levels and training facilities have always been many times better than those for gymnasts. When gymnasts from other countries arrive at our Koncha-Zaspa training center for an exchange, they are always surprised that it is possible to obtain such good results under such conditions. But now our gymnasts have been deprived even of this bare minimum.
Vote in our poll for the best Ukrainian gymnast! It's possible that there won't be anybody to vote for next year.
We don't know about you, but that article just ruined our weekend. Sad, isn't it, to see such an illustrious program crumble like that? "Tragedy" seems to be an understatement to describe what's going on in Ukraine. "Death bells" is more like it, by the sound of it.
We'll be dressed in black and mourning for the rest of the weekend if this news is true.