Valery Belenky was Azerbaijan’s first Olympic medalist in gymnastics (he won team gold and AA bronze as a part of the Unified team in 1992). He then moved to Germany and competed for them in the 1996 Olympics. Belenky still lives in Germany where he works as a coach. Vesti Kavkaza, an Azerbaijani news site, talked to him at the Voronin Cup in Moscow.
Q: Valery Vladimirovich, how did you decide to come watch the Voronin Cup this year?
A: I currently work as a coach, I’m the second coach of the German national team, I live in Stuttgart. I’m coaching five good boys, all of them are members of the national team. Since they’re at the army camp now, I had time to visit Russia and watch the Voronin Cup competition. I used to know Mikhail Voronin when I was still competing, we were training in Dynamo. And I also came to see my friends from Baku and I was especially happy to see my relatives. I grew up in Baku and I love that city very much, I miss Azerbaijan very much and hope to return there one day.
Q: What are the perspectives of artistic gymnastics in Azerbaijan?
A: Regarding artistic gymnastics, it’s developing now and there’s a significant potential for its further development. I wish the republic to prepare its own strong gymnasts in the future. I know that Azerbaijan’s Gymnastics Federation already invited several coaches and specialists who started actively working there. I hope that in near future Azerbaijan’s artistic gymnastics will get medals at the biggest international competitions.
Q: What are the qualities than an athlete needs in order to take the lead?
A: In order to become an Olympic champion, you need to dedicate your whole childhood and almost your whole life to it. When I was training, we had three daily practices and they took so much time that we literally didn’t have time for anything else. I don’t regret dedicating my whole life to this beautiful sport and achieving such results. At the same time, not everyone can become an Olympic champion, you also have to have the talent, and if you don’t, it’ll be very hard to win. Although just talent isn’t enough, Olympic victories require hard work.
Q: What was the most memorable moment from your Olympic past?
A: When I competed for the Unified team in Barcelona in 1992, we won the team final. Of course, we were very happy, it was my first Olympic medal, and gold at that. And then we were allowed to compete under the flags of our own republics. So, when I competed in the all-around and won the bronze medal, this was an unforgettable moment in my life because I had the opportunity to represent my republic on such a high international level.
Q: In your opinion, is the sport still sperate from politics?
A: I’ll tell you as an athlete. If a person didn’t take any doping, he should be allowed to compete and should compete under his homeland’s flag. The combination of sports and politics looks wrong, that’s my personal opinion. If a person doesn’t take doping and builds his whole life on the preparation for the Olympics and then he’s not allowed to go, it’s wrong, unfair and unjust.
Q: In your estimation, which countries show the highest results at the Voronin Cup?
A: In gymnastics, as always, Russia has been and will be the strongest. It’s a big country that has plenty young talents. They have good boys with clean execution which are nice to look at. Japan also has very good juniors and I hope that in the future I’ll see such athletes from my native Azerbaijan as well.
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