During his long and fruitful career, Vladimir Shantarovich has trained 25 international masters of sport and about 170 masters of sport of the USSR and Belarus, including Olympic champions Raman Piatrushenka and Vadzim Makhneu. Since 2001 the coach has led the Belarusian national canoe print team, devised new coaching technologies and techniques to help Belarusians keep on top of the game. BelTA's correspondent talked to the eminent coach and tried to find out the secret of Vladimir Shantarovich's factory of champions.
Sport does not stand still. It is constantly evolving. How has canoe sprint changed in Belarus in recent years?
Belarusian canoe sprint is 70 already. The results achieved by a group of Belarusian specialists are outstanding. We how have a high-quality infrastructure. In the early 1990s there was not a single regatta course, and now we have sports centers in Minsk, Brest, Gomel and other cities. The state pays more attention to the development of our sport. A group of coaches, who worked at the time of the Soviet Union, adapted the coaching techniques and introduced new things to the methodological guidelines for canoe sprint in Belarus.
How are things with the training of specialists?
After Belarus gained independence, we have trained a lot of specialists of the highest qualifications. The sports that were popular in the Soviet Union have been supported in our country. These include martial arts, weightlifting, biathlon, cyclic sports. We arrange a canoe sprint facility on any river. The country is abundant with rivers and lakes. With a smart selection work, we have gotten the results. Any progress depend on specialists. We have professionals and true fans in this sport. The winner is the one who is most committed to his work, who lives by what he does.
Can we call canoe sprint a national sport?
Yes, we can. The national championships draw 400-500 athletes. The semi-finals feature six to ten heats. Nevertheless, the training of young people is always relevant. It is important that the system works smoothly. For the time being we maintain this process, but there is no limit to perfection, we need to continue and strive for more.
Belarusian athletes medal almost at all international canoe sprint competitions. How do you manage to keep leading positions in the world although the competition is very tough?
Life consists of ups and downs. Olympic seasons come and go, and sooner or later athletes and coaches can feel fatigue. It is important to train new athletes. Canoe sprint is very popular in Belarus. About 8,000 people train in canoe sprint groups in the country. We have built up a high-quality training system in districts and regions, which produces new professional athletes. We can talk about continuity when this system works. After all, internal competition leads to results at international championships as well.
What qualities should a champion possess?
A canoeist, first of all, is a warrior, a racer. For them, the whole life is a battle. A true champion is ready to compete for awards, to compete at the top of their abilities, to overcome all the obstacles to pull out a win.
You have been part of many sport competitions. What are the highlights of your career?
The most significant events for me were the Olympic Games in Athens in 2004, in Beijing in 2008, in London in 2012, and in Rio de Janeiro in 2016. Among the highlights were also the world championships where we claimed victories. We are regular champions and medalists of the most prestigious competitions, and the population of Belarus is only 9.5 million. We compete against such countries as the United States, Russia and China.
What is the national canoe sprint team doing now? What is the focus of the training season?
Now we are working to make sure that the national team keeps training with the same commitment. It is difficult to always stay at the peak, not knowing when competitions will resume. It is very important to remain motivated and ready to compete and win medals. Currently, the national team is training in Zaslavl and Mozyr. All sanitary and epidemiological measures are in place to keep the athletes safe.
Many athletes train like we do. Competitions in many sports will face delays, which is fraught with loss of experience. We have plans to hold several competitions in summer. They include the Belarusian U18 Canoe Sprint Championships, the Belarus Canoe Sprint Cup and the Belarusian Canoe Sprint Championships. We are doing our best to keep the athletes in action. Sport has a uniting power during such hard times. We have already earned 12 Olympic berths. If the Olympics take place in Tokyo in 2021, we will give our best to win medals.