For the Polish readers I will add that he's the most important and challenging opponent of our Master – Wiesław Podgórski. Here's an article from June 2018 where Wiesław talks about their rivalry. These gentlemen have a lot in common. This is why their rivalry is simply friendly. A while ago I asked Ruslan Zinyatullin – who was his Master? He pointed to Victor, so here's an interview. Enjoy!
Victor, many competitors point to you as a Master and Supervisor. Tell us, did you also have a person you could call a Master of your own?
Victor Zaitsev: Unfortunately, no.
What did the beginnings of your career look like?
Victor Zaitsev: I was 10 years old. My first steps in sports were in boxing, then wrestling. Then – sambo and judo. When I was 31 I got a medal at the Moscow Championships. I started picking up combat sports because my life wasn't easy. I was often beat by older guys, I lost my father early and I was also sickly.
What happened next?
Victor Zaitsev: When I was working as a trainer, first in sambo and then in judo for over 22 years, I got an offer to become the main USSR judo trainer for the visually impaired. In 1988 they were looking for a trainer who had some knowledge on that. I graduated from the Pedagogic Institute at the Physcial Education Department and I trained a dozen or so of judo and sambo champions. I trained a team of visually impaired judo athletes and then I met armwrestling.
One time a middle-aged man on crutches came to us and suggested armwrestling with him. Every present person, including me, lost with him...
It turned out it was Ivan Fiodorovitch Ovchinnikov – a competitor of the international Złoty Niedźwiedź Tournament.
After a while I became an armwrestling coach. Soon to the Central Community Centre of the Russian nationwide Visually Impaired Association came disabled people with mobility disfunctions and people who were hard of hearing. To become a better trainer I started to attend the meetings of the armwrestling section of GTsOLIFK and the Moscow National University. Besides the main sports judo and armwrestling, I also had to lead the powerlifting of disabled people where the first World Champions started emerging from. Among them were those who successfully trained two sports like Vladimir Krupennikov who became a World Champion in powerlifting and armwrestling, not only among the disabled but also among all competitors.
During this time business only started developing in Russia and people spent funds on organizing competitions for the disabled. The first Russian Championships for the Disabled in armwrestling and powerlifting were organized then.
A very big team of armwrestlers started training in VOS CDK soon and couldn't include everyone. I arranged for our team to be accepted into Ecosmil Centre (in the Russian Sports Comittee) where three times a week we practised armwrestling and powerlifting.
I don't limit myself to sports activities, if there had been opportunities, my students took them. For example only one sportsman in a wheelchair was invited to Kazbek, then three came with me to Elbrus.
What turning points can you pinpoint in the history of this sport? What stages of development do you see?
Victor Zaitsev: In 1997 I took part in the World Championships in India for the first time, I lost. It was only in 2007 in Bulgaria when I managed to become a world championships medalist. In 2010 in Kazachstan I became a World Champion for the first time. I won world championships 5 times inn total, and 8 European championships. I also became the Russian Champion 20 times.
When did you meet Wiesiek Podgórski?
Victor Zaitsev: I consider my best performances to be the 1st and 2nd place among seniors my age and 2nd among the younger at the World Championships in Brazil in 2012. I fought the most with Wiesław Podgórski (Poland) which has always been encouraging for me.
I know because Wiesiek only talks about duels with you after big events! Tell us about your work with disabled cometitors.
Victor Zaitsev: Ever since armwrestling competitions began, a lot has changed – there's more information about trainings, competition preparations and different styles of armwrestling on the Internet. Back then, in early 1990s, we didn't know about it, experienced athletes kept it to themselves. I brought up four Sports Masters.
I think that my best student is Larisa Borovinska who has been practising armwrestling for 27 years. She's an international Sports Master (MSMK), a triple World Champion in disabled with mobility and visual disabilities. She graduated from the Sports Academy, she trains and conducts competitions.
The big „Złoty Zając” tournament is also your creation?
Victor Zaitsev: Yes, as you can tell from the name. In 2018 Anna Mazurenko (Poland) was a guest at our 20th International ZŁOTY ZAJĄC Tournament as a Honorable Guest.
What do you think about the development of armwrestling for the disabled?
Victor Zaitsev: When I organized in the first Russian Championships, people with all types of disabilities took part. Then we started dividing competitors into categories: visually impaired, hard of hearing and those who had mobility issues, leaving out the disabled with other disabilities – general illnesses, people with lower inteligence and others. Instead of developing armwrestling for the disabled so that it can become a paraolympic sport, the sportsmen who never trained disabled competitors were thinking about dividing them into categories. There are many complaints and unreasonable decisions. First of all, it should be done by doctors with higher medical education. As a result at World and European Championships we don't have enough competitors for sportsmen to become Sports Masters and as they don't see any future possibilities and opportunities, they leave armwrestling.
The country doesn't support the disabled well enough, and even less the veterans who have to reach out to sponsors to cover their country with glory of their wins.
But this doesn't necessarily worry me because despite the fact that I'm turning 72 in a few months, I'm still training and preparing for competitions. I live optimistically, I enjoy life, I organize competitions not only in armwrestling but also in fishing. I consider this activity the best rest and regeneration.
Thank you for the interview.
Victor Zaitsev: Greetings for the Readers and everyone in our sport! And especially for Wiesiek Podgórski!