In the wake of Olympic Qualification Tournament

At the Olympic Qualification tournament that was held in Italy last April, the Russian women’s team came third thus gaining one of the four remaining licences for the London games. In the wake of this event we interviewed the team’s Head-coach, Two Times Olympic champion, Aleksandr Kabanov.

– Aleksandr, the Russian team under your guidance qualified for the Olympic games in London this year – congratulations! What are your impressions of the Qualification tournament? Were you happy with how the team played? Or did some players not perform in accordance with your expectations?

The tournament turned out psychologically very difficult since everything was decided in one game only. All teams were under that tremendous mental pressure throughout the Qualification tournament. The world champion Greek team failed to cope with that burden.

As far as our team is concerned, we did not have any doubt that we would make it through. But it was not easy and we had to put a lot of effort into achieving that result. At times we showed very interesting play-making but sometimes everything came to a standstill. Overall, however, I think, we are moving in the right direction and, in the remaining time before the Olympics, we’ll be working on our mistakes.

We are dissatisfied with some players’ performance and have serious questions to ask them.

– Which of your players would you pay high tribute to?

In responce to this question I would like to mention Eugenia Ivanova, Ekaterina Tankeyeva and Anna Karnaukh.

– Do you plan any changes to the team composition?

 By and large it is the team that will play in London but there will be 1-2 changes.

– The Spanish team won the tournament. Have they really improved so much during the period since the world championships in Shanghai last July or is it just a lucky run for them?

The Spanish team has significantly improved during the last year. But, I also think that many teams did not take them seriously enough, and as it turned out – to their peril. The Greek team wanted to play Spain in the decisive quarter-final match; we now know the result.

–  What can you say about the refereeing at the Qualification tournament?

 Average – the fluctuation in the level of refereeing quality was very big.

– Greece did not make it to the Olympics. Do you think it is correct and just that the team that won the world championships will not be taking part at the Olympic games?

I said to my fellow coaches at the world championships in Shanghai last year that with such ‘pragmatic’ play they might not make it to the Olympic games. Unfortunately, I was right. They missed their form in Trieste and could not add anything more to their game in the crucial match against the inspired Spanish team.

Probably, it is not good that a world champion will not be present at the Olympic games but that is how things are at present.

– What do you mean by ‘pragmatic’ game of the Greek team at the world championships? In general, what style of water polo do you prefer, given that everybody strives to win at any cost?

Firstly, the Greeks are trying to play without any risks, in order to minimize their number of mistakes. Secondly, in attack everything goes through their centre-forward ONLY. Although, admittedly, they do it very well since they have individually a very strong specialist CF in Aleksandra Assimaki. Their playing philosophy reminds me of the Yugoslav water polo school where every move is carefully planned and calculated with minimum improvisation and spontaneity. But I believe water polo should not be so rigid as if players perform ‘chores’ allocated by a coach.  Rather, the players’ individual flair and creativity should also play a part in an overall game plan.

– What is your prognosis for the Olympiad? Do you consider any of the teams as favourites?

I do not consider any of the teams as favourites. All teams are very even perhaps with the exception of the British side who also made serious progress recently.

– What are your plans in the remaining time?

In May, we will take part in the World League. From 10 June we’ll start the final stage of our preparation during which we may have joint training sessions with one of the teams. If the planned tournament in Holland goes ahead (which seems unlikely now), we’ll take part there too.

– We wish your team a successful performance in London!

 Thank you!

About Erkin Эркин Shagaev Шагаев
European, world, Olympic champion, two times World Cup winner Чемпион Европы, мира, Олимпийских игр, двукратный обладатель Кубка мира

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