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Mordovia Athletic Achievements

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Mordovia has proven to the whole world that even a small republic can have a large impact on the global Olympic movement. In 2004, Alexei Mishin, a wrestler from Saransk, won the gold medal at the Olympic Games in Athens. Race walker, Denis Nizhegorodov, received a silver medal

Mordovia Athletic Achievements

Mordovia has proven to the whole world that even a small republic can have a large impact on the global Olympic movement.  In 2004, Alexei Mishin, a wrestler from Saransk, won the gold medal at the Olympic Games in Athens. Race walker, Denis Nizhegorodov, received a silver medal after a difficult struggle, while his teammate, Alexei Voevodin, took the bronze. In 2008, race walkers of the Olympic Race Walking Training Center, Olga Kaniskina, Valery Borchin and Denis Nizhegorodov, won two gold and one bronze medals at the Olympic Games.

In 2009, Olga Kaniskina, Valery Borchin and Sergey Kirdyapkin won all the gold medals in all race walking distances at the World Championship in Berlin. In 2010, athletes from Saransk, Olga Kaniskina, Anisya Kirdyapkina and Vera Sokolova swept the podium for women's race walking in the 20 km competition at the European Championship in Barcelona.
In November 2009, Mordovia was chosen to host the 2012 World Cup for Race Walking, winning 14:7 over the Chinese city of Tianjin. Such a convincing victory assures that Saransk is well known all over the world. The athletic phenomenon in Mordovia can be attributed to hard work focused on the development of physical education and sports, as well asa focus on high achievement. In his speeches, the President of the Republic, Nikolai Merkushkin, has emphasized that the development of sports among the entire population and the success of high performance sports are important factors in the social development of Mordovia.

Back in 2002, Mordovia established a Republic-Wide Program for 2002-2006, called the “Development of Physical Culture, Sports, Tourism and Promotion of Healthy Lifestyles in the Republic of Mordovia”. Its implementation allowed for a true “revolution” in both professional and mass sports. The program significantly increased the number of people regularly engaged in physical culture and sports, and many sports centers and clubs were equipped with new sports equipment. In addition, the program developed and implemented projects for the construction of  new sports facilities.  Among the sports facilities constructed at that time were the multi-purpose sport  center, “Mordovia,” with 12 halls; a new stadium, “Start,” with four soccer pitches and tennis courts; the athletic center of Mordovia N.P. Ogarev State University with an area of 900 square meters; a stadium named “Saransk,” as well as various public sports and recreation centers built in different districts of Saransk and comprehensive stadiums for schools.
Mordovia is truly proud of its world-famous Greco-Roman wrestling and race walking centers. The Republic renovated a court in the National Palace of Culture to train wrestlers, and built an Olympic Training Center for gifted young race walking athletes located in the north-western district of Saransk.
A special trend throughout Mordovia is the construction of sports facilities in the countryside. Since 2000, in accordance with the Decree of the President of Mordovia N. Merkushkin concerning investment support of the social sphere of the Republic, there has been shared funding (50 to 50 percent) of the Republic’s budget and local funds to construct cultural and sports facilities.This decree greatly stimulated further development of social infrastructure in the countryside, where a number of tennis courts, artificial turf football fields, BMX Centers, and weightlifting facilities were built. In almost every district of Mordovia, it is possible to find high quality sports and recreation centers. Small artificial turf football pitches and multi-functional volleyball and basketball courts meet the highest international standards.

Results of the development of modern sports facilities quickly paid off. Triumph awaited Mordovian athletes at the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens. Greco-Roman wrestler, Alexei Mishin, won Olympic gold, while race walkers Denis Nizhegorodov and Alexei Voevodin won silver and bronze for the 50 km. distance. Compatriots Yuriy Borzakovskiy and Guzel Manyurova dedicated their victories to Mordovia and its people. The complete list of victories of Mordovian athletes in Russian, European, World and junior competitions would occupy several pages. The success of Mordovian athletes is a result of mass sports development throughout the Republic and because sports became widely available and popular among the entire population. On January 1, 2006 there were 2,425 different sports facilities in Mordovia. Out of all these facilities, 1,643 were located in rural areas. In 2005, over 20 percent of the population of Mordovia was involved in sports, compared to just over 9 percent of Russian population in general.
Four years ago, Mordovia became the first region of the country to annually award prizes and grants to the best athletes and coaches, including coaches who work with children under the age of 17. High-performance sports specialists are provided with employer-rented housing and the Republic provides all support for its athletes in their preparation for major competitions.
The establishment of regional athletic centers for training Olympic caliber athletes, allowed Mordovia to invite highly qualified experts in biathlon, figure skating, BMX, skiing, and other sports. Among these experts are L. Arkaev, a famous gymnastics coach and honored trainer of the USSR and Russia, S. Litvinov, an Olympic champion in the hammer throw, M. Tkachenko, a coach of men's biathlon shooting for the Russian national team, T. Pishchalnikova, a coach in discus throwing, as well as many others. Well known and promising young athletes in a variety of sports are invited to perform on behalf of the Republic.

In May 2010, the Republic of Mordovia and the Sports Ministry of Russia signed a cooperation agreement that will support the development of 22 types of sports in the region. Mordovia already serves as a base for the development of seven summer and three winter Olympic sports, and by 2013, this number is supposed to increase up to 22 sports. At the meeting of the Council on Fitness and Sports under the President of the Russian Federation, the Republic of Mordovia was among the top four regions in terms of mass sports development. Because of Mordovia’s reputation, the President of Mordovia headed the Council commission for the development of mass sports.
In 2007, Mordovia started another republican program, titled the “Development of Physical Culture and Sports of the Republic of Mordovia in 2007-2011,” which establishes and promotes the achievements of the previous program. In 2006, based on the initiative of the Edinaya Rossia Party (United Russia), Mordovia signed an agreement with the Federal Agency for Physical Culture and Sports for the construction of air-supportedsports facilities. Within this framework, Mordovia constructed seven multi-functional sports and recreation centers, three of which include skating rinks. In fact, artificial ice skating rinks in countryside are signs of a new generation. Such facilities are already opened in Ruzaevka and Romodanovo, etc. and are currently being built in Insar, Atyashevo and Saransk.
Also in 2007, the Ice Palace was opened in the capital city of Saransk, where residents were given the opportunity to practice sports such as ice hockey, figure skating, and short track all year round, with special centers in hockey, figure skating and short track centers for children and youth. The Ice Palace became the basis for the development of winter sports, which provided Mordovia an opportunity to set ambitious goals, including the training of athletes for the Sochi Olympics in 2014. The Saransk ice arena has already hosted a number of nationwide competitions.  Most notably, the Ice Palace has hosted the Russian Figure Skating Championship in December 2010.
In 2007, a European level Biathlon and Ski Complex was opened in Mordovia, which has also already hosted a nation-wide competition.
Saranskhas a unique indoor facility for BMX cycling. There are no other similar sports facilities like it in Russia.
In 2008, the Indoor Tennis Center with five courts was opened in Mordovia
There is no doubt that without modern sports facilities success is impossible. However, each victory is accompanied by the hard efforts of dozens of people, including coaches, athletes, administrators and doctors. Mordovia was lucky enough to successfully create several distinctive teams able to foster great sports victories.
The Olympic Race Walking Training Center, managed by head coach Victor Chegin, is very well-known for creating champions. Based on the number of awards won in recent years by the athletes of this program at world and continental championships and cups for adults and juniors, it exceeds any other similar centers. In addition to winning gold at the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games, the center can be proud of many other medals won at Russian, European and world competitions. The highest recognition of the achievements of the Center and its leader was in 2009 after the World Cup in Berlin. After the championship Viktor Chegin was awarded the Order of Glory of the Republic of Mordovia I degree.  The successful coach became the first full Knight of the Order of Glory.In accordance with the Decree of the President of the Republic of Mordovia, a monument to Viktor Chegin will be made on the Walk of Fame, and the Olympic Race Walking Training Center was officially named after him. The awarding of this honor took place during a special ceremony praising the athletes. Chegin’s athletes were also awarded in this ceremony at the arena of sports complex “Mordovia,” in the presence of several thousand spectators. Olga Kaniskina was awarded the title of “Honorary Citizen of the Republic of Mordovia,”  Valeriy Borchin was awarded the State Prize of Mordovia, and Sergey Kirdyapkin was awarded the Order of Glory III degree. All world champions were presented a Toyota Camry, and the the Kirdyapkins (Sergei’s wife Anisya was fourth at the World Championship) were granted with the keys to a new three-roomed apartment.
Over two thousand Mordovian athletes of all ages watched the award ceremony. Among these athletes were potential world and Olympic champions. The process of developing future champions begins with school athletic clubs. Affiliates of the Olympic Race Walking Training Center are open in all districts, and thousands of children are engaged in race walking centers throughout Mordovia. Each child training at these centers has a real chance to achieve high athletic results.
Recently in Saransk, a new Gymnastics Center was opened. The center is headed by the former national team coach and ex-president of the Federation of Gymnastics, Leonid Arkaev. Under the management of Arkaev, the Russian national team thrived in the international arena when it repeatedly won the team all-around event at the World Championships and Olympics. Now, Arkaev intends to achieve a higher level with Mordovian gymnasts. In order to accomplish this goal, a new building, equipped with the latest modern equipment, was built.
Every year, Mordovia holds track and field and Greco-Roman wrestling competitions in the name of the legendary sons of Mordovia - Olympic champion, Peter Bolotnikov, and Hero of the Soviet Union, Mikhail Devyataev. Another Olympic and European champion, Alexei Mishin, who in 2007 was World Champion and recognized as the best wrestler on the planet, serves as a role model for hundreds of boys. The Youth Wrestling Center named after Mishin is currently working to develop a new generation of champions.
Mordovia is a place where people love and understand football. During matches of the beloved team “Mordovia,” thousands of fans gather in the stands of the stadium. Even though professional clubs in Mordovia are not in the Premier League, Saransk still has great traditions in this sport. The Football Club “Mordovia” was in the quarter-finals of the 2009-2010 Russian Cup and the team was sixth place in the Russian Cup for 1-st Division teams in the 2010 season. Top officials are working hard so that Mordovia will eventually join the Premier league.
Mordovia plans to continue active construction of modern sports facilities. According to the plans for the celebration of the 1000-year Unity of the Mordovian people with peoples of Russia, Saransk has begun construction on a Water Sports Palace which includes a 50-meter main swimming pool, warm-up and diving pools, springboards, platforms and other equipment, all of which will meet international standards for competition and training. Also, the construction of an indoor football arena with artificial turf has already started. The facility includes eight 400-meter running tracks, track and field sectors, stands with a capacity of 10,000 seats, a medical rehabilitation center, and a boarding school. The arena will be a single complex and the third stage of construction with be the building of a boarding base for the Olympic Training Centre for Race Walking. The arena will also have a separate dining zone, a hotel with 80 places, a health and recreation center, and a swimming pool in order to ensure that athletes will be in comfortable conditions for year-round training. 
In addition to these facilities, the second phase of the Biathlon and Ski Complex will be implemented. The renovated complex will include a service center, a boarding school for 149 people and a dining room. Phase II of construction will oversee the expansion of the cross-country track along with the establishment of a penalty loop, create a multi-functional team sports hall with a capacity of 7,000 seats, that may also transform into an ice arena. In addition, the complex will include dance, fitness, health and recreation centers, a museum of sports, several cafés, a press-center, office for drug testing and other facilities.
While meeting with the champions and winners of the XX European Championships in Athletics, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev praised the work of Mordovia in the development of sports.  He said, “In Mordovia, I know for sure that if you’ll ask a manager to do something, he always tries to do his very best and do it carefully. Such examples are worthy of being imitated.”
Currently several football stadiums are open in Saransk. First, there is the stadium, “Start,” located in the central part of the city has four football pitches: two with artificial turf and two with natural turf. Second, there is the stadium, “Saransk,” with artificial turf, and a training base for Football Club “Mordovia” that includes synthetic and natural pitches. Mordovia actively participates in the federal program titled “Development of Football in the Russian Federation for 2009-2015.” Within the guidelines of this program, football pitches with artificial turf were built in 12 municipalities of Mordovia.

In Mordovia, basketball and boxing are rapidly developing, with the establishment of special sports centers for the training of young athletes. The Boxing Center is named after the famous heavyweight boxer Oleg Maskaev, who is the holder of the champion belt according to WBC. Oleg, who grew up in Kazakhstan and lives in the U.S., did not forget his family’s Mordovian background. He gratefully accepted the invitation of the President of Mordovia, Nikolai Merkushkin, to represent Mordovia in professional boxing. It was Merkushkin who urged Maskaev to adopt Russian citizenship. The first professional boxing match in Saransk took place in the spring of 2009. The match was between Oleg Maskaev and Rich Boruff (USA). To the delight of his fellow countrymen, Maskaev won the fight with a clean knockout.
The track and field team of Mordovia includes legendary runner Yuriy Borzakovskiy, shot putter A. Avdeeva, and discus throwers Darya and Bogdan Pishchalnikov. The capability of Saransk to host a competition at any level was proven in the summer of 2010 when it hosted the Russian Championship in Athletics. The competition took place during the peak of the summer heat, but the event organizers and the administration of the stadium “Start” did everything possible to  ensure that the natural conditions did not keep athletes and spectators away from the competition. The conditions which now exist for the training of Mordovian athletes are like nothing the Republic has ever seen.  In addition, sport activities among the population as a whole are growing at a record pace.
Since 1997, the Republic has been holding Spartakiads, competitions for workers and studying youth, and summer and winter countryside sports competitions. Since 2001, a key requirement has been the participation of athletes from all regions and municipalities of Mordovia. The sphere of influence of Mordovian competitions involves a wide range of people who are enthusiastic about sports and fitness. Qualifying competitions are held among people working and studying at enterprises and educational institutions.
Since 1999, another competition, called the Minor Olympic games, has become an integral part of life in Mordovia. Saransk was selected to host the first Minor Olympic games of the Volga Federal District in September 2004. Athletes from 15 areas of the Volga region took part in these games.
On November 1, 2010, speaking at a teleconference, the Russian Prime Minister, Vladimir Putin, discussed the construction of sports facilities in Mordovia.  He stated, “We have said many times that the Republic of Mordovia has no oil, no gas, no gold or diamonds. Nevertheless, the issues important to people are being solved there, and solved well. Over the past few years, the capital has completely transformed: a theater was built along with sports facilities of such standards that the capital cities of Moscow and St. Petersburg can actually be envious.” Following this idea, the President of the Republic N. Merkushkin has repeatedly emphasized that the construction of new sports facilities is an ongoing priority. As previously mentioned, the Water Sports Palace, an indoor athletics arena, a 7000 seat multi-functional track and field hall located in the center of Saransk, new sports and recreation centers, ice hockey and skating indoor rinks in the countryside, and football pitches are currently being constructed. The athletic chronicle of Mordovia will continue and it will be a long and glorious story!

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