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Team Belarus share emotions ahead of Tokyo 2020

Friday, 09 July 2021

A solemn farewell ceremony for Team Belarus prior to the Tokyo Olympic Games was held in the Palace of Independence in Minsk on 9 July. Taking part in the ceremony was Belarus President Aleksandr Lukashenko. Members of the Belarusian delegation shared their impressions and emotions in an interview to a BelTA journalist.

Maryna Litvinchuk (kayak and canoe sprint)

Tokyo 2020 will not be the first Olympic Games for the athlete, therefore she is not that nervous, yet focused. “I felt anxious during my first Olympiad, I didn't know what to expect, but now I feel more calm,” she said. “I will keep fine-tuning my competitive strategy and training. Belarus is a sporting nation, we will be as focused as possible to achieve the best results,” the athlete added.

In her opinion, the farewell ceremony for the Belarusian delegation with the participation of the president is important for the athletes: “It is very pleasant when the head of state supports sports and is actively involved in it. When you feel this kind of support, it gives you confidence.”

Vasilisa Marzaliuk (freestyle wrestling)

Vasilisa Marzaliuk admits that as the Olympic Games are approaching, it is getting increasingly harder to keep emotions and anxiety in check. According to her, athletes feel incredibly strong emotions standing on a podium, listening to the national anthem: “I always listen to the anthem with excitement and I usually cry. I hope we will hear the anthem many times at these Olympic Games.”

According to the athlete, a lot is being done in Belarus to support sports, including freestyle wrestling. All the necessary conditions were created for Belarusian wrestlers to prepare for the Olympic Games. “We got everything that we wanted. Therefore, our morale is high. I hope Belarus will be proud of me,” Vasilisa Marzaliuk said.

The athlete is a little upset that there will be no spectators at the upcoming competitions in Tokyo. “Until recently, we hoped that there would be at least Japanese spectators. They have a great fan culture and it would be good to have them there. It will be a little dull, but we will feel the support of the Belarusian audience and our relatives from the distance,” she said.

Anastasiya Prokopenko (modern pentathlon)

Tokyo 2020 will be the fourth Olympics for the pentathlete. “I feel more relaxed than the first-time Olympians. I am focused on results, I want to outdo myself, the results of the previous Olympiads and to remedy the flaws. Everyone will try to show their best. One does not have to punch above their weight, one just needs to do what they do during training routine,” Anastasiya Prokopenko said.

She is convinced that personal motivation is very important for every athlete: “I need to show my mother, father, children that the time spent away from them training abroad was not wasted, that everything was not in vain, that I have done something for my Fatherland.”

Such events as today's farewell ceremony in the Palace of Independence lift spirits, she is convinced. “It is motivating, especially if you believe in good things, in the future. It feels great to realize that people know and remember you,” she said.

Maryna Slutskaya (judo)

Maryna Slutskaya spent 15 long years trying to get to the Olympics. “For me, this Olympics is long awaited. I did not get to the previous one, but I got to this one, although there were many injuries. I need to show a good result, as this might be a final stage in my career,” she said.

The solemn farewell ceremony in the Palace of Independence did not leave the athlete indifferent: “This is a great morale booster. At the same time, it reminds you of the responsibility for the performance and the result. This is our job, and we must do it well.”

Dmitry Dovgalyonok, Team Belarus' Chef de Mission

“I can say that by and large our teams are well-established, with experienced, very focused people in them,” Dmitry Dovgalyonok said describing the Belarusian delegation. He believes that Belarusian athletes have nothing to fear after what they have gone through during the preparation for the Olympics. The selection process, competition for Olympic berths, the world and European championships amidst the COVID-19 safety measures made them tough. They also learned to ignore hate, for example, on social media.

“The most important thing for an athlete is to perform well. I was an athlete myself and I know: you go there, perform and ‘come back to life' only when you stand on the podium, listen to the anthem and see your national flag hoisted. Then you realize that things have worked out. Before that, you are so focused that you think only about the competition,” Dmitry Dovgalyonok said.

Alim Selimov, Chairman of the Belarusian Wrestling Federation

According to him, everyone in the wrestling team understands the importance of the upcoming Olympic Games. “Our guys, though young, have gone through fire, water, and brass pipes. They know where they are going. The federation creates the most comfortable conditions for them to perform and show the best. It will not be easy due to organizational difficulties. I think they will be constantly distracted there [because of COVID-19 measures], but what can we do, we must fight. Such is life. Such restrictions are in place all over the world. I think this will give them an additional impetus, will keep them in good shape. Life is a struggle, and we always have to fight - both on and off the carpet,” Alim Selimov said.

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