In the most recent Monday Roundup, it was reported that the Russian Federation had locked in on September to hold their second major National Team training camp since the coronavirus shutdown. The mountainous region of Kabardino-Balkaria, located in the North Caucasus, will host the program’s best Seniors for one week; and then two more camps were expected to follow in anticipation of the 2020 Senior World Championships scheduled for December in Belgrade, Serbia.
Now there might be a pause on at least one of those last two camps.
Earlier today, the federation announced plans for an event in October that will be known as the “Russian Cup”. Unlike traditional cup competitions which feature team dual meets with individual winners classified based on wins and losses, the Russian Cup will function much like a standard tournament. Each weight category is to have its own bracket, and team results will be based on points acquired via advancement. The championship team will then receive an official certificate along with 500,000 rubles (approximately $6,740 USD). Individual medal-winners are on the hook to garner prize money, as well.
Russia, similar to most programs, has been in a holding pattern over the past six months. The postponement of the European Olympic Qualifier as well as the Tokyo Games themselves — and later, every sanctioned international event through October — created a domino effect of competitive issues for the global Greco powerhouse. Originally, the goal was to hold their vaunted annual national tournament towards the end of the calendar year, but that was scrapped once United World Wrestling targeted December for the ’20 Worlds.
With no other tournaments available in the European region likely until ’21, they wanted to organize an event that would both serve to prepare prospective World Team members, and facilitate a mechanism to get top athletes back on the mat. This led to the conception of the Russian Cup, which will unfold in the Bashkirian capital of Ufa October 8-11.
“The importance of the Russian Cup, which will hopefully take place in October in Ufa, is difficult to overestimate,” said Russian Wrestling Federation president Mikhail Mamiashvili. “As for our athletes, we are already approaching the critical mark of the lack of competition, and such a significant event, which Bashkiria takes upon itself, will give the athletes an opportunity to again stand on their natural competitive ground. The period of self-isolation and coronavirus restrictions, all of this the guys went through, so we wanted to create opportunities for them to keep themselves in shape and to conduct the training process, but there was no opportunity to compete.”
However, another source of motivation for putting together the Russian Cup centers around an event scheduled for next year. Ufa is going to host the ’21 Junior World Championships. The way Bashkortostan Minister of Sports Ruslan Khabibov sees it, the Russian Cup is almost akin to a dry run. “We have experience in holding various major competitions, but in order to hold the World Championship at the highest level, we need to gain competence, and the tournament where the strongest wrestlers of Russia in Greco-Roman wrestling will perform is going to be a good experience for us,” he explained.
For now, the concern is the Senior base. Russia still needs to qualify both 77 and 130 kilograms sometime next spring, either at the European event or the “Last Chance” tournament one month later. When the pandemic forced a change of plans, Russia halted operations in a hurry. Strict quarantine rules were in effect, and wrestlers who were used to competing on a regular basis — World-level team or not — found themselves without an outlet, some for the first time in their lives. Mamiashvili believes the Russian Cup solves that problem, primarily because it appears that all of his most elite performers will be compelled to participate.
“Every one of the leaders of the Russian national team will compete in the Cup of Russia, because everyone is looking forward to the opportunity to step on the mat,” Mamiashvili said. “I want to emphasize once again that no athlete has had such a long pause in his career.”