Wolfgang Pichler, Bavarian coach of the Russian women’s biathlon team, said in an interview about the views of the West toward Russia, the Kremlin’s influence on his work and on the “gold at any cost” in the Olympic Sochi.
Die Zeit: After the terrorist attacks in Volgograd, claiming the lives of 34 people, the U.S. warned its citizens about the terrorist threat of the Olympic Games in Sochi. Volgograd, incidentally, is just 700 kilometers from Sochi. Islamists threaten new attacks arrange. How big is this danger, in your opinion?
– Why are you so sure?
– Do you remember the 2002 Olympic Games in Salt Lake City? They passed shortly after the attacks of September 11, 2001 and U.S. troops in Afghanistan. Then, too, fear reigned everywhere. But just as then, now around the Olympic Village in Sochi will be taken numerous and very serious security measures. But the fact that somewhere outside of Olympic facilities in some bus is bombed, I can not be ruled out.
– You are the coach of the Russian women’s biathlon team. Biathlon along with hockey in Russia is the most favorite sport. Do not try to senior politicians to interfere with your work in order to improve your results?
– President of the Russian Biathlon Union (Mikhail Prokhorov – approx. Trans.) Participated in the last presidential elections and was thus opponent of Putin. So that a certain rivalry actually takes place, but Biathlon Union resists attempts to interfere in its affairs. Yes, actually, look at me: to invite to the post of coach such an exotic personality, like me, need to have some courage.
– Last summer, the Russian women’s team were appointed two Russian coach, and you thereby ceased to be the main thing. Followed if the official explanation of this decision?
– The cause was identified as the lack of results. Obviously, the management seemed a little six medals at the world championships.
– And you’ve just put up with it?
– What was I supposed to do? I had nothing to oppose them. But I was only disappointed with one of the deceased athletes. I used to be on this occasion was very nervous, I would just could not bear it. And today, I say to myself: “Wolfgang, do your job as best as only you can.” After all, even the most independent head of the federation can not always resist the pressure from the media. And many journalists fought “against me” is very tough. Then press constantly flashed headlines like “Fuck Pichler».
– You say in Russian?
– No. These outrageous headlines I translated assistant.
– Do you have an explanation for why journalists did not vzlyubili you?
– Logical explanation I have. In Russia, some publicly funded media – yes, in fact, sold to him. Officially the country enjoy freedom of speech, but in fact the newspapers write critical or laudatory articles on order.
– But criticism should be something grounded …
– Many Russian for many months, driven by only one purpose: the gold medal! As much as possible and desirable in every sport. But my athletes can not fully meet those expectations – at least on my terms.
– What are your conditions?
– I demand results without doping. Three years ago, the Russian Biathlon Union felt complete despair after many positive doping tests athletes. So in front of me then was tasked to revive the team and improve its international image.
– Are you sure that your players do not take performance enhancing drugs?
– Sure there can be no coach, because his influence is not unlimited. But my athletes know what catastrophic consequences can have a positive doping test for the image of the Games in their country and, above all, for their own careers. Vladimir Putin does not need doping scandals, and why, in recent weeks the Russian anti-doping agency to check on us, even more than World Agency WADA.
– You must achieve “clean” wins biathlon – a sport which requires endurance and also the maximum concentration. Is that even possible – with all these revelations of doping?
– It is at least difficult. Absolute superiority is almost impossible. Therefore the results of “float”.
– How deep will be a failure for you and your athletes, if they remain in Sochi without medals?
– Do not worry, my three-year contract expires after the Games. According to his main profession I am a customs officer. After the Olympics, I’ll go to the boss and say, “Well, here I am back.” And athletes live is not bad – in Russia they have better conditions than in Germany. Besides the core team has a few additional groups with whom they can work. Sometimes I have a feeling that we Germans think that Russia is somewhere on the back side of the moon. No, Russia – this is not China or North Korea.
– But Russia also has political prisoners, and people with different sexual orientation can not openly admit it …
– Well, I’m not crazy, I notice different things. Of course, Putin often goes too far. It’s like he does not understand that is constantly on the look and behave like a cowboy, and thus sets up almost the whole world against him. But do you really think that this huge empire has no right to ensure that its territory was an area well adapted for winter sports?
– But it was not necessarily designate the venue of the Winter Olympics in the subtropical city, where the streets of palm trees.
– I agree, how Sochi venue for the Winter Olympics, you can bet. But when I heard some colleagues say that the feasibility of its implementation in Sochi would have to arrange a referendum, I can only shake my head.
– And what is so absurd?
– We can not project our ideas of democracy “as is” for Russia. This huge country is only towards the democracy that Germany is a matter of course. I think these criticisms of the Russian that they do not have rights to participate in a discussion of some issues, a manifestation of barbarism. This is our typical German arbitrariness.
– It’s not incivility. For example, I believe these accusations quite reasonable.
– As a journalist, you have to point at a particular injustice – this is normal. But then let me ask you: what do you think about the pollution we have. Do not people in the Alps once mocked over nature just as it is happening now in Sochi? And in Germany, too, are constantly writing about the unreasonably high cost of construction.
Do you think we Germans would have liked if Russian steel us for things to criticize?
– But it’s not a reason to conceal violations in Russia. After that, your comments there even an impression that you do not coach biathlon, but also the ambassador of both countries.
– I just see different things happening there. Russia is developing and opening to the world, this process goes. Recently I was in Siberia and saw there showrooms Volkswagen – they’re better equipped than in Germany. There I bought chocolate eggs with surprises and unfiltered beer. When visas between the two countries will be finally abolished in Russia will go far more Germans than now. And then our understanding of this country to change much.
– You talk to your wards political violations in Russia?
– Of course, we talk a lot within the team. We speak openly, in particular, the situation of gay athletes, that in Russia, of course, too. Who, if not the younger generation, can lead this great country forward and to reform it? When in this great country will happen finally, internet revolution, it will change.
– So you’re now in the right place?
– Before signing the contract, I said to myself: “This is your last chance to relive an adventure.” I remembered a book by Oscar Maria Graf “Journey to Soviet Russia” and thought, “I can take the damn three years – even if for 12 consecutive months will be wound on Siberia.”