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Goodbye, Uncle Tolya: St. Petersburg biathletes saw off Alyabyev on his last journey

In Leningrad, the future two-time Olympic champion was called up. When asked if he considers himself a Petersburger, Anatoly Nikolaevich, in an interview with a correspondent for MK in St. Petersburg, once answered: “To the same extent as a Vologda”. Although the birthplace of Alyabyev is the Arkhangelsk region. Everyone respected this man with an unusual biography, and in the biathlon family they called him in his own way – Uncle Tolya.

Born in the snow

“I was generally born in a sleigh on a snowy road,” the two-time Olympic champion once told the MK in St. Petersburg correspondent his family secret. – The father did not have time to take my mother to the hospital, and he had to take delivery himself. Our village was in the Vologda region, and the Arkhangelsk region already began across the river. When it came time to issue a birth certificate, it was necessary to decide whether to drive eight kilometers to the Vologda regional center or three to the village council of the neighboring region. Parents chose the one that is closer.

At three months old, Anatoly was taken to another village in Vologda, to his grandmother. I had to walk five kilometers to primary school, ten kilometers there and back. So the boy developed speed endurance, which then came in handy on the sports track. At that time, there was not even electricity in the Vologda outback. No movies, no TV. But physically strong guys grew up there.

First to boxing, then to skiing

As a child, Anatoly dreamed of the profession of a truck driver, he wanted to see distant countries. I didn’t even suspect that it would be easier for a professional athlete to do this. Before the age of eight, it was already 10 kilometers from the village where the future Olympic champion spent his childhood, so the guy was assigned to a boarding school, where a physical education teacher introduced him to boxing. It is interesting that the teacher himself, despite the length of service, did not even have a specialized secondary education. It was he who persuaded Alyabyev to join him for the company in the newly opened department of physical education of the pedagogical college in Vologda.

As Anatoly Nikolaevich once joked in a conversation with a correspondent for MK in St. Petersburg, it seemed that all the hooligans of the Vologda Oblast went there. The head of the department did not respect the “fighting”, as she put it, sports, and Alyabyev had to switch to skiing. Fortunately, the skills acquired on the way to schools and back made it possible. True, the rural nugget was surprised to learn that skiing techniques are mastered by imitation of movements.

Path to biathlon

Already in his second year, Alyabyev won zonal competitions among pedagogical schools. Among the girls then the future great skier Raisa Smetanina became the champion. After graduating from college, Anatoly was called to continue his studies at the Yaroslavl Pedagogical Institute, but no one canceled the distribution system in the USSR. I had to go to work in my native region as a physical education teacher, and 19-year-old Alyabyev was the only teacher there with a secondary specialized education. High school girls, of course, fell in love with the young teacher.

“Such romantic stories happened that you can write scripts for TV shows! Alyabyev recalled. – One gypsy was especially persistent. True, then her brother approached the school and warned her not to get closer than 10 meters to the girl.

When Alyabyev was drafted into the army, he was immediately seconded to the sports battalion of the Leningrad Military District. And then another story happened, which is so rich in the biography of the Olympic champion. He was included in the sports division as a skier, but for some reason he decided to recall the “fighting” specialization and went into the boxers. True, not for long. Representatives of martial arts took the course of a young fighter in the barracks, from where it was strictly forbidden to leave, and skiers, along with rowers and athletes, lived at the base in Kavgolovo. Instead of tarpaulin boots, they flaunted in sports shoes, and even managed to look into the city on dates with girls.

Alyabyev immediately remembered that he had won skiing competitions. In SKA, he fulfilled the standard of a master of sports, and in the second year of service he switched to biathlon. The grueling workouts that the ski coach practiced did not suit him. This is where shooting skills come in handy. After all, from the age of 12, Anatoly went hunting with his father. Where there is competition, there is no place for friendship. Successes in biathlon came quickly, and the guy from the Vologda outback, who had already become a Leningrader, was included in the USSR national team.

“It may seem paradoxical, but the Soviet biathletes of my generation had excellent relations with the Austrians, Italians, West Germans,” Alyabyev recalled. – We even became friends with them, despite the language barrier. But the GDR team, which was our main competitor, kept apart. There was no subtext to it. It’s just that competition does not provide for friendship.”

Alyabyev got to the Olympics in Lake Placid thanks to a combination of many happy circumstances. He has always been distinguished by independence and uncompromising judgments. He even argued with the then head coach of the national team Vadim Melikhov. When he offered to go to the 1979 World Cup as a substitute, Alyabyev snapped: “I won’t go as a substitute!” Others went and performed unsuccessfully. Alyabyev, along with other biathletes who were part of the reserve team, was sent to the pre-Olympic week in the United States, where he won the individual race.

Prison for Olympians

After returning from America, Melikhov met his ward with the question: “Are you angry?” To this, Alyabyev replied: “Why be angry? The main thing is that now I will go to the Olympics!” Lake Placid is not one of the prestigious American resorts with a developed hotel infrastructure, and the Olympic Village was equipped … in a prison. Soviet newspapers and television made special emphasis on this circumstance in their reports. After all, by that time the United States had already announced a boycott of the Moscow Olympics, and the fighters of the ideological front were required to give a decisive rebuff to the intrigues of world imperialism.

“This prison was for keeping juvenile lawbreakers,” Alyabyev recalled in a conversation with a correspondent for MK in St. Petersburg. – In terms of comfort, it resembled a good hotel. In our district centers there were no such things. Except that the entertainment was bad. They passed the time playing “fool” together with the future four-time Olympic champion in biathlon Alexander Tikhonov, as well as hockey players Boris Mikhailov, Valery Kharlamov and Valery Vasilyev.

Four thousand for gold

Alyabyev remembered this Olympics and the dramatic denouement of the individual race at the last shooting range. The coaches who led the athlete along the track for some reason told him: “If you shoot without a miss, you will become a champion.” He fired his last shot for over 40 seconds. You can imagine what would happen in case of a miss! Only the target was closed, and Alyabyev rushed to the gold. He won the second gold medal in Lake Placid in the relay, and even finished third in the sprint.

For such achievements, Lieutenant Alyabyev was promised to be given the rank of captain ahead of schedule, bypassing the senior lieutenant. There was then, and still is, such a form of encouragement for army athletes. True, as a result, they even forgot to apply for the next title.

At the Military Institute of Physical Education, where the Olympic champion was then studying, they relied on CSKA, to which he was assigned, and at CSKA – on VIFK. So Alyabyev passed 10 extra months in lieutenant’s shoulder straps. True, he received the bonus in full, 4,000 rubles each for gold and another 2,000 for bronze. After deducting taxes, he received 7,460 rubles in his hands. 40+ years ago, that was decent money.

Misha-sorcerer for the national team

USSR Of course, in conversations with Alyabyev, they could not do without discussing the topic of doping, which has become topical in recent years.

“It is impossible to withstand enormous loads without pharmacological support,” the Olympic champion claimed. – In our time, the coaches of the national team categorically forbade any experiments on us. They were fed with riboxin, which quickly restored the heart muscle. And also a unique folk healer, whom we called Misha the Sorcerer, worked with the USSR national team. He came to the training camp with a decoction, which he called witchcraft. It included honey, mummy and various herbs. The recipe remained with Misha the sorcerer.

According to Alyabyev, in the current conditions, when there are much more starts per season than several decades ago, biathletes simply do not have time to recover. So they resort to the simplest method, which they themselves call “prick and forget.”

Self made man

The Olympic champion himself is sure that the best way to win is a well-planned training process. He was persuaded for a long time to share his secrets.

“It was easier for me to handle an ax and a shovel than to write a Ph.D. thesis,” Alyabyev once admitted. – Colleagues from the VIFK department encouraged me to work on it. They pressed on the fact that, having analyzed my experience and rummaged through the literature, I could offer my own methodology. After all, now there is simply a lack of methodological aids.

They say about people like Alyabyev: “A man who made himself.” He became a two-time Olympic champion, candidate of science, professor, colonel. In the world of biathlon, which in recent years has begun to resemble a terrarium of like-minded people, Uncle Tolya, as Alyabyev was called, was respected by everyone. As a coach, he participated in the preparation of the Russian biathlon team for the Olympic Games and World Championships.

A month ago, the correspondent of “MK in St. Petersburg” congratulated him on his 70th birthday and agreed to exchange impressions about the biathlon competitions at the Beijing Olympics. Alas, these plans did not come true. On January 11, 2022, Anatoly Alyabyev died from the coronavirus. Condolences to the family were brought not only by athletes and friends, but also by two governors – St. Petersburg and the Vologda region.

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Source From: MK

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