Evgeny Aleynikov: “Shooting is my destiny, it’s inescapable!”
The Honoured Master of Sports of Russia, the bronze prize-winner of the Olympic Games in Sydney, the World Champion in bullseye shooting, a many-time champion of the country and the world in crossbow shooting – and many more. Evgeny Aleynikov has so many titles and awards that listing them all is hardly possible. Yet the head coach of the national team in crossbow shooting will not stop. To see the target, ignoring obstacles is in his character. In an exclusive interview, Evgeny Vasilyevich told us how shooting became his destiny.
- Evgeny Vasilyevich, your sports biography is really impressive: trampolining, track and field athletics, cycling, bullseye shooting, and now crossbow shooting. How did this sport appear in your life?
- Yes, this is true. In cycling – I did road cycling - I even earned Grade 1. (Laughing). Crossbow is a pretty simple story in my life. A matter of luck, but as they say, no accidents are accidental. In 2004, my friends who already participated in crossbow competitions came up to me with an offer. Sergey Valeryevich Shchedrin suggested that I participate in the European championship which took place in France. It did not take me long to accept it. However, I was not properly prepared for it, I had only trained for three days - we just had no more time. And can you imagine that we won everything possible there, and I even excelled in personal competitions. Since then, I have been with crossbow shooting, and I really like this type of shooting. I still have both bullseye and crossbow shooting in my life. Perhaps, bullseye shooting takes an even greater part, as it is an Olympic sport. But we are doing everything in our power to promote crossbow shooting, too. I entirely support all those who do it and I will be with them as long as I live probably!
- Why has crossbow shooting become so attractive for you?
- I always wanted to try another type of shooting because I can shoot with any weapon of the world. Except, probably, a gun! I have not been trained in it. Anyway, I think I will manage it with direct firing. I have to see the target, and it takes more efforts to shoot through the woods, through mountains. If there is a specific target, I can easily shoot from anything. But the main reason was not that crossbow was something new for me - first of all I had passion and I was interested in sports. And as I was learning the sport, it became clear that it is a very good training exercise for my then main sport - bullseye shooting. If something went wrong, I took a crossbow, shot one or two weeks, got back to the rifle again, and showed very good results. I always say that crossbow shooting is a sort of a lie detector for bullseye shooting, it cannot be deceived.
- Why do you think you are so passionate about weapons?
- Everything leads back to childhood. (Laughing). When I was 12, I remember how my father brought me to a school shooting gallery. It was the city of Vladikavkaz, Republic of North Ossetia (Alania). Very far from here, in the North Caucasus, a little boy came to shoot, and somehow he managed very well straight off. Thanks to other sports I was doing at that time, I was quite fit for shooting. I became instantly involved, I quickly started to show good results, and three years later I already became a Master of Sports. I was fascinated by the game back then and I still love it.
- In 2000, you became the bronze prize-winner of the Olympic Games in air rifle shooting, then earned another title and became one of the leading shooters in crossbow. What is your success secret? Only talent?
- No, I do not think so. My spouse Lyubov Galkina and Artem Hadzhibekov have talent, real talent. I have reached everything through hard work and trainings. Frankly speaking, sometimes it was so difficult that I wanted to quit it and forget about it. Very often I had to make myself train, I tried to persuade myself that all difficulties were temporary, and that there were no victories without patience. And it proved right in the end.
- In December, Russia will host the World Cup final in crossbow shooting for the first time, those are large-scale and important competitions. What tasks do you set for your athletes?
- There are no miracles in our sport, at least they are very rare. Of course, we hope for them, but we do not specifically set any targets. Only hard work, patience and desire to win! The athletes have to show everything they are capable of. In other words, their victories during the year, all those results they showed, how they won against our main rivals, the Croats, means that they have to win. Our task for the World Cup final is to perform not worse, but even better in shooting!
- Do you think that home crowds help or, on the contrary, create additional pressure?
- It depends on the approach and the spirit of the person at the shooting range. If he/she thinks that home crowds help, they will help. And if he/she keeps thinking there are people behind him/her, and he/she is obliged to show them good results - it will rather disturb him/her and break the spirit. If you only think that you are “at home” and may not fail, you will not win in this situation. As an athlete, as a trainer and as a sports psychologist, I will definitely say that “home” is the most difficult place to compete in shooting. Perhaps, in other sports it’s different, but this is true for shooting.
- How are you going to cheer up the shooters?
- As crossbow shooting is not a team sport, we work individually with and about every athlete. Otherwise it will not work! Coaches of the national team and personal trainers of athletes are always in touch. We discuss every shooter, all rises and falls in order to improve something, to improve or to maintain the spirit. We have a sort of a separate profile on each athlete where we record all these moments, stages of preparation and results. Based on an individual status, we develop a training plan for each athlete, mark improvement areas, be it physical state or psychology.
- What are your plans? Is it only trainer's activity or we may hope to see you at the shooting range?
- Shooting is a sport that does not let you go easily. You tried it once, and you will never be able to leave it. There are no former shooters. In my memory, and my memory serves me well, there are very few people who left the sport completely. All of us are fans of our sport. And we are going to prepare a team of veterans. We are working very actively in this direction now. We want to bring a “dream team” together. This is a team, including Aleynikov, Hadzhibekov, Shchedrin, which performed from 2004 to 2006. We are preparing this “come back” in the national championship in Ulyanovsk.
- There is such a notion as a “playing trainer” in game sports. If you manage to bring back the “dream team”, we might call you a ”shooting trainer”, isn’t it?
- Let’s wait a little until July 2019. Though, I have to say that this title is not new to me. When I started my trainer's career in 2007, I was “a shooting trainer” for one more year. I worked as a senior coach of the junior national team on bullseye shooting, and during the whole year I continued to shoot together with my trainees in the national championships and cups. It was interesting both for them and me. This is a good idea, but let's wait, we will see how it goes. The matter is that I personally have the desire, but I have to persuade two more people. (Laughing).
- Apart from work, what do you do in free time? Do you have a hobby?
- I do mountain hiking with great pleasure, I am fond of hunting, I like spending time in the nature, in the Caucasus, in my home land. There is a good opportunity to walk and to relax. The nature is unique and beautiful there, there is no other place like that! I used to go in for fishing but quit it as soon as I was taught to shoot fish under water, this my main hobby today. So, it’s underwater hunting now.
- So you are not that far from shooting?
- Of course not, shooting is my destiny, it’s inescapable (Laughing).