Ex-No. 1 Safin wins seat in Russian legislature

MOSCOW — Former top-ranked tennis player Marat Safin has won a seat in Russia’s lower house of Parliament and will represent the pro-Kremlin party United Russia.

The 31-year-old Safin will be one of the youngest members in the 450-seat legislature.

Safin retired from tennis in 2009 after winning two Grand Slam titles and earning the No. 1 ranking in 2000.

Official election results released Thursday by the Central Election Committee show that boxer Nikolai Valuev and three-time Olympic champion wrestler Alexander Karelin also won seats in the Duma, where they will represent the Prime Minister Vladimir Putin-led United Russia party.

The new Duma is scheduled to convene on Dec. 21.

Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press

Olympic spotlight: Danielle Scott-Arruda’s drive for five

Danielle Scott-Arruda, 39, is bidding to become one of a select few women to compete in volleyball in five consecutive Olympic Games. (Brazil’s Hlia Rogrio de Souza and Russia’s Yevgeniya Artamonova-Estes are the others.) In 2008, the middle blocker helped lead the Americans to a silver medal, the team’s first podium appearance since 1992.

Scott-Arruda took time off last year after the birth of her daughter, Julianne, in April. She began training again a scant four weeks later and said she never considered leaving the game. Scott-Arruda rejoined the program in the fall of 2010 and made the roster for last month’s World Cup, where the team (she said the squad is perhaps the deepest she’s played for) qualified for London by finishing second to host Japan.

“Having red, white and blue on my back is what motivates me,” she told reporters on a conference call Monday.

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Here are more excerpts:

• On playing for coach Hugh McCutcheon, who guided the U.S. men’s team to Olympic gold in 2008 just days after his father-in-law was killed and mother-in-law seriously injured in a random attack early in the Beijing Games:

“It was quite a thrill to hear that he was now going to coach the women’s team after he did such a good job with the men’s team in getting a gold. I’m like, ‘I hope we can get some of that.’ … I think he just makes sure the team is thinking about ‘team’ and how we can make the team better. It seems simple, but it’s just a philosophy that everyone has to buy into, that you get out of ‘self’ and think more about ‘team,’ and beyond that, he adds a lot of feedback and a concept of how he likes things done, different ways he can make each player a little bit better.

“Even going for my fifth Olympics, I’m still working on little things that I can get better [at] that make the team better. He has a staff that’s really well known in the sport. … I just have to really say hats off to him [for his coaching job under difficult circumstances in 2008]. He was quite the husband and person of comfort for not only his team but for his wife during that period. With difficulty, you have to try to find some good and strength out of it, and I think he’s done a good job doing that and just preparing the team for the next phase.”

• On whether she expects the medal contenders to be the “usual suspects” of Brazil, Cuba, Russia and China, and how her seven years’ experience playing for clubs in Brazil, where U.S. teammates Destinee Hooker and Stacy Sykora also play, may provide insight on how to beat the defending gold medalists:

“At any point, anyone can be a contender. … Sometimes it comes down to who can make the least errors and be most efficient in the game. Germany has had a good season this year, and teams that have done well in the past that we didn’t see at the World Cup are Azerbaijan, even Turkey and Serbia. The top-ranked teams can just change by a matter of points, so we just have to focus on playing our best game and be prepared for the other teams, making sure our game is crisp.

“[Playing club ball in Brazil], you do get to learn more of their tendencies. … I’m working on making myself better so I can make good reads and get in good spots for attack, and serving tough, and just being an all-around player — and that’s going to make you successful against all the other teams. … I haven’t signed a contract yet, but looks like I will return there for this season.”

• On being a new mother:

“Being a mom is so wonderful. After a hard day’s training, coming home and seeing her smile, running with her long arms toward me and jumping up saying ‘Hold me’ … having her and wanting her to know, even though she’s so young, that I was able to come back to volleyball and play at a high level and hopefully have her see me play at a high level has been a motivation for me.

“The fact that my mom is retired and can take care of her and they’re able to travel with me allows me to train and not worry about who’s caring for her or whatnot. It’s been a great journey, and I hope to be a good example for her and for others — that even being older and having a child, dreams and aspirations are still attainable when you work hard and believe in yourself and other people believe in you, as well.”

• On her longevity in the sport:

“I had no idea that I would continue playing this long, or even starting out that I would get a scholarship to play volleyball [at Long Beach State University] and then have the opportunity to make the national team and go to an Olympics, or have such an incredible career.

“Coming out of college, I played multiple sports. I got a fifth year in basketball but chose to go to the [volleyball] national team. It was, ‘Come to the national team or don’t come at all.’ So, of course I went to the national team. It was a great decision, and I thank [former U.S. women’s coach] Terry Liskevych for giving me the opportunity. … I still have that spirit and passion of a rookie, but I’ve gained a lot of experience along the way, which I think just adds to my game.

“I’m just so excited to step on the court; when I got my jerseys this summer and had my first opportunity in the World Cup to put it on, I was taking pictures. … I wish it wouldn’t end, but eventually, of course, I will have to hang up my shoes, put them up in the closet on the shelf. Until then, I’m going to enjoy the process. I’ve been really blessed to physically be able to do it, and mentally I just enjoy the game.”

The gusli – Russia’s oldest musical instrument

Centuries after its creation, the crystal voice of Russia’s gusli still strikes a chord with music lovers. Tune in for more on the instrument’s history.

“The gusli is considered to be a symbol of Russia’s musical culture,” gusli player Pavel Lukoyanov told RT. “It used to play a major part in every Russian’s life – its sound was loved by both the peasants and the nobility. Tsar Ivan the Terrible had a special band of gusli players at court, and so did Empress Catherine the Great.”

The first descriptions of the gusli appeared as early as the fifth century. The origin of the name remains unknown, although the word “gusli” is thought to have meant a bunch of strings.

The gusli is usually compared to a harp, only unlike the harp, the instrument is held more like a modern guitar. In ancient times, the gusli was especially popular among strolling musicians who sang songs and told tales to its tune. There are several types of gusli, with a varying number of strings.

“The small one is typically used by children learning to play – it has 12 strings,” musical instrument maker Dmitry Aleksandrov told RT. “And the biggest gusli, the one used in concerts, has 61 strings. Making these instruments is a very creative job – although some old tricks and routines are used, new lacquers and new techniques appear all the time.Things are always developing.”

It takes Dmitry from one week to one month to make a gusli, depending on its size. After the instrument’s body is made, it is covered with up to 20 layers of lacquer to become smooth and shiny; then the strings are anchored. For each gusli, at least seven different types of wood are used.

“What you see here is a layer of redwood, underneath it there’s a layer of maple, and for the edges I usually use walnut or ebony,” Aleksandrov told RT. “The instrument’s top part is made of fir tree. And this border is decorated with rosewood and mother-of-pearl.”

The number of Dmitry’s customers is growing. All but forgotten in Soviet times, this folk instrument is making a comeback. More and more musicians, like Pavel, fall in love with its crystal sound. Pavel regularly performs at home and abroad; he gives gusli-playing classes as well – a big hit with budding troubadours.

“I initially studied to play the piano,” gusli player Pavel Lukoyanov told RT. “But then I heard the sound of the gusli and knew I had to learn to play it. And it’s fairly easy to master – maybe that’s why it was so popular, and children like it so much. Unlike with the piano or violin, anyone can do it.”

For more things Russian, head to RT’s Russiapedia.

Kirilenko in two minds on NBA return

With the NBA season getting underway later this month, Russia’s best basketball player Andrey Kirilenko, who currently plays for CSKA Moscow, has a decision to make – should he stay, or should he go.

­In 1999, Kirilenko became not only the first Russian to be picked in the first round of the NBA draft, but also the youngest European player to be selected.

In 2001, he joined Utah Jazz and remained faithful to the Salt Lake team for a full 10 years before becoming a free agent and moving back to European powerhouse CSKA Moscow.

2011 saw the revival of Russia’s Red Army club, in large part thanks to the experienced NBA forward. Now, following a successful spell at home, Kirilenko is uncertain if he wants to go back to the NBA.

“I’m definitely looking at the offers,” he told RT. “When I signed the deal with CSKA, I knew that I was going to be leaving in the middle of the season. But when it comes to this point, it’s always tough to leave the team in the middle of the season. You know, we have great chemistry and that’s making it way tougher to make a decision.”

Six-time Euroleague champions CSKA Moscow are now well on their way to their seventh continental title.

Andrey Kirilenko has been instrumental in the current campaign and was even named the most valuable player of the tournament in October.

Needless to say, AK-47 is a regular on the national squad, where he helped the team become European champions in 2007.

His impressive performance earned him the prestigious flag-bearing honor at the 2008 Olympics in Beijing, as well as a visit to the Kremlin ahead of the Games.

And if Russia finishes in the top three at the wildcard tournament next July, Kirilenko could make a third bid for Olympic gold.

“Our last Eurobasket showed a lot of promise,”
Kirilenko said. “We’re playing a lot better as a team. The young guys stepped up to feel those roles and take more responsibility right now. So I’m looking forward to seeing them next year, playing in the qualification tournament for the Olympics.”    

AK-47 is very active when it comes to promoting the game of basketball, especially in Russia.

Thousands of kids turned up to see him and fellow NBA star Dwight Howard at an event in Moscow last summer.

The player stood for hours just signing autographs for anyone that asked, becoming a true champion of the people in the process.

Alex Ovechkin chats on Bruce Boudreau, Evgeni Malkin, Vladimir Putin

Mitchell Layton/Getty ImagesThe Capitals left winger has always found himself in the spotlight … for better or worse.

This story appears in the Dec. 12, 2011, “Interview Issue” of ESPN The Magazine.

Editor’s note: This interview was translated from Russian and conducted prior to the firing of Capitals head coach Bruce Boudreau and the return of Sidney Crosby.

ESPN: I know you speak English very well. But I’d like to ask you questions in Russian.

Alex Ovechkin: Oh. (Sighs) Excellent.

ESPN: Have you ever thought about playing in the KHL?

AO: In the league, no. I have a contract. I’m happy with everything here.

ESPN: But have you thought about it?

AO: Well, I’ll play out my contract, and we’ll see what will happen.

ESPN: In the last year of your contract you will be 36 years old. How will Ovechkin play at 36?

AO: I don’t know how I’m going to play tomorrow. (Laughs) I never look forward. I live for today. And if you think about what’s going to happen in a year, in two years, then you begin to plan. And plans never come true.

ESPN: Is the success of the KHL important to you?

AO: Well, of course. It’s my native league. I played in it too, and my team plays there, my friends. If there’s no league, many hockey players will be out of work. The growth of the KHL is a very important aspect for the development of Russian sports.

ESPN: Should the best players be playing in the NHL?

More Ovechkin

While Alex Ovechkin has struggled this season, his dominance is clearly illustrated with a new stat from ESPN Insider’s Neil Greenberg. According to the Clutch Performance Indicator, Ovechkin has been the NHL’s most pivotal player since 2007-08. See how the rest of the league’s stars stack up, and who makes this season’s top 10.

AO: Everyone makes their own choice about where they want to play. I want to play here. If I wanted to play there, I wouldn’t have come here in the first season when I was 19 years old.

ESPN: You and Evgeni Malkin have raised money for the families of the players of Lokomotiv Yaroslavl [who perished in a plane crash], right?

AO: We have. I think each player had some kind of relationship with the guys, and has made some donations. It’s a difficult situation.

ESPN: You and Malkin are friends again, I see. How did your feud start? You punched his agent in a club in Moscow?

AO: Yes, that’s right. But that was a long time ago.

ESPN: Let’s talk about your rivalry with Sidney Crosby. What do you think about his extended absence from hockey?

AO: It’s a pity, of course, that he’s not playing now. Because I think he’s one of the best players in the league right now. May God grant him healing, and that everything will be fine. As I said before, I never plan what will happen in the future. You don’t know what will happen. You go out tomorrow, you could get body-checked and you can be in the same situation as Crosby. But that’s hockey, that’s life.

ESPN: You’re waiting for his return?

AO: Yes. I go to sleep and I pray that he will come back.

ESPN: You’re known for taking offseason trips to places like Turkey. But Caps fans see pictures of you smoking a hookah and partying in clubs. Not to mention those photos where you had a bit of a stomach …

AO: I have it now. (Pats his stomach. Laughs.)

ESPN: Fans are worried that you’re not taking care of your body. What’s your offseason regimen?

AO: The season is long. When I’m off, I try to distract myself from hockey. I don’t do anything for four weeks. I rest. If you train 12 months a year, you won’t have any strength for the important games.

ESPN: In the summer in Moscow, you appeared in a rap video by Sasha Bely, “Champion.” How did this come about?

AO: We had sung karaoke together a few times, and we came up with the idea to record a song. He told me that he had a song and he asked me to sing one verse. We gave it a try, and I sang alright, and it turned out well.

ESPN: Are you a good rapper?

AO: I’m as good a rapper as Eminem is a hockey player.

ESPN: I heard that you have Vladimir Putin’s home phone number. How often do you call him?

AO: Actually, I don’t have his number. But I would like to have it.

ESPN: How is he, as a person?

AO: Well, I think he is the future president of Russia. And he’s a clever man, a man who knows how to conduct himself, and he has the full respect of the Russian people.

ESPN: You have an interesting relationship with your coach, Bruce Boudreau. He is often criticized for having special relationships with talented players like yourself. However, at the end of the [Nov. 1] game against Anaheim, he benched you. The cameras caught your commentary about his weight. What kind of relationship do you have with Boudreau?

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AO: We have an excellent relationship. But it’s a working environment. It always feels that way. If we’re not pushing each other, we won’t be satisfied and there won’t be any results. I think it’s normal. Of course, it was regrettable that the cameras filmed it all. But again, this is a working moment.

ESPN: Many people have criticized Boudreau, especially after last year’s HBO series, for being tactically naive. How would you defend your coach against this criticism?

AO: There will always be critics. On one hand, criticism can be positive. On the other hand, criticism can be negative. But critics will always be watching the game. If you listen to everybody, you can go crazy. I have my own point of view, and I always try to keep it.

ESPN: You saw how your teammate Jay Beagle was knocked out by Arron Asham earlier this season. This incident, along with the deaths of a couple of enforcers in the offseason has led to a discussion of banning fighting from the NHL. What’s your position?

AO: Fighting is necessary in hockey. But if you fight, you have to choose your partner carefully. If you’re an experienced player and you want to fight, you can’t choose a player who has never fought in his life.

ESPN: I’ve heard that you are the most eligible bachelor in Washington. Is this true?

AO: No comment.

ESPN: How do you spend time with girls?

AO: I have a girlfriend. That’s all. I won’t say anything more.

ESPN: Who is more aggressive — an American or a Russian woman?

AO: Well, again, it depends on what. Americans have a different mentality than Russians, both men and women. Therefore, there is no point comparing.

ESPN: Could you see yourself with an American girl?

AO: Anything can happen. For now, I can’t predict these events.

ESPN: The Capitals have never won the Stanley Cup. Since you’ve been on the team, the Caps have experienced disappointment in the playoffs more than once. Why should we believe in you and in Caps?

AO: Well, as they say, you can believe, or you cannot believe, but we do everything possible to win. Therefore, we are here for one purpose, to get into the playoffs and make it through the first, the second round …

Brett Forrest is a contributing writer for ESPN The Magazine. Interview conducted Nov. 7, 2011

Ubha: Bogomolov is Russia’s newest top-ranked player

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Alex Bogomolov Jr.’s fine season concluded in the middle of November, but he received more good news Thursday: His switch from the U.S. to Russia in the tennis world became official.

The Davis Cup committee ruled that Bogomolov Jr., a longtime U.S. resident, can represent the country of his birth against Austria in February, so he won’t have to wait longer before making the change. His dad, a prominent coach who worked with the likes of Grand Slam winner Yevgeny Kafelnikov and Grand Slam finalist Andrei Medvedev, lives in Russia.

As quickly as you can say Shamil Tarpischev, Bogomolov Jr.’s nationality was altered on the ATP’s website, and even better for him, instead of the U.S. No. 4, he’s now the Russian No. 1, ahead of the slumping likes of Mikhail Youzhny and Nikolay Davydenko.

In an interview last week during the ATP World Tour Finals, where Bogomolov Jr. collected the most improved player award, the 28-year-old said he had no regrets about wanting to represent Russia — and the mini furor it created. He was first approached by Russian officials, he added, “a couple of years ago.”

“I’m going to do the best I can for my family,” Bogomolov Jr., who soared from 166th to 34th in the rankings, said. “That’s my main priority, my [son] and my family.”

The U.S. colleagues he spoke to about his decision were supportive, Bogomolov Jr. said, mentioning Sam Querrey in particular.

“With the US guys, I really took the time and effort to speak to a lot of them,” Bogomolov Jr. said. (Frequent Russian Davis Cup member Dmitry Tursunov didn’t make any comment about Bogomolov Jr. returning to the challenger circuit, as was previously reported in this story.)

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The point was made that Bogomolov Jr. essentially slapped the USTA in the face. Here was, after all, the governing body that helped him during his formative years.

Bogomolov Jr. is “appreciative” of the USTA’s help but claims he’s been on his own for a while, including when he was battling a serious wrist injury.

“Me and the USTA have not really worked together for 10 years,” Bogomolov Jr. said. “They helped me when I was 14, 15, 16 years old, but since then I haven’t received one phone call, I haven’t gotten one wild card or any help with coaching. Nothing for 10 years, and I didn’t ask for anything.

“I’d been doing my own thing, being in debt, being on the surgery table on my wrist. I was doing this myself. But I’m very appreciative of what they did when I was a junior, because that sort of built the foundation along with my dad’s supervision as well.”

As for next year on the tour, Bogomolov Jr.’s task is to back up the 2011 season: He upset Andy Murray, reached two semifinals and four other quarterfinals. Recent history has proved that fast risers one season can fade as quickly in the ensuing one (think Tobias Kamke or another German, Andreas Beck).

“I have to become a natural beast who competes and who fights,” Bogomolov Jr. said. “Even if players beat me, I want them to say, ‘Damn, that was one of the toughest things I had to go through in my life.’ That’s the mentality I’ll hopefully keep for next year and maybe even keep it up a notch.”

London-based Ravi Ubha covers soccer and tennis for ESPN.com. You can follow him on Twitter.

Tennis player named sexiest woman in Russian politics

Russian internet users were asked to take part in vote for the sexiest woman in Russian politics prior to the Sate Duma election scheduled for December 4.

­Unexpectedly, the honor went to tennis player Anna Chakvetadze, who will run for parliament for the Right Cause party.

The 24-year-old has beaten all-time favorite of such surveys – former rhythmic gymnastics queen Alina Kabaeva from United Russia – by just a couple dozen of votes.     

Third place went to red-headed Russian spy-girl, Anna Chapman, with over 7,000 people participating in the voting overall.

Chakvetadze turned to politics after her sporting career was threatened by health problems.

The Muscovite, who has won eight WTA titles and was World No.5 in 2007, has played just 14 matches this year, winning only six of them.

Ronaldo snatches European Golden Boot

Real Madrid star Cristiano Ronaldo has added the European Golden Boot to his awards collection.

The Portuguese international snatched the prestigious prize by firing home 40 goals in Spain’s La Liga last season, nine more than his main rival Lionel Messi of Barcelona.

“I want to share this award with all my teammates, with all the coaching team, with all Real Madrid fans, the president and his team, all my family, my mother, my brothers, my son, my girlfriend. They were all very important in everything I have achieved this year and the things I won,” the Golden Boot winner said in Portuguese.

It is the second award of its kind for the striker. He first won the Golden Boot back in 2008, having netted 31 goals with Manchester United in the English Premier League.

Consequently, he joined the elite club of Eusebio, Gerd Muller, Dudu Georgescu, Fernando Gomes, Mario Jardel, Thierry Henry and Diego Forlan, who have all managed to win the award twice.

“I want to be on the same page as the best players ever in the history of football. I’m 26 years old. I’m still learning. I’m in a club that gives me the chance to grow up as a person and as a player. I still have many years ahead to win trophies and my aim is obviously to be among the best players of all times,” stressed Ronaldo.

“Individual awards are good, OK, very beautiful, but they are not the most important achievements,” the Portuguese player stated, hinting at winning trophies with Real Madrid and his national team.

Kirilenko named Euroleague’s MVP for October

CSKA Moscow forward Andrey Kirilenko has been declared the most valuable player in the Basketball Euroleague in October.

­The Armymen maintain a 100 percent result in the competition after two wins in as many games, with Kirilenko the key figure on the court.

Euroleague’s official website has called the 30-year-old’s display in the opener against Zalgiris Kaunas a “monster performance” as he bagged 17 points, 15 rebounds, 5 assists and 4 blocks.

At the moment, the Russian leads the 2011-12 Euroleague in performance index rating average (30), rebounding (9.5 rpg.) and blocks (2.5 bpg.) and is also tied for fifth place in assists (5.5 apg.).
AK-47 is to receive his award at an upcoming CSKA Moscow home game against Spanish side Unicaja on November 16.

Kirilenko returned to CSKA this season after a decade with Utah Jazz. He signed a three-year deal with the Moscow team, which can be terminated if he gets a good offer from the NBA, which is now on the lockout.

CSKA player nominated for Europe’s best youngster

CSKA Moscow defender Georgy Schennikov is among the nominees for the Golden Boy award, presented to Europe’s best young footballer of the year by Italy’s Tuttosport newspaper.

­Schennikov was named the Russian Premier League’s top newcomer in 2009, but played just 14 games for the Armymen this season due to an injury, from which the 20-year-old still hasn’t recovered.  

Thirty-nin other Under 21 players – including Mario Gotze of Borussia Dortmund, Lille’s Eden Hazard, Romelu Lukaku from Chelsea, Arsenal’s Jack Wilshire and Man United man Phil Jones – will be his rivals for the prestigious prize.  

The Golden Boy award will be handed out for the ninth time this year, with Manchester City troublemaker Mario Balotelli winning in 2010.

The voting for this year’s winner is open on Tuttosport’s website.

Cilic on top at Saint Petersburg Open

Croatian tennis player Marin Cilic needed three sets to deal with Janko Tipsarevic of Serbia in the final match of the Saint Petersburg Open.

­Tipsarevic, who grabbed the Kremlin Cup in Moscow on October 24, looked quite tired playing his tenth match in just two weeks.  

All the Serb could achieve was a break at the beginning of the second set, which allowed him to send the match into the decider.

Tipsarevic took a medical time-out after the first game in the third set to have the back of his right leg massaged.

And a much fresher Cilic took full advantage of his opponent’s condition, collecting a 6-3, 3-6, 6-2 win and his first title of the season.

“I played the first two sets a little bit up and down and had some unforced errors,” Cilic is cited by AP as saying. “But I played my best tennis in the third set. I lost four finals this year and all of them were in three sets. So today, when the match went into the third set, I was really into it to win.”

Meanwhile, Tipsarevic confirmed that his physical condition was far from perfect on the night.

“I really gave everything today,”
he said. “But in the third set I felt it wasn’t about tennis, it was about me completely out of fuel on court. I’ve played a lot of matches in the last two weeks.”

The Saint Petersburg Open’s history began in 1995, with 23-year-old Cilic becoming the second Croat to lift the trophy after Mario Ancic in 2006.

Tennis great Sampras sees Russia’s Safin as president in 20 years

Russian two-time Grand Slam winner Marat Safin has all chances to become the Russian president in the future, U.S. tennis player Pete Sampras said on Tennis.com’s website.

A former world number 1, Safin, 31, defeated Pete Sampras at the 2000 U.S. Open. Safin is running for the State Duma, Russia’s lower house of parliament, as a member of the ruling United Russia party from the Nizhny Novgorod Region on December 4.

“Marat is very intelligent, articulate and well-spoken so I think it’s great that he’s getting involved in government in his homeland,” Sampras said at the ATP Champions Tour stop in Chengdu.

One of Russia’s most eligible bachelors, Safin retired as a professional tennis player in November 2009.

“I think he’ll do a great job – he’s good with people and people like him, and that’s half the battle with being a politician. He’s very young and it’s nice to see that he’s got this passion in him… In 20 years Marat will be the President of Russia! Trust me, this guy is going to go a long way. The guy is an international star and the future President,” Sampras said.

Safin is not the first Russian athlete to take up politics. The United Russia, led by former president and current Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, already includes such prominent sports figures as Olympic Champion in figure skating Anton Sikharulidze, Olympic gold winner in gymnastics Alina Kabayeva, Olympic winning speed skater Svetlana Zhurova, and World Champion boxer Nikolai Valuyev.


Montenegrin defender asks to forgive Rooney

Montenegrin international Miodrag Dzudovic, who got kicked by English star Wayne Rooney during a Euro 2012 qualifier, has filed a letter to UEFA asking to lift the offender’s three-match ban.

­Dzudovic believes the punishment that Rooney received from European football’s governing body was too harsh, as it sees the striker missing all of his country’s group-stage matches at the event in Poland and Ukraine next summer.

According to the Daily Mirror, a journalist at Russia’s Sovetsky Sport newspaper journalist helped Dzudovic write the letter, which he then signed.  

“Miodrag would like to underline that he didn’t notice any signs of aggression in Rooney’s actions,”
the note said. “In his opinion, the England national team player was driven by emotions and it was an act of desperation rather than anger.”

“The most important detail we ask to take notice of is Wayne Rooney’s apology,” the letter continues. “He realized his fault and felt guilty. UEFA pays so much attention to ‘Fair Play’ principles, but Wayne’s behavior is the brightest example of fairness.”

“It is rare when a player leaves the field blaming no one but himself after being sent off,”
the note concluded. “In our opinion, Wayne Rooney shouldn’t be banned even for a single game. We hope to be heard in UEFA.”

In earlier interviews, Dzudovic said he would speak on Rooney’s behalf if he decides to appeal against the UEFA’s decision.

The Montenegrin, who plays for Spartak Nalchik, coincidentally got injured in a similar incident in the Russian Premier League match against CSKA on Friday, with Vagner Love tackling him violently from behind.

The Brazilian, who also apologized to the 32 year old after the game, may now face a long disqualification, too, while Dzudovic risks missing his country’s crucial Euro 2012 playoff clash against the Czech Republic.

the word’s worth: The Incredible Here and There

the word’s worth: The Incredible Here and There

Published: October 26, 2011 (Issue # 1680)

Вон: out, off, away, over there

What with all the demonstrations and pre-election excitement — oh, wait! That’s in other countries.

Let me start again.

What with all the stability and absence of pre-election excitement, I find myself somewhat linguistically bored. So I’ve drifted back to old language obsessions, like nailing down those little words like вот (here) and вон (there), which have a range of meaning that is nothing less than astonishing.

I think of вон as the verbal equivalent of a head nod to indicate “over there” or “out.” When someone asks where the metro is, you can nod in the right direction and say: Вон там (Over there). When an unpleasant person bothers you on the street, you can pull this phrase out of your pocket: Пошёл вон! (Get out of here!) (Note: Not recommended for use with the police).

And if all this chatting on the street distracts you so much that you’ve forgotten a business meeting, you can exclaim: Встреча выскочила вон из головы! (The meeting just completely slipped my mind!).

To continue in the вон vein, you might try to convince the person you stood up that your lapse of memory was случай из ряда вон выходящий (absolutely extraordinary). But you might hear an angry reply: Я из кожи вон лезла, чтобы пригласить тебя, а ты забыла? (I went through hell to get you an invite — literally, “I climbed out of my skin” — and then you forgot?)

Вот is “here” physically or figuratively: Вот мой дом (Here’s my house). Вот что я тебе скажу! (Here’s what I’ve got to say to you!) It can be used as an intensifier that draws attention to the word near it. Положите письмо вот сюда (Put the letter right over here.) Вот именно! (That’s exactly it!)

Doubling вот doubles the meanings. Вот-вот can mean “any minute now” or “just a little more.” A gloomy commentator writes: Пирамида власти вот-вот рухнет (The pyramid of power is about to come crashing down). Вот-вот alone — often pronounced without the final “т” and in multiples — is used as a warm approval when someone has caught on to something. When I’m doing my usual “stick the cables randomly into the DVD player and TV until there is sound and image,” I wait to hear my helper’s Во-во-во! (Now you’ve got it!)

A lot of вот phrases express surprise or astonishment, pleasant or otherwise. For example, вот как (sometimes вон как) means something like “It’s like that, is it?”When you still can’t get the DVD player to work and your helper finally reads the instructions to discover that you need an entirely different cable, you reply: Вот как! (So that’s it!) Or you might say: Вот оно что (So that’s the problem). And your helper might say: Езжай и купи кабель. Вот и всё. (Go and buy the cable. That’s all there is to it.)

Another astonished and astonishing вот phrase is вот это да, which translates literally as “here this is yes” but means something like “That’s incredible!”Вот это да can be used when the expensive new cable breaks in your hands (Shoot!), or when the picture and sound are perfect (Now that’s really something!)

After your DVD player is working and you suggest that your helper fix the cable TV box, you might hear: Вот ещё. Сама сделай. (No way. Do it yourself.)

Michele A. Berdy, a Moscow-based translator and interpreter, is author of “The Russian Word’s Worth” (Glas), a collection of her columns.

Tipsarevic grabs Kremlin Cup in all-Serb final

Serb tennis player Janko Tipsarevic has won the Kremlin Cup by beating compatriot and defending champ Viktor Troicki in the final.

­Tipsarevic started the match with a break and, despite having some problems with his first serve, took the opening set, 6-4.

Then, in the second set, Troicki had practically lost the chance of defending his title after four games.

Tipsarevic needed less than an hour and a half to wrap up a well-deserved straight-sets victory, 6-4, 6-2.

“It’s definitely my career-best season as I’ve claimed two titles this year,”
Tisparevic said as cited by AP news agency. “It was much more a kind of mind game today as Viktor [Troicki] and I know each other very well, being very close friends off the court. But I’m very happy to win that game.

In the women’s final, Dominika Cibulkova of Slovakia lifted the trophy by beating Estonia’s Kaia Kanepi, 3-6, 7-7, 7-5.  

The Kremlin Cup is an annual tennis tournament which has been on the ATP and WTA calendar since 1990.

Cibulkova grabs first career title in Moscow

Slovak tennis player Dominika Cibulkova has won the Kremlin Cup to lift her maiden title on the WTA tour.

­Cibulkova, who eliminated on No.1 seed Vera Zvonareva in the semis, took on unseeded Kaia Kanepi of Estonia in the final in the Russian capital.

It was Kanepi who grabbed the opener, and then had a great chance to finish the in her favor as the second set went to a tie-break.

But Cibulkova got herself together at the right moment, with the 22-year-old storming the tie-break 7-1.  

The third set was also tight, but the Slovak got the upper hand, cruising to a 3-6, 7-7, 7-5 win.

“I’ve been close to this win for a long time and I’m so happy to finally clinch my first title,”
Cibulkova said after the match. “It’s the end of the season, which is probably my career’s best. It just couldn’t finish better as I finally got my first WTA win after finishing runner-up in Linz last week. I’m really happy now.”

As for the men’s game, defending champ Viktor Troicki is to clash with top-seeded Janko Tipsarevic in the first-ever all-Serbian Kremlin Cup final later on Sunday.

The Kremlin Cup is an annual tennis tournament which has been on the ATP and WTA calendar since 1990.

Lokomotiv begin building new squad

Egor Yakovlev has become the first new player signed by the Lokomotiv Yaroslavl hockey team, whose main squad members were killed in a plane crash in September.

­The 20-year-old, whose registration belonged to Ak Bars Kazan, was added to Loko’s roster under number 44 on Friday.

On their official website, the Yaroslavl team have thanked Ak Bars for their understanding of the club’s difficult situation during the negotiations of the move.

Yakovlev has been playing for Neftyanik Almetyevsk in Russia’s second-strongest league, the VHL, collecting five points in 15 games this season.

The youngster has already made his KHL debut with Ak Bars last year in a game against Kazakh side Barys.

Lokomotiv plan to return to the KHL in the 2012/13 championship. But for now the Railway Men will play just 22 games in the VHL – one against each team – and their participation in the play-offs will be determined based on the percentage of points earned by the team.   

A Yak-42 aircraft, carrying the players, coaches and Lokomotiv team personnel, crashed immediately after take-off from Tunoshna Airport in the Yaroslavl Region on September 7.

Thirty-six team members were killed instantly, while the only player to survive the crash – 26-year-old Aleksandr Galimov – passed away later in a Moscow hospital.

Inter may hire Eto’o back from Anzhi

Inter Milan, who sold Samuel Eto’o to Anzhi Makhachkala in August, are hoping to strike a deal to hire their erstwhile star player back over the winter.

­According to La Gazzetta dello Sport, the Italian giants will contact Anzhi as soon as the transfer window opens in January to talk over a short-term loan.  

The Russian Premier League takes a break in late November, with games not resuming until early March. At the same time, the Cameroonian national team have missed out on the African Cup of Nations, traditionally held in January and February.

So there is nothing preventing Eto’o from playing for Inter during the winter months – providing, of course, that Anzhi bosses agree to such a move.  

The Black and Blues expect the 30-year-old to play nine Serie A games for them, including the derby against AC Milan.  

And it is Inter’s archrivals – AC Milan – who pioneered the practice of short-term loans of star-players in Italy, borrowing David Beckham from the Los Angeles Galaxy on two occasions.

The world’s highest-paid footballer, Samuel Eto’o has so far scored three goals in five appearances for Anzhi.

the word’s worth: King of the Castle

the word’s worth: King of the Castle

Published: October 12, 2011 (Issue # 1678)

Пешка: pawn

Ever since the Great Russian Political Announcement two weeks ago, I’ve been unhappy. Well, yeah, about that, but also about how to best translate the most commonly used Russian word to describe what was happening: рокировка.

Рокировка comes from the game of chess and means “castling.” Castling — and I write this with great authority, having read five online chess manuals just yesterday — is the only move in chess where a player gets to move two pieces at the same time — the king (король) and the rook (ладья).

If we ignore the complicated set of conditions under which this can be done, the point of the move is that the king and rook more or less switch places on the board. Why would a player do this? According to one source: “If the king is attacked, it must move out of danger immediately. … It is a good idea to move the king from the action to a safe place in the corner and to move the rook to the middle of the board where it can take part in the battle.”

Note to Kremlinologists: Next time, just read a chess manual.

In Russia, where chess is widely played, the specialized meaning of рокировка seems pretty well known. But the word has also entered the general language to mean any sort of shuffling of personnel within a company or other organizational changes.

Sometimes this means switching jobs. For example, one CEO wrote: Главное событие дня — рокировка. Я поменял местами Павла Вячеславовича с Максимом Андреевичем. (The main event of the day was a job swap: I switched the positions of Pavel Vyacheslavovich and Maxim Andreyevich.)

In other cases, рокировка (or the plural рокировки) is a synonym for перестановка (rearrangement, shuffling). An article called “В грузинском правительстве рокировки” (A reshuffling of the Georgian cabinet) detailed a half dozen horizontal and vertical personnel shifts.

As far as I can tell, in Russian the figurative meaning of рокировка is not a dead metaphor: People still “hear” the original specialized chess meaning in the word. So when Russians opened their newspapers and read headlines like “Рокировка тандема,” they perceived it as “castling in the tandem.” And everyone knew who was the king and who was the rook.

So how do you translate it? It is very tempting to render this as something like “Kremlin castling,” with that delightful alliteration and clear reference to the great political game of chess. But the problem with this translation is that a lot — if not most — English speakers wouldn’t get the chess reference, and “castling” has not become part of general English usage the way рокировка has become part of Russian. Russian readers get it, but English readers might have to pull out their dictionaries.

So you have few other translation options. For example, Рокировка Медведева и Путина удивила даже их окружение (Trading Places: Medvedev and Putin’s job swap surprised even their close associates). Or:Рокировка в тандеме поставила его перед серьёзными проблемами (The reshuffling of the tandem has created serious problems for it).

But you have to stick with chess when commentators play out the metaphor. For example, someone asked: Рокировка наверху, а как с пешками? (There was a castling move at the top, but what will happen to the pawns?)

Good question. We’ll have to wait for the next move. There’s still time on the clock.

Michele A. Berdy, a Moscow-based translator and interpreter, is author of “The Russian Word’s Worth” (Glas), a collection of her columns.