Mansur Isaev: I am Tiger. Zhorik will Help Me

The Olympic Judo champion went under after the London-2012. The range of injuries didn’t let him to achieve the high level. However, now Mansur Isaev is sure that hard time has gone and Tiger Zhorik will bring him good luck in the home World-2014 in Chelyabinsk.

- Mansur, I know that you’ve bought a new flat. So, now you are a full citizen of Chelyabinsk?

- Yes, now I have a home. I invited only close friends and my coach Alexander Miller to the house-warming party. We had a good time.

- You told me that you regarded Chelyabinsk as a second native land.

- Yes. That’s true. I have never had any problems with new place of living. I was taken well here. I feel support and attention here. I feel comfortable from my first day in Chelyabinsk. I have a lot of friends in Chelyabinsk. I’m happy.

- Mansur, you’ve brought the first Olympic gold to the Chelyabinsk region in judo. Do you like to be a local celebrity?

- Of course it’s pleasant to gain the first gold and made contribution to our sport. Now people know me and sometimes they wish me good luck. I don’t think that the attitude to me has changed. All the same. I’m fully satisfied with my life here.

- After the 2012 Olympics you went under: one injury after another. Was it hard to start fighting again?

- It’s one of the hardest moments in the career of any athlete. It’s difficult to make up the mind to continue the work and follow new goals. But I think that the problem has gone. I want to go on tatami again. I have a will to win. The injuries don’t let me to achieve good shape and show high result. Gradually I improve my physical condition, but I’m far from the shape I was before the Olympics. I need to work hard and train a lot to be at high level.

- What plans do you have now?

- I’m going to perform in the Grand Prix tournament in Abu Dhabi, then the European Club Cup. Maybe I will join the Javara-Neva team.

- Did you watch the performances of the Russian team at the 2013 World Championships in Rio?

- Of course, I supported our guys.

- What mark would you give to the national team for their work?

- It’s hard to say exactly. Many aspects influenced the result: in some cases the referees were not impartial, and sometimes guys made mistakes. I know that our team was good prepared to the championships, and was ready to gain medals. The performance was not successful, but we prove the positions of the team and won silver prize. The first place is always better, but the second is still good.

- The Vice-president of the Russian Judo Federation Dmitry Chernyh announced the plan for the World-2014 – four gold medals in the individual and two in the team competitions. Do you think our team will make this task?

- (Smiling). It will be not easy, but everything in our hands. The most important is to believe in ourselves. We’ve got the potential. The Olympics in London showed that we can win. The guys are very strong. We have to set a record. Moreover, everything will take place at home. Our fans will support us.

- Do you know that Tiger Zhorik, the symbol of the Euro-2012, is chosen as a mascot of the World-2014 again?

- Yes, I’m glad to know that. He is so nice and positive. Many fans like him. It’s a good choice. I was born in Tiger year. So, I will get on well with Zhorik (laughing). He has to bring me good luck.

- The final countdown to the World-2014 has already started. Do you feel that the attention to the tournament is rising?

- Yes, especially from media. But it’s nice! It’s going to be the first big tournament in Russia. Chelyabinsk has deserved to host this event. I believe that the bleachers will be full, because people love judo a lot.

- This year you are taking part in the Sochi Olympics…

- (Laughing) Yeah, I will hold the Olympic Flame. It’s cool. It’s very important event in my life. I still don’t know how the activity will be organized, but looking forward to participate.

- Just don’t put out the flame!

- Exactly! I’ve heard that sometimes it happens. But I think that I will manage. I will keep the flame (smiling).

Vitaly Vizaulin