Tarakanov: "Each wrestler participating will try to win a ticket to Olympics." AZERBAIJAN NOC

Alexander Tarakanov, the head coach of Azerbaijan's national Greco-Roman wrestling team, gave an interview to the website of the Azerbaijan Wrestling Federation.

How is the preparation for the European Olympic Qualifying Tournament going?

We had a very useful high-level training camp in Vladikavkaz (Russia) for general physical training and tactical-technical work. It was a joint preparation process with teams from Russia, Azerbaijan, Kyrgyzstan, Serbia, and Georgia. The camp went so well that I didn't even need a break when I returned to Baku. I would like to thank the federation's leadership for creating such conditions

But not everything went well...

If we didn't have injured athletes, we would have had a more extensive participation in the camp. In Baku, we will make the final preparations for the qualifying tournament with several teams, but I cannot say yet now what percentage of the team will be ready.

How much do these injured wrestlers affect your work?

It is impossible not to get injured in this sport, because it is not chess. Even a chess player gets a headache sometimes. Wrestling is tough, but it is also fast; you have to do everything quickly. There is a lot of physical strain. Functional, physical and technical preparation should all be in order to become a champion. Greco-Roman wrestling is strong in Europe. Some athletes may have poor results at the European Championships, but that does not mean they are weak. I am sure that they will prepare very well for Baku.

What about the morale of the whole team?

The morale is at a high level. Everyone is focused on the qualifying tournament. Every wrestler who takes part in the competition is trying to win a ticket to the Olympics.

Have you already chosen the team for the competition?

Yes, we have, but we have not announced it yet. At the last camp, we will go through our training with two people in each weight class. If the main wrestler we have planned gets injured, another athlete from that weight category should be ready to replace him. We have to be prepared for the unexpected.

Murad Mammadov, European gold in Bucarest. AZERBAIJAN NOC
Murad Mammadov, European gold in Bucarest. AZERBAIJAN NOC

Can it be an advantage that this competition is being held at home?

On the one hand, it can be seen as an advantage. On the other hand, it can affect the wrestlers differently. Some will get an adrenaline rush, others will be under pressure. The psychological preparation should be at a high level to deal with that. 

Psychological work also plays an important role...

Yes, some of our wrestlers need psychological help during the preparation process for this competition. Maybe a wrestler has no problems with his skill level, but psychological weakness can be a problem for him. It is precisely through psychological support that he can become an Olympic champion.

In which weight category can Azerbaijan win the most licences?

It's hard to say. The competition will show. I don't like to make predictions before the tournament.

What would you like to say to wrestling fans?

I invite them all to this competition. Let them watch and support our wrestlers. I call on the fans to support our national team members in both Greco-Roman and freestyle wrestling as their own compatriots. Support us and rejoice in our victories.