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Nikolay Maksimov: Last time we came together on the same roster was during the Soviet Union

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11.08.2015, 18:29 Sport
Nikolay Maksimov, two-time Olympiс medallist and Merited Master of Sport of Russia, who plays a water polo goalkeeper at the FINA World Masters Championships in Kazan, sat down for an interview with a reporter the Kazan 2015 OC’s Press Office and talked about why he decided to take part in the Masters tournament and whether he holds back when playing against amateur teams.

– You are a two-time Olympiс medallist; you have claimed several national and international titles. How do you feel when competing against amateurs here in Kazan at the Masters tournament?

– Any type of competition is a sort of challenge and responsibility for every professional athlete. And there is no difference for me between this Masters tournament and other Championships I’ve taken part in. I am also glad to compete for the team that bears such a name as the USSR. Our team’s name sort of pays tribute to our past, to Soviet water polo school which brought up so many champions. Unfortunately nowadays schools are not that successful, and water polo in our country is at a low level. But we cannot change the way things are, at least we can enjoy playing water polo.

– I’ve looked through your team’s roster and have come across many famous athletes. When was the last time when a team like this played together?

– Back at the Soviet Union (laughs). Back then I was playing for Dinamo together with Sergey Ivlev and Sergey Dmitrienko. Then I met Irek Zinnurov in Volgograd’s Spartak.

– Are there any national tournaments or matches held between former water polo players nowadays? Or the Masters tournament is the only opportunity for you to meet each other?

– No, it is not. Quite a lot of tournaments are held at Moscow’s Chaika Swimming Pool or in a body of water in the Moscow Oblast.  We gather there sometimes and play, remembering the good old days. As for the Masters tournament, it is something different; it brings up other types of emotions and feelings. 

– Frankly speaking, you are only 42 and it’s quite strange to call you and your teammates oldtimers. Besides only a season or two ago you were still a professional athlete.

– Some water polo players of my age still play on the professional level (laughs). No one playing in the +35 age group considers themselves oldtimers because it is still a good age for performing professionally. 

– By the way, today a goalie that had played with professionals a year ago missed two goals from amateurs. What can you say about this?

– Yes, the first goal is completely my fault. I can’t say that the shot was hard to hold off, I was just a bit slow to react. The second goal was scored to a goalie that substituted me.

– What I mean to say is that some amateur athlete will be on cloud nine because he managed to score a goal to Maksimov, two-time Olympic medallist.

– It is true. At the Masters tournament, amateur athletes get a chance to score a goal to Maksimov (smiles). But I never thought about that when I missed goals. Actually, I want to miss goals neither from professionals nor amateurs. I have this habit since my professional career.

– Don’t you think it’s a setback for you as a former professional athlete to play in one pool with amateurs?

– No, not at all. We are all friends, acquaintances. We are partners, opponents for play time. After a match we get on well, have lunch together between games. Water polo brings us together.

– Did you hesitate before you agreed to participate in the Masters tournament?

– I agreed the very minute I got an invitation. The guys offered me and I immediately gave a positive answer. Who are the guys? They were Sergey Ivlev and Andrey Belofastov. Unfortunately, the latter had to miss the tournament due to extenuating circumstances. He is currently training the U19 national team for the forthcoming World Championships. But I guess we can only be happy when our distinguished colleagues are involved in bringing up the next generation of aspiring water polo players.

– What are your plans for the upcoming season?

– I’m training goalies in the water polo club of the town of Kirishi, Leningrad Oblast. Of course, it is more famous for its strong women’s team who are twelve-time Russian champions and constantly represent our country on an international level. Compared to them, the men’s team has reached rather modest results. My duties include working with goalies starting from training children to the men’s and women’s first teams.

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