Tigers from Stavropol

November 24, 2015

Gazprom Transgaz Stavropol is Gazprom’s subsidiary having great importance for securing reliable operation of the Unified Gas Supply System of Russia. The company is responsible for gas transmission across ten regions in Russia’s South.

Apart from business activities, Gazprom Transgaz Stavropol pays special attention to promoting sports – it supports talented athletes, gives assistance to professional clubs and organizes district and interregional competitions in different sports.

There are badminton, basketball, boxing, volleyball, Kettlebell lifting, darts, judo, karate, track-and-field, futsal, table tennis, powerlifting, swimming and sports acrobatics clubs functioning at the company’s sports venues. Special attention is paid to the younger generation – over 60 children’s sports venues have been constructed and retrofitted throughout the Gazprom Transgaz Stavropol activity area under the Gazprom for Children program alone.

The company is particularly proud of its karate fighters on the Russian national team, who have been winning prizes at Russian and international tournaments for many years now. Recently the athletes have turned in a good score at the World Shotokan Karate-do Championship in Poland.

Shotokan is one of the main styles of Japanese Karate-do, developed by Gichin Funakoshi, renowned promoter of this martial art. It is the hardest existing karate style, requiring top physical condition and full commitment. That is why a tiger is depicted at the style emblem.

Before a trip to the World Championship Alexey Zavgorodnev, Director General of Gazprom Transgaz Stavropol wished the athletes successful performance at the tournament, and most importantly, a safe return home without injuries.

It took the athletes half a day to get from Stavropol to the Polish town of Bielsko-Biala (which is over two thousand kilometers away). The team is in a great mood before boarding the airplane from Stavropol to Moscow. The World Championship the karate fighters have been gearing up for since spring will start very soon.

A two-hour flight from Moscow to Warsaw was not tiring. On the way from the Polish capital to the destination point the athletes were getting acquainted with the surroundings. The scenery often resembled the Russian one, except for the wind turbines appearing from time to time near population centers. Despite the active use of alternative energy sources, Poland remains a major European importer of Russian gas.

In Poland the town of Bielsko-Biala is often called the student town because of numerous universities, and the locals lovingly call it a ‘small Vienna’. The town attracts tourists by its unique architecture and favorable location.

On the move-in day numerous organizational issues were resolved. The managers of national teams included in the World Championship, met to address the competition rules and regulations, get acquainted with the judges and register the Championship participants.

The World Shotokan Karate-do Championship is held on a biennial basis under the auspices of the World Shotokan Karate-do Association (WSKA). It is the most prestigious competition among karate fighters who are non-Asian residents. Competitions are held in two shotokan categories: kumite (fights) and kata (formal drills). Tatami fights decide the strongest fighters in the individual and team events.

While the coaches were at the meeting, the karate fighters took a look around the sports arena. By the way, this complex is a lucky spot for the Stavropol athletes. Back in 2011, it was here that Stavropol athlete Evgeny Chentsov became the first European Champion on the Russian team in individual kumite.

They had a workout at once, as in advance of the Championship the karate fighters had been practicing every day on a home tatami. Ivan Kiryanov, Master of Sport of International Level (in the picture) is one of the Championship favorites. It is his fourth World Championship already. Each of them is a new challenge and a chance to show his worth.

Sergey Mashchenko from Gazprom Transgaz Stavropol is another leader of the Russian team. Due to an injury, he has hardly made any showings this year, that’s why he gets ready for the competition with particular determination.

The karate fighters finished training late in the evening. To have a little rest they went for a walk around the nighttime city. Strolling along quiet streets is a wonderful way of switching off from the start fever.

Here’s the Russian team waiting for the Championship opening ceremony to begin. The representatives of 20 Russian constituents defend the honor of Russia. Six karate fighters on the national team represent Gazprom Transgaz Stavropol.

More than 700 athletes from 22 countries across the globe were competing for the Championship medals. The competition program was intense, that’s why right after the end of the official part the athletes went straight to tatamis. On the first day the strongest fighters were determined in three age groups: 14 to 15 years old, 16 to 17 years old and 18 to 20 years old.

15-year-old Alyona Novatskaya (left) was the first of the Stavropol karate fighters to come onto the tatami. It was her first competition of such level. Before the World Championship she had been a success at Russia-wide and regional tournaments.

The athlete dashed through the tournament bracket and won her first gold medal ever at a competition of such a scale. In the finals the girl left no chance to her rival from the USA. After the awarding ceremony Alyona made no disguise of her emotions, “It’s such a long-awaited victory! I was primed for this tournament and I am glad I haven’t let down my coach and managed to add a gold to my team’s collection.”

Equally spectacular were the fights among junior athletes from 18 to 20 years old. Two Stavropol athletes – Sergey Mashchenko (left) and Alexander Rud (right) entered the top-three in the individual event.

Deep and wide stances, stiff blocks, powerful hand strikes involving hip work are the significant features of Shotokan Karate-do. The fundamental principle of this karate style is ‘striking down outright’. Sergey Mashchenko (left), the only European to have won the Shoto Cup in Japan (analogue of the Olympics in Karate-do) has made the best use of these techniques on tatami. In individual kumite he outdid his rivals from Poland, Lithuania, Germany, the UK and the USA one by one and won his first gold in this tournament.

Each fight was closely analyzed by the judges. In order to maintain maximum objectivity, the controversial cases were jointly discussed.

The rooters were actively supporting the young athletes. Moreover, the strongest fighters were supported by everyone: the Polish and the Russians, the Americans and the Lithuanians, the Czech and the Swedish. At such moments, the national boundaries blurred and sport came to the fore.

Fans at the World Championship could be encountered everywhere. But all of them were united under the roof of the Bielsko-Biala sports arena by a common cause – love for karate.

There should be a special disposition for the team fights. The athletes have the whole country behind them; it is not just another chance to win an individual prize. The Russian junior team made a creditable showing – they became first in the team kumite.

Viktor Mashchenko, Senior Coach of the team and Director of the Gazprom Transgaz Stavropol sports club (right) had good reason to be proud of his trainees on that day. Since 1998 Viktor Mashchenko has been a constant leader of the company’s Shotokan Karate-do sports club. Throughout the years of his work, this man has fostered more than ten Masters of Sport of International Level. His athletes have become World Champions, European Cup holders, winners of numerous Russian competitions. Mr. Mashchenko has been in charge of the Russian national Shotokan Karate-do team since 2000.

On the second day of the Championship senior athletes came onto the tatami. The struggle in this age group was the most arduous at the tournament. 87 karate fighters from 21 countries registered for the individual kumite alone!

On the second competition day the Gazprom Transgaz Stavropol karate fighters won two bronze medals. Ivan Kiryanov (left) became a bronze winner in the individual kumite yielding the victory in a dramatic semi-final to the Polish athlete. The second bronze prize was clinched in the team event.

Another type of routine – kata, aroused great interest among the spectators. In Shotokan Karate-do it is a formal fight with an imaginary opponent or a group of opponents. It is believed that multiply repeated kata accustoms a karate fighter’s body to a certain sequence of movements on a subconscious level. That’s why in a fight situation an athlete acts relying on the previously acquired reflexes. The Russian athletes won a lot of prizes in this type of the competition routine.

Medical staff is another team of professionals who made the World Championship come into reality. Doctors provided the athletes with the necessary medical aid and helped them to recondition after long fights.

There were quite many conspicuous athletes on the Polish tatami. US karate fighter Elhadji Ndour was nicknamed ‘terminator’ for his active and attacking style of fighting.

The awarding ceremony of the World Championship winners and runners-up was the culmination of the event. Happy Ivan Kiryanov is on the third tier of the victory podium.

The successful performance of the Gazprom Transgaz Stavropol karate fighters considerably contributed to the Russian athletes’ victory in the team event. All in all, the Russian fighters won 12 gold, 4 silver and 9 bronze medals. The US team came in second (4 – 1 – 5), the home team – the Polish became the third (3 – 4 – 9).

Before departing for Moscow, the athletes had roamed the historic center of Bielsko-Biala for several more hours. By the way, characters of famous Polish cartoon series Lolek and Bolek now surely know where to find Stavropol on the globe.

Nikolai Chernov, Andrey Tylchak (Gazprom Transgaz Stavropol) and Gazprom website Editorial Board

You may find large pictures in Photos.