During the meeting, the President presented the Russian passport to national judo team head coach Ezio Gamba.
Earlier, Vladimir Putin took part in a training session with judo players.
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President of Russia Vladimir Putin: Friends,
Thank you very much for this training session. There is just over 100 people on our national team, but if we take into account the junior and youth teams, we have 477 people. This is a very large group, which gives us a very good choice as we pick the most promising athletes. And all of you here are promising; today, I saw that for myself.
When we asked today about the main competitor at the upcoming Olympics, many people said it would be the Japanese. We have a great deal of respect for the Japanese; they are the founders of this sport. However, I asked one of our athletes, “Where are you from?” and he said, “I am a Kabardian.” The Kabardian people are more “hard-core” than the Japanese; with all due respect, each of you is more hard-core than your opponents in character and ambition for victory. We all sincerely wish you success.
I would like to thank Mr Anisimov, the President of the Russian Judo Federation. He is doing a great deal to develop this sport.
Today, I spoke with the Prime Minister of Italy over the phone for a fairly long time concerning our current affairs. But among other things, he said, “Our citizen Ezio Gamba is now working in Russia. He is the one who led our Judo team to an amazing result in 2012 – an outstanding success at the Olympic Games, the best result in Olympic history. No other national team has ever achieved this result: five medals, including three gold.” The Prime Minister asked me to say hello to you, Mr Gamba, on his behalf.
However, our conversation did not end there. I said to the Prime Minister, “In addition to everything else, I would like to let you know that Mr Gamba expressed a desire to become a Russian citizen.” I have brought a Russian passport with me, but in order for this document to become real, you need to sign it. Ezio, if you will.
Let us congratulate the head coach of the national team on this step. If Mr Gamba has made this decision, it means that there are more things connecting him to this country than just judo. He and I have spoken at length about Italy, Europe and Russia. I think that people like himself are more powerful in bringing together nations, people, and countries than most demagogues who are used to sharing their thoughts on semi-political topics.
People like Mr Gamba are doing specific work and are truly helping people to become closer to one another, to understand one another, to develop friendships, find love, achieve results, and follow a common path toward common goals. Thank you very much. Congratulations.
Head Coach of Russian Judo Team Ezio Gama: Sorry if I speak in the English language, but for me it’s easier to explain in the proper way.
Thank you very much for this, because this is a really special present. First, I want to inform the President, because, all the time, I have information about him from the media, the European media. And most of the time, the information is not really like what is in reality. For me, it’s difficult to understand if it’s true or not, but I feel from the team, everyone really trusts in his behaviour. In this case, for us, it is really important to be here today, at this meeting, before the Olympic Games. This is the last step, it’s really done and finished.
The results are already done, because in our feeling, we know exactly what we can do. In this case, now, it’s just the last race. We must stay quiet, don’t increase too much. We must stay in this 5%, not more, not less.
In this case, I want to say officially, what I feel from the team, and also, what is my impression of the President. Thank you.
Vladimir Putin: When I spoke with the Prime Minister of Italy – he and I speak casually, we are on very good friendly terms – I said, “You know, he will get Russian citizenship, but that will not make him stop being Italian, and thanks to him, we will love Italy even more.” So once again, thank you very much.
Mr Anisimov, what results will we have at the Olympics?
President of the Russian Judo Federation Vasily Anisimov: We will have good results. I feel we have achieved our first objective, our “import substitution” – we now have another Russian citizen who, as you have correctly noted, loves Russia and loves the team.
I believe the most important thing we have all created is a normal psychological climate. I promised six medals, which we absolutely must win at the Olympics. Clearly, this is setting a high bar, but I believe that it is very important today for our flag to rise and for Russia’s national anthem to be played in Brazil more than once.
I think we are all ready, the guys and gals are set on it. The entire team, as well as the coaches headed by Ezio, are working daily on a rigorous schedule. We are grateful to Sports Minister Vitaly Mutko and [First Deputy Speaker of the State Duma and President of the Russian Olympic Committee] Alexander Zhukov, who also help and provide financing.
We are very grateful to you that you have gathered our team today ahead of their departure for Brazil – I think you understand how this lifts the athletes’ spirits.
We can all see what is happening and we are confident that the Almighty will help us implement all our plans and we must simply bring them to fruition. Thank you again, and thanks to the entire team. I think the team will not let us down.
Vladimir Putin: Mr Anisimov said that the Almighty would help us – this is a generic image that works for people from different ethnic groups and religious backgrounds. I am very pleased that we have such a multi-ethnic team, who share common goals and a common country. This greatly unites us and motivates us toward good results.
I have no doubt – I do not know how many medals we will have, let us not try to guess in advance – but I do not doubt for even a second that you will fight in every sense of that word – beautifully, harmoniously, commendably – you will fight as judoka and as individuals, showing your best qualities on the tatami mats.
And Mr Mutko will help all of us. Please tell us about it.
Sports Minister Vitaly Mutko: First of all, I would like to congratulate our new Russian citizen, and thank you for your support and quick decision.
Overall, Mr President, I would like to say that we have provided everything for the team. I agree with Ezio, only the last step remains; everyone has great potential and it must be realised. The athletes have enormous objectives; each of them represents a region, with all of Russia truly covered here, from the republics in the Caucasus to central Russia, with representatives from every region in the nation.
We will create all the necessary conditions. You asked two years ago, “What do we have for judo in Sochi?” Today, we are at a sports centre built on your instructions. We are completing the construction of a large centre in Kislovodsk – the athletes already have the opportunity to train at middle altitudes, it is a wonderful centre.
We have provided everything from a material standpoint; the team’s athletic calendar, all the targets set by the coaches – we will meet them, so I do not see any problems here.
The athletes and I were talking before your arrival; of course, there needs to be equal attention given to all the regions. Overall, as far as the national team is concerned, I can assure you, the coach and the team that we will do everything to ensure that the last phase of training is held at the highest level. In addition, I want to wish the team success; they have taught us to expect victories. Olympic competitions always begin with judo and wrestling, they create a good psychological mind-set.
We will be a large, proper Olympic national team of about 400 people. I hope, Mr President, that we will bring track and field back to the heart of the team. Right now, we are competitive in about 22 or 23 sports out of 38, so I wish everyone luck.
Vladimir Putin: Ezio, what else needs to be done? What should be done by the Sports Ministry, our National Olympic Committee and the Judo Federation?
Ezio Gamba: We do not need anything special, we need – just like what you say, it’s not important now to think about results, how many gold, how many silver, how many bronze – but to keep quiet in time for arriving at the Olympics in a perfect atmosphere. It’s enough. The picture of the guys, it’s clear, just watch their eyes. In this case, they know their plan, and every one of them is ready to realize themselves for the better.
Vladimir Putin: I felt that today as I was talking to the athletes. They have a very serious attitude.
I want to wish everyone a happy New Year, and wish you all the very best, success, a good fighting spirit, good health, to avoid injuries, and to proceed to the Olympic Games calmly and show your worth. Good luck.