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“All champions were kids someday”

Leading winter sports officials, who flocked to the city of Ufa in the Russia’s Republic of Bashkortostan, agree that the country’s athletic greatness is impossible without investment in children’s sports.
­Since 2006, members of the winter sports community, whether they are companies providing equipment or sportsmen and women, have been gathering in order to review the state of winter sports in Russia.Common reoccurring topics have ranged from development of new training facilities to education or to the engineering specifics of arenas.However, this year participants focused on how to better develop sport for children.“Governments, federations and people in general need to pay more attention to developing sports for kids,” Dmitry Aleksashin, Russian Biathlon Federation’s vice-president, told RT. “Because the benefits are clear, it’s the promotion of being healthy. We need to instil that into the minds of children. It’s better to spend money on being healthy, rather than spending that money on medicine.”But it’s not only the investment into complexes and equipment that's needed, but also human resources.“Of course, developing sport for kids is important,” Svetlana Gladysheva, President of Russia’s Ski and Snowboard Federation, stressed. “I mean, all champions were also once kids and went to sport schools, etc. But we need to raise wages for the various trainers and coaches who train our little ones, because that moment is the most critical for a child's sporting life.”When talking about developing children’s sporting abilities, naturally, one of the most important aspects that come to mind is the infrastructure needed.And although many believe investment stops in Moscow and St. Petersburg, its places like Ufa, the capital of the Republic of Bashkorkostan in Russia’s Urals Region, that’s actually leading the way.In two years the city managed to build the state of the art Ufa Arena, which is now home to the Kontinental Hockey League’s 2011 winners, Salavat Yulaev. The team itself is also leading by example, boasting five ice hockey rinks to train their younger players. A new biathlon sport complex is also built in Ufa, so that young Russians can further hone their skills in one of the country’s most popular sports.“Biathlon has always been a sport in which Russians have excelled in,” Aleksashin said. “Our athletes have enjoyed many great results at international level. Of course, now the sport has to share its popularity with other international sporting events, like football, but it’s still appealing to all age groups.” The consensus is clear for sporting officials – to wean the kids off seeking personal glory, but rather to invest into them understanding the physical benefits of simply doing sport.But those, who choose to be champions and have the potential to become one, must receive the needed back up from the state.