Young golfers dreaming of Rio 2016
The search for talent is on as golfing rookies Russia want to be competitive when the aristocratic sport makes its return to the Olympic program in Rio de Janeiro in 2016.
Russia's biggest golfing star Maria Verchenova is currently taking a break from the sport, but more promising youngsters are coming through.One of the main prospects is Vladimir Osipov. He is just 16, and would turn 21 at the Rio Olympics.The Games will see the return of golf, after just two appearances, early in the 20th century. But to make an Olympic dream come true, players need to dig deep.“Of course I want to go to the Olympics,” he said. “But, to give myself a chance, I need to be high up in the world rankings. So I'll have to turn pro soon and start racking up ranking points, and improve my game.”For this season, the youngster is setting his sights on the European Amateur Team Championships in Portugal in September, and then probably the World event.The Russian national side are fresh from a training camp in America and local trainers praised their progress as a unit.But the sport's officials are after strong performances, not just words of approval.“To go to the Rio Olympics, golfers will need to rocket up the world rankings,” Nikolay Afanasiev from Russia’s Golf Association said. “Those rankings are compiled in accordance with their results at professional events. So, our task is to prepare our leading golfers for these tournaments. And off-season camps will be an integral part of these preparations, because their schedule is extremely busy, week in, week out.”Russia might not be a golfing stronghold and years of hard work lie ahead, but with new courses like Pestovo just outside Moscow popping up, the road to Rio could become a little bit smoother.