‘We’ll make money from fencing’ – re-elected FIE president
In 2008, Alisher Usmanov became the first Russian President of the International Fencing Federation claiming five more votes than long-serving chief, Frenchman Rene Roch.
Four years later he was returned unchallenged, and is hoping to further expand the love of fencing all over the world.
For the first time in the sport's history fencers from five continents managed to climb the Olympic podium in London.
While the global expansion is set to continue Usmanov realizes that more needs to be done in the evolution of fencing.
“Any changes in the rules are driven by attempts to make the sport more entertaining and spectacular. This is what we need to do, so that sponsors get interested in fencing. If we achieve that, it will allow the federations to develop independently. Then won’t just get funds from our donors, but we'll actually make money from our events,” he says.
Usmanov himself used to be a promising sabre fencer in the Soviet Union before he made his fortune in metals, mining and technology in modern Russia.
Perhaps it’s that personal affiliation that prompted Usmanov to set up a foundation to support the veterans of fencing worldwide.
“I think it's very important for people to preserve their legacy, their history and traditions. We need to remember those who made our sport glorious, and this has to be a priority for the president of any sports federation. That's why I set up an endowment, which will help all those who made our sport popular, spectacular, and adored by fans,” he stresses.
Russian fencers recorded one of their worst results at the recent London Olympics after failing to win gold for the first time since 1960. The fact that the Russians made it to four Olympic semi-finals will probably be forgotten.
However, Usmanov believes that, given the right circumstances, the country will soon remount the Olympic summit.
“In sports like fencing, there is always an element of luck. But I think the Russians should focus on psychological preparation plus develop training centers. With that, I think they'll be able to deliver the results and make the fans happy. But I don't think we should throw rocks at Olympic athletes who lose in semi-finals. We also lost in two finals and claimed one bronze in London. C’est la vie,” he notes.
Usmanov’s term will be over after the Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, and hopefully the legacy left by the Russian will be one for the future.