Russia’s Challenge: sport against terror

In these hard days for Russia, there was a match between Russian and US sportsmen in track and field athletics.
Sportsmen are neither actors nor politicians, they do not play to impress the public, they just compete. And the match between the sportsmen of Russia and the USA in track and field athletics in Moscow on September 5, was not initially arranged as a competition challenging terrorism.

”Russia’s Challenge” – the posters with the name of the match had been all over Moscow long before the tragedy in Beslan. “Russia’s Challenge” was supposed to mean the Russian athletes challenging US sportsmen to compete remembering the past “matches of giants”. These matches used to draw much attention as they were the major competitions in track and field athletics, a victory there was a real triumph.

First time, the sportsmen of the USSR and the USA competed with each other 46 years ago, on July 27, 1958. 120 thousand people in Moscow Luzhniki stadium saw the duel of the stars: in decathlon - Rafer John, in pole vaulting – Ron Morris, in throwing spear – Al Kantello. Form the Russian side, they were opposed by shot-pusher Tamara Press, triple jumper Oleg Ryakhovsky, pole vault jumper Vladimir Bulatov. That competition finished by the USSR victory with minimum advantage - 172:170.

From 1958 tо 1982 Russia and American athletes had 18 matches. Оne of them finished with a draw, three times Americans won and 14 times the USSR team was the winner. Then there was a 20-year break. The sad break caused by the political arguments between the two countries, and then – by Russian revolutions and economic problems. The idea of sport and sportive friendship came into oblivion. To revive this idea, Russia’s Challenge was conducted.

However, a week before the competition it become clear that the competition will become not only sportive, but a political event ass well. Slogan “Sport against terror” was brought to life.

Thank you very much, Olympians of the USA who were not scared of terrorist acts in the end of August and beginning of September. Champions of the Athens’ Olympics Monic Hennegan (400 m hurdles) and Joan
Heies (100 m hurdles), men’s long jumper Dwight Phillips. The future winners of Russia’s Challenge, sprinter Marcus Branson and Ron Bramlet (110 m hurdles) arrived in Moscow, along with many other American sportsmen to compete in the 15 events of the program in track and field athletics.

But they were opposed by the powerful Russian team having Olympic champions of Athens Yury Borzakovsky (800 m hurdles), Таtiana Lebedeva (men’s long jump), Еlena Slesarenko (high jump), winner of silver medal at the Olympics Tatiana Tomashova (1,500 m hurdles) and Svetlana Feofanova (pole-vaulting). However, not all Olympic champions from Russia were successful in Moscow this time. Daniil Burkenya could not surpass Dwight Phillips in men’s long jump, and Tanya Lebedeva was surpassed by her friend Irina Simagina.

Later Tatiana said with tears in her eyes that the recent events frustrated her much and she could not concentrate well during the competition. Yury Borzakovsky said the same thing. Being in Athens, Yury was wearing a black armlet during the competition as the sign of mourning for the victims of air crashes. However, his frustration gave him more strength in 800 m hurdles both in Athens and in Moscow.

Everybody forgot about counting points. The matter was not only in the Russian team being far ahead. The main result of the match between the Russian and American athletes was implementing the slogan “sport against terror” into reality.

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Author`s name Evgeniya Petrova