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Olga Zaytseva in public announced her decision to continue till the home Olympic Games in Sochi. The biathlon fans exhaled and so did Our columnist Konstantin Boytsov recalls the image of Olga Zaytseva in 2002, her progressive motion to the leadership in the national team and gives examples of the champions returned to the sport.

Two and a half months have passed since the two-time Olympic champion Olga Zaytseva announced her retirement. In the meantime she managed to compete two times at the last world cup and to participate in the biathlon-shows in Moscow and Kamchatka.

The retirement statement was so convincing that even the promises of the RBU management to «talk to Zaytseva one more time» did not inspire the public. The inclusion of Olga in the national team also did not impressed so much. Valery Polkhovkiy, officially headed the coaching staff late April, sent a firm signal that he was counting on Olga and right after the official press-conference visited Olga for the individual talk.

2002. Zaytseva, who has just finished her one and only race at the Olympic Salt-Lake, smiles from the «Russian biathlon house» porch. Her jacket sits baggy, accreditation hangs on her chest, and everything is new, interesting and exciting for her. «At that time everything seemed easier,» says Olga. «Youthful ardour, wish to prove everyone, to achieve everything and to outrun everybody…«

Her eyes are still full of that excitement and passion, and the abilities to achieve everything and outrun everybody have only grown. But together with that came problems, injuries and doubts. A new spring Zaytseva met in… the hospital with the injured arm.

Headed by Pihler the women's team works hard on their first training camp, while Zaytseva is just announcing her decision. «Intensive trainings…?» Olga shrugged her shoulders answering one of the questions regarding the new coaching staff. «I think, for older generation of the athletes there is nothing uncommon in the offered volumes and exercises. I understand very well how big could be the loads on the preseason trainings. I'm not scared at all by what I've heard about Pihler's trainings.»

— Olga, what is more difficult in sport — to fight 3–4 years for the success or maintain the level?

— to maintain. You are making your way to the team, trying to strengthen your position, the most important thing after that is to not get lost in the big races. After all, in the beginning nobody expects that much from you. But after you have reached the top — be good enough to keep it. Of course, when in Khanty-Mansiysk I have told «that is it, I'm leaving», I did it on the emotions without even thinking about the audience from the other side of the screen and that my words could be retold and discussed the next day. But I really was hurt. Two consecutive years I have been the leader of the team — two gold medals of the world championship 2009, two Olympic medals, medals and even victories in the season 2010/2011. Not enough?

Earlier I always came to Khanty-Mansiysk in elevated mood, I knew — no matter how we performed, the public would support us and give some positive energy. This time I felt some tension, even aversion… You can try to ignore all this, but you can't - you just need some support… It was too much for me. I isolated myself — no trainings, just rest with my friends and family.

— Oxana (Olga's sister and personal coach) — I bet people asked you many times — «what's happening?», «when?», «will she comeback?» How big was the tension at that moment?

— The tension was noticeable. People asked me or even hurried — «may be you need to talk to her…» But I know Olga very well. I know she should decide it on her own; I don't need to help her here.

After all these years in the national team we found the suitable schedule of the trainings. And this scheme gave its results. Considering the perspectives of joining the national team — we discussed the individual plan, for example, to work whole July on the flat land and the whole August on the highs. Besides Olga has a little son he is upset when mom leaves him for long.

— Olga, when you considered your retirement you said you «didn't want to work with this team». Has anything changed?

— I'm healthy and I do have a desire to train and compete, I'm satisfied with the conditions of my work, I continue my work. Eventually we need to find compromise suitable for all interested parties.

I consider myself to be a responsible person. I understand — the leader of the team can't just quiet and leave everything. Young biathletes look at the experienced sportsmen — their attitude, even just appearance give the newcomers right guidelines and confidence. When Anna Bogaliy and I joined the team Galina Koukleva and Olga Medvedtseva were the leaders. After Vancouver Olga left the team and I felt her absence very sharply — even considering the fact that the last few years she trained individually. I thought of how my retirement could affect the young sportsmen (not just retirement but the way of doing it).

— I'm sure there are enough arguments on the other scale. Pressing, peaks taken, home and family, the chance to fulfill oneself in something different…

— There are a lot of alternatives. But I think that now I can't do anything better than skiing and shooting. I've considered the option to have a second child. But maybe I have not done in biathlon everything I wanted.

In 1998, a former skier and biathlete Sergey Chepikov left the big sport. In 2001 he came back to win one more Olympic medal and the gold of the world championship.

In 2006 after her disqualification Olga Medvedtseva said repeatedly «I would not come back». In October 2007 she had her first training, in March 2009 — the gold of the world championship, one year later — Olympic gold medal for the relay.

Probably, the leaving to return is not that harmful for sportsmen after all. The tendency is inspiring.

Konstantin Boytsov