Turkish ice dancing pair leaves Russia, Russian coach
AFP photoA figure skating pair competing for Turkey has been told to cut short a training program in Russia in the wake of a recent crisis between the two countries.
Russian coach Alexander Zhulin told Russia’s “R-Sport” that the Turkish ice dancing duo of Alisa Agafonova and Alper Uçar left Russia on Dec. 5 upon a request from the Turkish Youth and Sports Ministry.
“They left Russia in tears; everybody was in tears,” said Zhulin, a former world champion and two-time Olympic medalist in ice dancing.
“It is regrettable that politics are interfering in sport. The Sports Ministry of Turkey told them to return home and it is currently difficult to predict what will happen next,” Zhulin said.
Zhulin said he hoped that a solution would be found to the situation.
“I hope that Russia and Turkey will come to some kind of compromise, and the kids will come back,” he said.
“They really liked it in Russia, and they gave us very much. The cooperation is for now over, I think that if the situation goes on, I will not be able to stand at their side during their performances at the European and world championships,” he said.
Agafonova said she hoped that she and her partner would be able to resume work with Zhulin in the future.
“Alexander and his entire team has [done] a lot for us,” she said.
“Working with Zhulin made a great contribution to our career with Alper, and we have spent most of our time as a dancing couple with him. We hope that we are going to be together again,” she said.
She noted that before the end of the national championship to be held in the second half of December, the duo will work in Turkey.
“After that the Turkish federation will decide on the future direction that we will go in,” she added.
Agafonova and Uçar became the first competitors to represent Turkey in the pair’s figure skating category at the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, although they failed to make it to the free dance program.
The season has so far been successful for the couple. As well as the first appearance of their career at a Grand Prix at the Trophée Eric Bompard, they registered two historic victories in level B competitions at the Denkova-Staviski NRW Cup and Trophy, while also improving their personal records.
Relations between Russia and Turkey disintegrated abruptly after Ankara shot down a Russian warplane near the Syrian border for allegedly violating its airspace. While Russia denied any violation, it implemented a series of measures against Turkey, including a partial ban on exports and cancellation of bilateral agreements.
Sports was also a part of Russian sanctions, as Russian Sports Minister Vitaly Mutko said Nov. 29 that Russian sports clubs would be banned from signing Turkish players during the upcoming winter break. The ministry also recommended that Russian football clubs cancel winter training camps in Turkey.
Nonetheless, the Russian national futsal team will participate in a qualifying tournament in Turkey for the 2016 World Cup, Futsal Association of Russia official Emil Aliev has said.
The qualifying tournament will be held in İzmir between Dec. 10 and 13. and Turkey and Russia will compete in the same group, along with Serbia and Finland.