In the second part of the interview Oleg Verniaev talks about his experience in Bundesliga and plans for the next season.
The original interview is in Russian and you can read it here.
If you missed the first part of my translation, go here.
Q: Tell us about Bundesliga, since it’s your third season there. Is it an interesting competition?
A: That’s an awesome competition! It’s both a show and a huge experience for the athletes. One guy from our national team, Zhenya, competed there for the first time. When we were flying back home, he said it’s a great experience for people who don’t compete a lot. So, here’s how it goes. We come to the competition hall, start warming up. Usually the warm up is at 5pm and the competition is at 6 pm, so we have one hour. Then there’s a line up, some show, two teams are presented, and two team captains throw a coin to decide who’s starting on an apparatus. For example, if we won the coin throw, our team sends one person to the apparatus, their team is watching how this person competes, and then they are sending someone. They can either send someone weak to throw the game and save a strong competitor till later or they can send the strong one right away. All these tactics are thought through in advance, whom to send against whom. Sometimes, there are changes during the competition, but the main plan stays. We compete floor, pommel horse and rings, and then we are given 15 minutes to warm up for vault and parallel bars, and then the whole team can warm up again before the high bar.
I always like to compete last, but if someone strong competes at the beginning I quickly run to compete against him, to beat his result. There’s the richest and strongest club in the league, they have a guy who’s really strong on p-bars, but he makes mistakes sometimes. I go before him, do well, and ruin his game, so that he loses it when he competes. Then we send someone weak who beats their strongest. There are psychological games like that, it’s very fascinating. And the spectators come with pipes, drums, rattles and stuff. There are like 500-1000 minimum coming to every game. The last competition we had was against Fabian Hambüchen’s club, and he’s the local star. So, the fans booked 200 tickets in advance, the organizers had to put more seats, the hall was packed. The halls there are just usual gyms, really. The apparatuses are new, though, only a few teams have old floors, which is the only minus. Overall, it’s a great place, there’s really good friendly competition.
Q: What’s the name of your team? How did you end up there?
A: The team is called TG Saar, from the city of Saarbrücken. I just really wanted to compete in Bundesliga and someone contacted me. It’s just that [international athletes] who already compete there, help others to get there to, so someone helped me with connections and I got an offer. The richest club is trying to buy me for three years already, but I don’t want to go with them. It’s just that in our club half the team are Russian-speaking, both guys and coaches, we have a family atmosphere, they help me with everything. For example, some guys asked me to check whether I could get them grips, I talked to some people in the club, they gave me some grips and I brought them to our guys.* When I went there the first time, I brought back like 20 club t-shirts and gave them to everyone back home. The club is always giving me all sorts of presents. Once they even paid for my surgery. Regarding that rich club, Andrey Likhovistky once told me that when his club beat that club on one apparatus, the sponsor of that rich club started yelling at the athletes. I guess, they wanted a clean sweep that season. So, they’re more like a business, and we’re more like a family.
*Here Oleg means the athletes on the Ukrainian national team. The team isn’t sufficiently financed, so often the athletes lack basic stuff like grips and tape. Oleg talked in previous interviews how he’s often given free stuff for gymnastics by clubs and federations when he competes in other countries, so he hoards it, brings back home and gives to the athletes on the national team.
Q: Does Bundesliga conflict with your other competitions? Does it mess with your pacing and preparation for the season?
A: I always know the competition schedule for the whole season, so we take everything into account. Also, Germans are very good about scheduling, unlike the French league that can schedule competitions on the same day as a World cup. In Bundesliga, we compete seven Saturdays, and one of them is off, so that the athletes could go to the Swiss Cup. Everything’s scheduled smartly.
Q: What are your plans for the near future?
A: December the 3rd is Bundesliga’s final. By the way, they are inviting the athletes’ parents, I’m bringing mine this time, and the club president is organizing it and paying for everything. I’m competing there, then immediately going to Belgium to perform at a Gala there, then off to Japan to do a show there. Then I will go to Israel for rehab. In March 2017, I have the first World Cups, all-around, and that will be the start of my season. It’s very hard to adjust to the new COP, the changes took a big bite out of my routines, so I need to learn a lot of new elements quickly. The rules have changed after the Olympics. For example, we had 5 special requirement on each apparatus, each was worth 0.5, and now there are only 4 special requirements. That is, my 92.5 from Brazil, would worth 3 points less now. Also, all vaults are downgraded by 0.4, so we have 3.4 points less. Also, before you could do four underbar elements on p-bars, and now only two are allowed.
I talked to Danell Leyva who took the silver in Rio, and he said he’s going to retire, because his routine gets completely destroyed by the new rules. On floor the forward roll is prohibited now, too. I’ve heard that now we can do 3-4 tumbling diagonals in a row, but I don’t know yet whether it’s true. On the pommel horse, you could do as many handstands as you wanted before, and now only two are allowed. It’s just that the FIG has the people who are in charge of these changes, and they often adjust the rules to benefit their own athletes. For instance, Americans don’t really like pommel horse, so on that apparatus the difference in points between D and E elements is practically non-significant.