Aleksandr Lukashenko takes part in ceremony to honor medalists of 22nd Olympic Winter Games

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Olympic heroes are the pride and the biggest asset of the Belarusian people, Belarusian President Aleksandr Lukashenko has said as he welcomed the Belarusian athletes who returned triumphant from the Sochi 2014 Olympic Games.

The President underlined that Belarus earned international recognition due to the winners and medalists of the Winter Olympics in Sochi. “Millions of people, millions of Belarusians held their breath watching them at the Olympics. Those were unforgettable moments of patriotic uplift and unity of the nation. The Olympic heroes are the pride and precious asset of any nation, including ours,” Aleksandr Lukashenko said.

“The medals, five of which are gold, are an outstanding achievement. Belarus has never seen anything like that before,” the head of state said. Our country was in the top ten in the medal tally, leaving behind many traditional favorites. “This made the entire world speak about Belarus, made a huge contribution to the improvement of the country’s image and prestige as a sports nation, a sports power,” the President remarked.

The President emphasized that this success came from many years of hard work. The country once made sport one of the major priorities of its social policy recognizing it as a great way to improve health and morale of the nation.

Aleksandr Lukashenko thanked Belarusian Olympians for their courage and commitment and presented state decorations to the Olympic champions and their coaches in recognition of professional excellence, outstanding sports achievements, a big personal contribution to the successful performance of the Belarusian national team at the Olympic Games in Sochi.

“Your achievements deserve the highest awards. On the way to the podium you have come, as the saying goes, through thick and thin. The bigger test, however, is still ahead of you – the test of fame and success,” Belarusian leader stressed.

Aleksandr Lukashenko wished the winners to bear the title of the champion with dignity, remain selfless and committed athletes and, what is more important, modest, sincere and open people.

“Let your example guide those who are just coming to the big sport, help them become fearless and persistent, train a sweat conquering fatigue and pain in overworked muscles, compete fairly and win beautifully. Then they will have their moment and glorify Belarus,” the President added.

Aleksandr Lukashenko bestowed the Hero of Belarus star upon three-time Olympic champion Darya Domracheva.

“No words can describe the feelings when we were watching Darya Domracheva’s performances. Power, speed, stamina, courage, aiming accuracy and skills - all fused into a triumph of a great athlete. The triumph the planet has not seen before,” the Belarusian leader said.

“By winning three gold medals at one Olympics, you, Dasha, has become a legend of the world sport. Today your sport and civil deed is honored with the highest decoration of the country - the Hero of Belarus. We have very few of them,” Aleksandr Lukashenko emphasized.

Aleksandr Lukashenko conferred the Order of Fatherland 3rd Class upon Olympic champions Anton Kushnir and Alla Tsuper and bronze medalist Nadezhda Skardino.

The head of state noted that spectators and fans vigorously supported the aerial skiing team. He said this is an extremely challenging sport where an athlete does not have the right to make a mistake. “My friend and colleague has recently said ‘nothing venture, nothing gain’. And really both of them (Alla Tsuper and Anton Kushnir) ventured and did not leave a chance to their rivals. They left behind athletes from the legendary countries where freestyle and aerial skiing are well-developed. I mean Canada, the USA, the People’s Republic of China, Australia and others. But our athletes won. And not only because they ventured and managed to do the incredible things. They also won because they had labored hard, believed in their success and -most important - were eager to win,” the head of state said.

In this regard Aleksandr Lukashenko underlined that the medals won by aerialists Alla Tsuper and Anton Kushnir, are of a special value. “Your jumps are unique in terms of elegance and technique. Your victories will forever be part of the history of both Belarusian and world sport,” the President is convinced.

Speaking about bronze medalist of the Olympics Nadezhda Skardino, Aleksandr Lukashenko noted that her success came from faith and hard labor. “Nadya, you did not give up in the face of difficulties, I saw it. You bit the bullet, calmed your nerves and moved forward no matter what it took. You won the medal and once again confirmed the strength of Belarusian women’s biathlon, to put it modestly,” the President said addressing the biathlete.

The head of state noted that the Orders of the Fatherland are the acknowledgement of the services the athletes have rendered to their Homeland.

Aleksandr Lukashenko also pointed out the courage and willpower of Sergei Dolidovich who performed well competing against the most famous athletes to take fifth place. The President opined that Sergei Dolidovich could also win a medal. “Only Sergei knows why it did not happen. However, to be among thirty best skiers and, moreover, to finish in fifth is a great achievement, especially taking into account the conditions the skiers had to go through out there. An altitude of over 1.5km and a very rough terrain where not everyone will venture to compete even on mountain skis, let alone cross-country ones. That is why the fifth place in the cross-country is a very good result for Belarus and it should also be rewarded,” Aleksandr Lukashenko said. At the ceremony Sergei Dolidovich was awarded the Order of Honor.

The Belarusian President also presented state awards to Belarusian coaches and other specialists.

According to the head of state, coaches of the national aerials and biathlon teams as well as other specialists, their talent and hard work, helped secure these Olympic victories. Head coach of the national freestyle team Nikolai Kozeko who has brought up a whole constellation of champions has deserved special gratitude. He was awarded the Order of Fatherland 1st Class. Thus, Nikolai Kozeko has become the full cavalier of this supreme state award of Belarus.

“We must also remember and thank parents and coaches – the first mentors of our Olympians. Without your love to children, belief in their talent, there would be no present results of our champions. Their victories are your victories and you have every right to take pride in them. Servicemen, medics and the administrative group – everyone who helped our athletes - deserve the kindest words, too. Your enormous contribution to the preparation of the Olympic winners and medalists cannot be overestimated. I thank everyone who has made their contribution to the sport success of Belarus,” the head of state said.

Aleksandr Lukashenko presented the Order of Honor to First Deputy Head of the Belarusian Biathlon Federation Sergei Bulygin. Leading research worker of the Sport Biochemistry Laboratory of the Research Institute of Physical Education and Sport Irina Rybina received the medal for excellence in labor. The Honorary Coach of the Republic of Belarus title was conferred on chief coach of Belarus’ national aerial skiing team Alexander Penigin and senior coach of Belarus’ national biathlon team Fyodor Svoboda.

Despite success at the Sochi Olympics the problems that exist in sports cannot be neglected, Aleksandr Lukashenko said. “We cannot turn a blind eye to the problems which have filled our sport to quite a large extent. Against the backdrop of brilliant victories of several people it is still impossible to ignore problems that exist in our sport. And if women (only several of them, to be honest) put up a great performance, then the question arises: where were our men, our skiers, and where were the others?” the President noted.

According to Aleksandr Lukashenko, these issues will be discussed at a traditional government session to review the results of the Olympics. “All heads of federations and government officials should be ready for it,” the Belarusian leader said.

“The Olympic results not only make us happy but also give us food for thought. Not all members of the Belarusian team performed as well as we expected them to. Sometimes there were objective reasons for that but sometimes coaches did not work hard enough to show their worth and live up to the expectations of our people. We should analyze the reasons of these bad performances calmly and firmly and learn lessons from this priceless experience. First of all, this pertains to our national ice hockey team,” the head of state noted.

Aleksandr Lukashenko remarked that very soon Belarus will host the IIHF World Championship and the Belarusian team should show a decent result there. “These days hockey players do not merely compete - they fight for a victory. And if you cannot play hockey or are not ready for this it is better not to take part in this competition,” the President said. He underlined that excuses claiming it is impossible to play against stronger teams from countries with a larger population will not be accepted. “There is a reason I have mentioned freestyle skiers. They are also from Belarus which population stands at 10 million, not from China where 1.5 billion people live,” Aleksandr Lukashenko said.

“I would very much like us to gather after the IIHF World Championship, if not here, then in some other less solemn place, to thank our ice hockey players and especially all the coaches, not only Glen Hanlon. I simply cannot imagine any other outcome,” the President noted.

The head of state also underlined that Belarusian athletes will have to take part in many important competitions and international tournaments in the future. He expressed hope that sportsmen will push themselves to the limit and win more medals.

During the ceremony three-time Olympic champion of Belarus Darya Domracheva handed over the flag that was in Sochi during the 22nd Winter Olympic Games together with the Belarusian Olympic delegation to the head of state. Aleksandr Lukashenko, for his part, handed over the flag to students of the specialized Olympic reserve school that offers training in acrobatics and freestyle skiing to children and the youth. Later on the flag will be placed in the Olympic Glory Museum.