Sunday, July 26, 2009
USSR - Powerhouse in Sports
In the sports field the Soviet Union was a power to reckon with along with the United States. They were very good in not just the track and field events, but in all sports and in all events. In both forms of Olympic sports – the Summer Games as well as during the Winter Olympics they normally went home with a majority of the available medals and awards. It was only after the break up of the Soviet Union in the wake of Gorbachev’s Glasnost and Perestroika in the early ‘90s did the new Russia give a certain amount of leeway to other countries to also figure in the medals tally. And here too the erstwhile Republics didn’t do badly.
During my first winter in the Soviet Union, that is in December 1967, I along with a few colleagues and local friends used to go to the nearby frozen lake to learn and practise ice-skating skills. Everything looked so easy. Especially when one looked at children 4 and 5 years of age laughing and carrying out all sorts of antics on the ice. I don’t know how many of you have experienced the thrill of putting on skates and standing up on the ice for the first time! For me it turned out to be a horrifying experience, because, one moment after I put on my skates and stood up holding the wooden bench, I was looking smug and proudly gazing around at my tentative friends, and the next moment like a VTOL jet aircraft I was in the air, but, only momentarily, as I soon made very hard terrestrial contact with my rear on that rock hard frozen ice. Robert Bruce, I believe try, try and tried again seven times and achieved his objective somewhere in Scotland many years ago. But, on that first day I tried God knows how many times, and each time I only managed to bruise my bottom a little bit more. That evening I felt worse than when my Principal had made me bend over on his chair and had given me five of the best for some prank in class. That was in my fourth standard, but I still remember it. But this experience was really bad. That night Mama (we used to call the old lady who cooked for us that) saw me standing at my dining chair, and the pained look on my face told her all. She came to me and suggested that next time at the pond I should try skating with a pillow tied to my backside. I never became a skating champion, but did finish the skating season a little more comfortably. But, I am digressing. I was talking about Soviet sports. So lets take a look at a few Soviet stamps and miniature sheets on sports. On the right is a miniature sheet of the 1968 Olympic Games which became famous on account of American Bob Beamon's unbelievable long Jump of more than 29 feet.