The coronavirus pandemic has changed the plans of millions of people, including many athletes around the world. International competitions have been cancelled. Also, it took some time to organise even regular training activities that are so important for athletes. However, the sports life is currently beginning to gradually improve.  The start of a new sports season at the University is on the horizon, and national teams are recruiting new athletes and preparing for the planned competitions.

Svetlana Namozova, Head of the Sports Department at St Petersburg University, told us about how the University students trained after the lockdown had been announced. She also shared plans for a new sports season.

Could you please tell us how the students kept fit during the pandemic?

In the summer, the athletes continued to work remotely, and in August our rowing team was already training on the water. But if physical activity can be practiced remotely, communication and participation in competitions cannot be replaced. They are precisely what the students miss the most. For the first time in history, I saw that almost the whole team came to the first training session in early September. As a rule, only a few came. The main challenge for the athletes was that they were disconnected because it is necessary for them to be together.

Throughout the spring, we held online events, including the University Championship and the Victory Day competitions. They took place this year instead of a relay race in commemoration of Viacheslav Vasilkovskii. All these events  were attended not only by University students, the members of teams, but by all interested students and employees of St Petersburg University. They were also attended by students from other universities. By June, interest in this format had declined, and it was not easy to keep it. In the summer, the coaches therefore just gave tasks to the athletes to keep them fit. Many of our athletes left for their homes. By that time in most cities sports facilities had already become available and students could go and train there. So, I think that they did not get out of shape.

Although the main training activities were temporarily suspended, the work on organising sports activities at St Petersburg University went on as usual. What successes have you achieved?

It should be noted that the work does not stand still. Throughout this period, we worked closely with sponsors and sports federations and prepared an agreement with Biocad for cooperation in the development of rugby. For almost a year, we worked out the terms of the agreement. It provides funding for our rugby team, including scholarships for members of the national team.

If there is a stream, we go downstream. If there is a wind, we sail. Otherwise, we will go upstream or sail against the wind, because we have no other way out.

Svetlana Namozova, Head of the Sports Department at St Petersburg University

Will there be any competitions and other sports events held this academic year?

By and large, the amount of work we have has not changed. Just from the physical culture large-scale format we are moving to the physical culture and health. We are not cancelling anything and will hold all the planned activities according to the schedule in compliance with the requirements that the new epidemiological conditions have set for us.

20 September saw the start of the student sports season. It is held on the International Day of University Sport, which is annually celebrated by FISU (Fédération Internationale du Sport Universitaire). The programme of the event included a friendly football match between the national team of football players and the national team of all other teams. An award ceremony for the winners of the spring distance competitions among students and staff was also held. The traditional Peterhof Olympic will take place on 4 October. The Freshman Prize events are scheduled to start in October. They will be held on weekends: we will draw up a schedule so that all participants do not have to meet at the same time. The testing centres for All-Russian Physical Culture Training Programme ‘Ready for Labour and Defence’ (GTO) have already opened in the city. So, we are going to organise the GTO tests at our facilities, as happens every year. All events scheduled for the second semester, including the University Championship, will also take place. If the conditions remain the same next year, we will change only their format.

If we talk about the sports teams of St Petersburg University, nothing has changed in their plans either. On 1 September, they began preparations for future championships. Everything will depend only on how the federations themselves will hold their events. In September, there will be away competitions of the Student Rowing League and the National Student Football League with several rounds. The sports federations of the Russian Federation will take responsibility for these competitions. The championship among St Petersburg universities usually begins in October. However, international meetings have been cancelled or postponed indefinitely for the time being. Additionally, Moscow State University has announced that it is not ready to host us for the swimming and rugby matches, which were originally scheduled for April, but then postponed for October.

The trials are still going on, and many first-year students are probably considering getting back to sports despite the coronavirus pandemic. What would  you tell  them ?

Our motto is ‘We are all in the same boat’, and since we have got into it, it means that we should somehow continue to move together. If there is a stream, we go downstream. If there is a wind, we sail. Otherwise, we will go upstream or sail against the wind, because we have no other way out. I believe that we will not lose anything from changing the format. On the contrary, it can even spark more interest in sports, because students always fancy trying something new.