The Russian Campaign of "General" Cerioni

Discussion in 'Fencing Discussion' started by gladius, Mar 27, 2013.

  1. gladius

    gladius Podium

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    The Russian Campaign of "General" Cerioni

    A battle fought at below zero to unfreeze Russian foilists and making them grow Italian style

    by Guido Alessandrini, Tuttosport 03.26.2013


    Truth to be told, it is a bit shocking to see Stefano Cerioni wearing a blue warmup suit with "RUSSIA" written on it. He, the Italian from Jesi, Italy's Olympic foil champion (Seoul 1988), CT of the Italian squad and of the Dream Team who just seven month ago devoured the London Olympics as if it were a croissant for breakfast. One of ours, for life--we thought. Instead, after indiscretions, discussions, upsets, and even a bit of polemics he did it for real. CT for Russia, in Russia.

    His first sentence last Saturday in Turin while wearing that strange warmup suit, sounds intriguing... "I thought it would be better…"


    RUSSIAN THAWING

    Indeed, because we Italians are convinced that outside our country, which looks to us out of breath and in the doldrums, everything seems to be beautiful and perfect, and in Russia, which in sport is a true superpower, everything is working beautifully. Not so. Not at all.

    For sure, the very Italian Cerioni started his Russian campaign some weeks ago and therefore the results will bloom way after the end of winter, which over there is a serious thing, after the traditional spring thaw. But certain little signs can be seen already. Like Inna Deriglazova (1990) winning three of the first five stages of this season's World Cup, or that the teams are now working quite differently. For the time being these are just details.

    [​IMG]

    Stefano Cerioni (R) with Larisa Korobeynikova (L) and Inna Deriglazova at the award ceremony of the FIE Grand-Prix "Fleuret de St.Petersbourg"
    Photo by Mike Kireev



    WHAT BACKYARD?

    Q: Let's begin with your move to Russia...

    SC: "I landed in Moscow on January 25th. First shock: 10 degrees F. But it was a bright, sunny day with a blue sky--this never happened to me in Moscow over so many years traveling there as an athlete or CT. Everything was always gray and sad. I took this as a good omen. My new home is nice, three stories, in a brand new section in the city's northwest suburbs, near the training center. There is also a nice backyard, I think. My landlord gave me a lawn mower with the recommendation to cut the grass. Problem is that now the grass is under 5 feet of snow and at night the temperature drops to minus 15 degrees F…"

    THE "SHOP"

    Q: OK, in these first two months your life is limited to home-and-shop. We are curious about the second, of course.

    SC: "I just said, I thought it would be better. I found athletes who were tired, bored. Bored to do always the same things which often were ineffective."

    Q: Isn't Russia the master/leader in training methodology?

    SC: "Maybe, but this is not the case in foil for sure. Starting from the warmup routine, which is the first step. For them four minutes of movements without any guiding logic are sufficient. I was so flabbergasted that I decided to video tape what they were doing. In a few months I'll show them this video so they'll understand how dumb it was. Then the physical conditioning: in Italy we have worked at it for thirty years, but in Russia it just does not exist. This is serious because fencing is an asymmetric sport. They do/did nothing to compensate and this is how they risk injuries."

    IN A STRAIGHTJACKET

    Q: But at least they know how to fence…

    SC: "Yes, the fundamentals. But past them they use few patterns, always the same, repeated mechanically. This is why when they fence against Italian women or men they go crazy. In Italy there are tens of schools which are all different from one another and any national fencer knows how to change, adapt, invent. So the first thing I did was to try to introduce new things, changes. After two days the guys got it and now they ask and want to try new things. And they laugh and have fun, they opened up, they express themeselves."

    Q: You mean that you are "italianizing" the Russians?

    SC: "If you want, yes. Let say that they were, and still are, in a straightjacket. My first objective is to take it off."

    NOT MANY FENCERS

    Q: You must have an unlimited selection, a bunch of talented athletes…

    SC: "My initial comment, 'I thought it would be better,' was aimed especially at the numbers (of elite fencers in Russia). In the upcoming national championships in April we'll have about 60 women and 80 men. Just for comparison, in Italy at the national senior championships there are 300 men and 300 women, and there would be many more if they did not have the qualification path to compete which sets the ceiling. But at least for the time being this is how things are in Russia."

    Q: And yet you already have had some interesting results…

    SC: "Women foilists were standing there all serious, diligently following their patterns. Now they are smiling again and they win also. About men foilists people used to say that they did not want to work hard but instead they started moving forward right away. Immediately they were among the top 8 in team competitions and in Bonn last Sunday, they won, beating Italy in the semi. This had not happened in years. Giovanni Bortolaso, whom I wanted to have with me together with the physical trainer Zomparelli, was in Germany (at the competition). To do it all by myself would have been an impossible task."

    Q: Elisa Di Francisca, Arianna Errigo, and the rest of the Italian squad had a hard time accepting your departure and are having it hard now when they see you in the corner of their number one opponent. What about you, are you having a hard time also with this switch?

    SC: "Ditto for me. I accepted this big challenge to prove that I am capable to do something good outside Italy also. However, to see "my" kids at the other end of the strip is tough. They say that I know them, but they also know me. Last week in the MF team event, Aspromonte understood this immediately and told his team mates, 'Let's speed up because Stefano wants to beat us by keeping the score low.' I heard him saying that. And we lost."

    TRANSLATOR

    Q: Are you learning Russian?

    SC: "I'm starting, slowly. The first phrase I wanted to learn immediately is 'niet nasad' or 'don't move back.' I needed this with the girls, used as they were to those famous patterns to always escape (moving back). This is a fundamental concept that changes the way you think. Right now the language barrier is my greatest limitation. I am used to talk personally with the athletes, to communicate directly. Now I must use an interpreter. This is not good because certain things must remain private. We'll work on this."

    Q: Will you also learn to sing the Russian anthem during the award ceremonies?

    SC: "The Russian anthem? Me?? Are you kidding???!!!"


    :cool:
     
    Last edited: Mar 28, 2013
  2. Allex

    Allex DE Bracket

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    As much as Russian Fencing "sphere" is "suspicious" of Bauer, that much they LOVE Cerioni.
    He seemingly embraces, encourages, and pulls in everyone within an earshot of his non-stop gregariousness.
    Sifting through "official FFR documents" - Russia's plan is 2 Golds in Rio - which they project to come form either of : Women's Foil, Women's Team Epee and Sabre, and Men's Sabre.
     
  3. indypacers

    indypacers Made the Cut

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    So, with this move will it change the "fencing paradigm" for the current group of Soviet fencers and does that mean finally the US will move away from the "old Soviet" methodology or stay a step to slow as the rest of our competitor take a leap forward.
     
  4. Damien Lehfeldt

    Damien Lehfeldt DE Bracket

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    The future is safe in the hands of Greg Massialas (And Gerek, Alex, Miles, Willette). Don't you worry.
     
  5. edew

    edew Podium

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    I've found the main weakness of the old Soviet style coaching, at least here in the US (since I've never been coached outside the US), is the lack of quality communication. The coach can't explain well, so they don't bother and they just go through the motions and expect the fencer to grasp the idea. Maybe they don't bother to explain, as in "I'm teaching you everything you know, but I haven't taught you everything I know. (smirk, smirk)." I have noticed, however, that russian speaking US fencers seem to learn quicker from a russian coach than non-russian speaking US fencers. So it does appear to be an issue of communication.
     
  6. Allex

    Allex DE Bracket

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    So Mariel Zagunis, Keeth Smart, and Miles Chamley-Watson, an Emily Cross speak Russian or Polish?
    News to me at least.
     
  7. ravlik

    ravlik Made the Cut

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    Poor russian speaking US fencers they could not use communication issues as the reason to slack...


    From experience, when people ask me to explain/solve something to them they have no problem with my english, when I am voicing my not-so-pleasant opinion on some subject they magically loose some % of their accent processing abilities.
     
  8. Damien Lehfeldt

    Damien Lehfeldt DE Bracket

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    In Soviet Russia, you don't speak to coach. Coach speak to you.
     
  9. edew

    edew Podium

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    Mariel's coach is Polish, although I'm sure he speaks some russian. Keeth, et al., of course succeeded. But how many students did their coaches have? If you have 100s of students, those aren't good numbers, no matter how high the best achieved. And I'm not denigrating their (coach's or fencers') achievement. Part of it could be the historical aspect of how they worked in the Soviet Union. They teach their way and if you as a fencer adapted to their style, you succeeded by tautological definition. If you didn't, they weren't going to bend their backs for you to make you better. When you have thousands of prospects, each itching to be a champion, you're going to find one or two or three from among them.

    When you don't have thousands, you need to adapt to the few and be accommodating to each one's learning style.

    Of course, there are great coaches and there are not-so-great coaches, independent of how many students they were given and how far those students were taken to. But at every level of a coach, having more students certainly helps in getting one to be very successful.
     
  10. Allex

    Allex DE Bracket

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    Eddie - your posts are going around a proverbial Mulberry Bush repeating over and over that Eastern European Coaches produce World Championship and Olympic Medalists in USA by some type of enormous stroke of luck despite their language/communication barrier. Perhaps if you say it a certain amount of times - like some magic incantation - you will actually believe it.
     
  11. indypacers

    indypacers Made the Cut

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    maybe because I come from another sport where coaches come and go, the true mark of any coach in any sport is that they are able to elevate the athlete. So, Edew might have a point here in a population of 275 million people with every Soviet/Eastern Bloc coach being some kind of "champion"......I have to say I'm a little disappointed that we don't have more "champions." Outside of their own "kids", soviet speaking countrymen and the random native born fencer that breaks through, the results are dismal. Now I know that coaches can't go out on the strip and fence the matches, but they do have a responsibility to equip the fencer fully and if that means learning how to effectively communicate and convey through their teaching great, but if they don't than hell they are basically doing the fencer and the fencer establishment a disservice, because they are taking a "half-ass" approach and effectively putting their "championship reputations at stake," beside just because you are a good athlete at a sport, never means you're a good coach...and we have a lot of example of unsuccessful athletes who attempted to coach.
     
  12. ravlik

    ravlik Made the Cut

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    Words from business training at one of US big firm:

    "Of course we could spend time and money teaching dog climb trees with limited success, but why bother if we could hire a squirrel"

    Yes "soviet" coaches are looking for native born fencer, because it is almost only chance here to get really motivated student.
    You are asking to produce champions...with what? Kids who are aiming in prestigious colleges and never think about fencing as some sort of carrier?

    indypacers, you sounds like some party propaganda that everyone could make into top 10% - it is mathematically impossible.
     
  13. indypacers

    indypacers Made the Cut

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    Ravlik,

    it's called pressing the right buttons, we are in the middle of March Madness,,,,,so you are going to tell me those kids at Florida Gulf Coast aren't motivated? You are going to tell me that Coach K, Ric P. don't recruit problem kids and turn them around? I don't hear fencing stories like that. Aren't coaches that are effective communicators, motivators the kinda guys that produce champions, because they now what senses to appeal too or buttons to push?,,,,,,

    Sure there needs to be a level of self motivation also, but good coaches know how to drill down and get to that if it's there within the student,,,,,,

    and as far as propaganda--- here's one "fencing is physical chess" "if you fence you can get into an ivy" or "fencer are generally smarter than most athletes" and those all feed into how the "powers that be" market the sport to parents hence you have alot of kids thinking they can do fencing for the college app and it's enough,,,,,that kid isn't thinking about being a fencing champion, but those few that do shouldn't be penalized, because a coach feels like communication effectively is to bothersome.
     
    Last edited: Mar 30, 2013
  14. Allex

    Allex DE Bracket

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    Are you trying to listen, because they r literally all around you.
     
  15. Allex

    Allex DE Bracket

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    According to variety of sources an average number of USA Fencing members who participate in at least 1 NAC p/a is around 3,900; that includes Youth, Vets, Paralympians, rec fencers, etc.
    Distill 15-20 year olds and consistent "annual dozen" of Junior and Cadet World Medalists borders on amazing.
     
  16. sheck61

    sheck61 Made the Cut

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    Actually some of the training methods he (Cerioni) speaks of came out of the Soviet system.
     
    Last edited: Mar 30, 2013
  17. ravlik

    ravlik Made the Cut

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    Those kids are either already champions or have very little chance to be them. Younger kids also usually have academic aspirations, they do some arts or music, the do community service etc..They have parents with money, but who forced to say sometime : " OK, something needs to take a cut, because there is just that many hours in a day and it will not be your school"

    I know one soviet coach who could get parents divorced 10 years ago marry again (small exaggeration here). I am actually a bit afraid of such great button pushers. It has little to do with language skills.

    Not that many words are needed :

    He do this [body language] you do this [body language]. Yes, but too slow. fast, but no. Again, again.

    Teletubbies vocabulary is enough to be useful. Pretty much in half a year somebody who is younger than 60 could speak english good enough to handle all fencing communication, button pushing takes longer. I would be very cautious about coach who speaks a lot or shows me new moves every lesson.Anyway what is your solution for the perceived problem? Something like ...

    If you think the problems I have are bad, just wait until you see my solutions.
     
  18. gladius

    gladius Podium

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    Maurizio Zomparelli

    He is the athletic and physical conditioning trainer Cerioni wanted to have by him in Russia. Here is how he describes his Russian adventure.


    Russian Foil Wins and Smiles with Italian Trainer

    By Alessandro Carini, Giornale di Brescia 04.05.2013


    Russian Revolution: Physical and psychological training for the renaissance after the crisis



    [​IMG]
    Maurizio Zomparelli followed CT Stefano Cerioni in the move to Moscow. He brought along the Italian training and physical conditioning methodology. A case of resounding success.



    Wins & Smiles

    It is hard to recognize the Russian foilists today as a fixture in the top spots of World Cup competitions with their facial muscles relaxed. Yes, the muscles, facial, and all the others. Maurizio Zomparelli, from Brescia, former athletic and physical conditioning trainer of the National Italian foil teams of the past two Olympics quadrennials, has been working with the Russians since the beginning of this year. After leaving the FIS he followed Stefano Cerioni when he became CT of Russian foil.

    He returned home for a visit and we met with him and his business partner Luca Migliorati, himself physical conditioning trainer of Brescia Basket. Between them they can claim more than twenty years working with world elite level athletes from different sport disciplines.

    Migliorati, who continues to follow his partner's adventure from a distance, describes his feelings at the eve of Maurizio's departure for Moscow, "I was sure that we would have succeeded and won. In fencing we have a know-how no one else can match."

    Here is Zomparelli telling how the smiles and the victories (3 in WF with Inna Deriglazova and two in MF, individual in La Coruña with Artur Akhmatkhuzin and team in Bonn) came to be.



    "The first day at the salle," remembers Zomparelli, "at the Novogorsk Sporting Center, 9 miles from downtown Moscow, the atmosphere was heavy, almost tense. No one was smiling. After I got there with Cerioni I found out that the Russian national team had never had an athletic/physical conditioning trainer on staff. Fencers were used to work on conditioning 20-22 days at the start of the season and after that their training was fencing specific with lots of drills. When we saw that, we were sure that we will win."

    "For the first four days we observed their workout routine. They were doing four minutes warmups… Then we started working seriously by introducing the training methodology we had tried and tested in the Italian national team."

    "I have established a good relationship with the medical staff and we collaborate. The result is that now we keep daily track of certain parameters for each athlete, like weight, cardiac rate, etc., which are key to understand how each individual athlete reacts to training and how to modulate his workout for the following days."

    "Cerioni's work with the [Russian] coaches takes much longer. There are mental blocks to overcome, training philosophies to update. Fencing in Russia had a major crisis since the end of the eighties. But now, thanks to the investments made by some magnates, everything is moving forward again."

    "The [hired] Italian coaching staff got carte blanche, and for me personally this is a great opportunity. In fact, here I can work directly full time with the fencers [who are all in residence at the training center]. In Italy I could only monitor them during national training camps because most Italian elite fencers train with their own maestri at home, in their home club."

    "I have a good rapport with the fencers and we've established very quickly a tightly-knit group. As soon as the fencers realized that we are there to work for them they immediately gave their best efforts. This was helped also by the fact that the first positive results were not long in coming."

    "Prior to our arrival, this is what they were used to. When a fencer got injured he was put aside and on with another. So nobody would ever say if he had any pain or a health issue. As a consequence, nobody received proper medical care and they all risked to worsen situations which could have been easily resolved. For example, Akhmatkhuzin had a hip problem, and he would have likely been ousted. Instead, we took good care of him and he won in La Coruña. In other words, we reset them and restarted them."

    And now, the Russians are winning and smiling.

    :)
     
  19. neevel

    neevel Armorer

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    In post-Soviet Russia, Italians train you! :)
     

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