Vino’s Parents Recall His Childhood
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There is a great number of admirers and fans of Alexander Vinokourov, although, despite his popularity, there is not much information on how he has become so enthusiastic with cycling.
The stories about Vinokourov’s childhood and the starting moments of his career were shared in an interview, available at the Astana Cycling Team Fan Club (www.astanafans.com), with Alexander’s parents, Nikolay and Raisa Vinokourov, and the Executive Director of the Kazakhstan Cycling Federation, Alexander Antyshev, who witnessed his early career as a cyclist.
Alexander Vinokourov, or Vino, as he is called by many, was born on September 16, 1973, in a small town of Bishkul nearby the city of Petropavl in North Kazakhstan, where he then spent his early days, youth and found his passion – cycling.
The childhood of the sportsman was not special or any more extraordinary than that of many regular kids in Kazakhstan. His father, Nikolay Vinokourov, used to be an electrician and his mother, Raisa, has worked for the local department of statistics later becoming a housewife, while none of Alexander’s family members have ever had anything to do with sports.
“We did not raise him in any particular way, have never been strict,” Vino’s father Nikolay told in the interview. “He was a regular kid. Not tall, but fit. He used to be a defender. When other kids had arguments, everyone would shout: we will tell on you to ‘San’ka’[short and soft for Alexander] and ran to him for protection,” he continued.
“He has never been particularly ill, he had all the children’s usual infections and that was it. He used to be quite short, only now he became a regular height. He wore glasses until the fourth grade, then his vision stabilised, after he got engaged in sports. We only pushed him to eat more carrots,” Raisa added.
As a child, Alexander collected stamps, used to be a philatelist, and dreamt to be a manager. “He always repeated: I wish to be a manager,” his farther commented.
The school Alexander attended was a branch of the Petropavl’s Children and Youth Sports School. At his father’s initiative, Vino went through various sport sections and groups, eventually having decided to stay in the cycling one. “He has been a cyclist since the fourth grade [11 years old],” Nikolay commented.
The first time parents have noticed that cycling was not just a hobby for him, was after Alexander voiced his desire to attend a sports boarding school near Almaty, where he was invited to study while being at the age of around 14. At that time, it did not work out, and he stayed in Bishkul.
His heroes at the time were the famous Soviet cyclists Vyacheslav Yekimov, Sergey Sukhoruchenkov and his coach, Sergey Kruchina.
“The first trainer was Kruchina. He was a very good one. When ‘San’ka’ won silver in Sydney, at the Olympics – Kruchina was decorated with the rank of Honoured Coach. … They still keep in touch, and Kruchina attended Tour De France in 2007,” Vino’s father added.
“The coach was like a second father! He made the boy interested in the sport,” Antyshev told at the interview. “He has always been very keen, energetic. Nothing could make him miss training,” his father added.
“There have been lots of injuries. He broke his arm in the first race, broke clavicle in Rostov. Nonetheless, I have never discouraged him,” father said, although Raisa, being a tender mother, had constantly tried to talk him out of it, “I used to feel pity for him because of all the injuries,” she said.
The most memorable victory for parents was the race “Schoolkid of Kazakhstan of 1986” held in Almaty, in which Vino was one of the youngest and smallest compared to the rest of participants.
“I was controlling the race… then I saw a little boy hanging about close to the finish line. So I shouted “Go away! The cyclists are getting to the finish line now. To which he replied, it’s me who is getting to the finish line!.. That is how we discovered Alexander Vinokourov,” Antyshev recalls.
The young Vinokourov never went to discos, he was obsessed with cycling, all he did was trainings, his mother says.
“After school, he got accepted to the Petropavl Pedagogical University for the sports and biology faculty, there was no just a sports faculty at the time,” Raisa continued.
In 1997, Alexander got married and later moved to France, renting an apartment in Saint-Étienne. Since then, he has been living a life of a professional cyclist. He, however, keeps visiting often his paternal home back in the remote part of Northern Kazakhstan.
“I always observe and record all the races of San’ka, then I bring these records to France and my son watches them. His mother looks at only those races where he did not fall,” Nikolay explained.
Vino’s parents have never pushed or pressed him, although they have definitely been an example. “In winter, I use a bike-simulator, when it is warm – I cycle for 50-60 kilometres with my friends. ‘San’ka’ bought me a professional bicycle. In France, I take grandchildren with me on a ride, they are only seven but can already handle 15 kilometres,” Nikolay Vinokourov said, while his wife also uses a bike-simulator to stay in good shape.
Nikolay and Raisa Vinokurov still live in Bishkul, “the air is clean, the area is vast, and the city is only nine kilometres away,” they say. “We like being in France for a month, a month and a half. We will not be able to learn the language, and our home is here!”
At the 2007 Tour De France, Vinokourov was banned for a year for blood doping, and as of August 2009, Vino has been riding on the professional level again, rejoining Astana team and taking victory in the 2010 Liège–Bastogne–Liège and in stage 13 to Ravel in this year’s Tour.
“The secret of Vinokurov’s success is devotion, persistence, and discipline. Undoubtedly he is a workaholic, add to that his natural qualities. I would like to highlight his characteristics: he is a very honest person and a sportsman and he has got a great spirit and commitment. He sets his aim high and follows it in any case or scenario. It is for this reason he has achieved such heights and success,” Alexander Antyshev, Executive Director of the Kazakhstan Cycling Federation and a long-time companion of Vino, said.
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