The Gazprom Neft Cup wishes all the very best to women on International Women’s Day (8th March)! The players in our Tournament are boys, but we wouldn’t exist without the contribution made by girls and women, from the mothers who do their very best to turn these boys into real men and future champions, to the ladies who prepare and organize the Gazprom Neft Cup, laying on hotels and transport, arranging technical details and creating that special atmosphere, where every player and every fan is a dedicated subject of His Royal Majesty, Sport!
Ladies, we wish you happiness and health, and a cheerful smile everywhere you go! And we bring you a special feature for this special day.
The Gagarin Cup play-offs are in full swing. Nearly all of the quarter finalists have qualified. But not everyone knows that it’s crunch time in the women’s hockey season too. And while Oleg Znarok’s men must wait until May for their World Cup matches, our women will be representing their country at the World Championship in Canada at the end of this month. For International Women’s Day and the decisive stage of the sporting year we took an interview with Anna Shokhina, front player for the Russian champions, Tornado (Moscow Region), and the women’s national team. Anna told us how she made it to the top of her sport, described the pluses of women’s hockey compared to men’s and set ambitious goals for Russia at the World Championship.
Anna, they say cowards don’t play hockey. Does that hold for girls too?
— I think so, yes. Hockey is not for girls who are afraid of a physical contest—it’s a fast, powerful contact sport ! That applies to men’s and women’s hockey.
It’s can’t be easy for a girl to make hockey the meaning of her life. Tell us how you got into big-time sport?
— There’s no special difficulty. If you want to play and have a goal, that’s enough meaning for any sportsman or woman at a certain stage of their life. We all know that sport doesn’t last forever, unfortunately. For me, hockey is my life! I get huge pleasure from beautiful goals and accurate passing! I first learnt figure skating, then I got noticed by the trainer. The coachVladimir Gubochkin came up to me, gave me a stick and showed me how to pass the puck. I tried it and I really liked it. Vladimir invited to training and gave me a stick, puck and skates as a present!
I did the training year, got noticed by the sports school coach, Vadim Zabolotin, and I played for the town of Dmitrov in my year. Up to age 15, I played with the boys, but I was invited to play for the girls in Odintsovo at a few tournaments. One way and another I got into a professional club, Tornado, and was invited to play for the national junior team!
You must be used to comparisons between men’s and women’s sport, particularly hockey?
— I hear the comparison quite often. The basics of the game are the same for men and women, we wear the same gear, but the psychology, tactics and strategy, and even the rules are different in a lot of ways! Relationships are quite complicated—coaches find it harder working with girls, they have to treat each individually and girls can take things to heart when they shouldn’t. As for the game itself, women’s hockey is less aggressive than men’s. It’s not about physical strength.
I always measure myself against men’s hockey: it’s faster, it has great power moves, and you can learn lots from it! But we have advantages too: we play better combination hockey, we design whole exercises and link-ups and we use them in the game. The sometimes work really well. [Smiles]
Tornado has just won the Russian championship for the eight time (before the end of the season), and in a few weeks time you will fly over the ocean to compete with the best teams on earth in the World Championship. How do you rate your chances?
— You’re right, we have a big lead in the national championship. Special thanks to our coach: Alexey Chistyakov. We made a lot of changes this season in the club and the team. I am really pleased that we have shown what we can do without huge spending and foreign players. We put a lot of space between us and our nearest rivals from early in the season.
As for the World Cup, I am always glad to play for our great country. I will try to make the team and fight for medals in Canada, where we will play with the hosts, the Americans and the Finns in the group stage. Our women’s team has taken bronze twice, the last time in 2013. But we are long overdue to do better.
Anna, let me wish you and all girl hockey players and fans all the very best for International Women’s Day—good health, good spirits and the best of luck in the tough world of hockey!
— Thanks a lot! My greetings to all women and girls on the 8th May, especially those involved in sport and active lifestyles, and to all of us who represent our country in competitions, who give everything for the final result, whatever they do!