Shaken Soviet athletes have little to say about upheaval

August 20, 1991|By Jerry Crowe | Jerry Crowe,Los Angeles Times

The ouster of Soviet President Mikhail S. Gorbachev has left athletes from that country wondering about their futures.

Soviet athletes mostly kept to themselves yesterday at several international competitions, including the cycling world championships in Stuttgart, Germany; the rowing world championships in Vienna, Austria; and the European swimming championships in Athens, Greece.

The Canada Cup hockey tournament made plans for a possible Soviet withdrawal from the six-team competition even after being told that the Soviets would still participate, and a Soviet track and field official questioned whether his team would make it to the World Championships in Tokyo.

At least one Soviet athlete applauded the coup.

"I don't like this situation. It is very dangerous," said Yuri Vaulin, a Soviet boxer who lives and trains in New York. "But all the Gorbachev government did was talk too much. What did they do? There is no food, no bread, no nothing. It was time for a change."

Others were not certain what to make of the situation.

At the OTB International Tennis Open in Schenectady, N.Y., three Soviet players spent the day watching television while trying to sort out the events back home.

"None of them are talking to the press," said Lauren Goldenberg, communications manager for the Association of Tennis Professionals. "They are just trying to get calls home."

Sergei Artemiev of Leningrad, who boxes professionally out of New York, also was unable to reach his family by phone.

"I've tried to call all day, but I can't get through," he said. "The line's busy. I don't know what to think. It's awful. I'm very worried, of course. It's awful."

Meanwhile, the U.S. soccer team was relieved to watch the events in Moscow unfold on television in Innsbruck, Austria, where it is scheduled to play this week, after flying out of the Soviet capital Sunday. The U.S. team played the Soviets Saturday night at Moscow's Lenin Stadium.

Later this week, the Soviet track and field team is scheduled to fly to Tokyo for the World Championships, which begin this weekend.

Most of the team has been training in Vladivostok in the far eastern part of the country, but pole vaulter Sergei Bubka and three others were still in Moscow.

In Toronto, Canada Cup chairman Alan Eagleson said Canada was prepared to enter a second team in the competition if the Soviets pulled out, but later said he had been assured the Soviets still would attend.

The tournament starts Aug. 31.

Mike Jacki, executive director of the U.S. Gymnastics Federation, had not talked to any Soviet gymnastics official since the coup but still was certain that the Soviets would compete in the World Championships, which start Sept. 5.

"I anticipate that unless something really weird happens, they'll be here," Jacki said.

At the championship events in Stuttgart, Vienna and Athens, most Soviets declined to make public comments, but the news seemed to affect the performance of Yuri Yaanson, the defending single sculls champion, in the World Rowing Championships in Vienna. He finished last in his heat.

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