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Meet Sochi's Gentle Giant Ambassador

Published: January 17, 2014 (Issue # 1793)



  • In this undated photo, Voyevoda examines the construction site of the Sochi bobsled track.
    Photo: VKontakte

  • Alexei Voyevoda — a three-time arm wrestling world champion and a two-time Olympic medalist in bobsleigh.
    Photo: VKontakte

If the decathlon were an event in the Winter Olympics, Alexei Voyevoda — a three-time arm wrestling world champion and a two-time Olympic medalist in bobsleigh — would be a favorite for gold.

The 33-year-old Sochi native, who still lives and trains in his hometown, has credited the city's environment for his athletic prowess, which he hopes to display in February with the Russian bobsleigh team.

"I grew up in the mountains and I would always climb trees with the other children," Voyevoda said in a telephone interview. "I was the fastest of the little tree-climbing monkeys. That is how I became strong."

At first glance, Voyevoda seems like an unlikely bobsledder. His thick biceps, sculpted by years of arm wrestling, almost seem too large to be squeezed into a 67-centimeter-wide bobsleigh. And his approach to the sport also seems a little too casual for an Olympic champion.

"Arm wrestling is a very serious thing," Voyevoda said. "Many more countries practice arm wrestling than bobsleigh. I plan to return to arm wrestling after the Sochi Games. I have many options."

Indeed, for Voyevoda, Olympic bobsleigh seems to be more of a hobby, a mere interlude between arm wrestling successes.

"Arm wrestling has helped me a lot in my bobsledding career," Voyevoda said. "My role on the team is to stop the bobsleigh. I do this with the strength I have acquired through arm wrestling."

But Voyevoda's mixed athletic allegiances have not hampered his draconian training regime and determination, which helped earned the Russian bobsleigh team a silver medal at the 2006 Turin Games and a bronze in Vancouver in 2010.

"I want to serve my country," he said. "I want to be worthy of representing Russia. The Sochi Games are close to the heart of all Russian athletes because they are being held in our country. But I feel this even more strongly because I grew up here. This is my city."

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Times Talk

ALL ABOUT TOWN

Friday, Apr. 18


Teachers and students alike shouldn’t miss the opportunity to establish lasting contacts with Russian and foreign institutions during the 21st Education and Career Fair at LenExpo, beginning today and finishing tomorrow. Learn more about education in Russia and connect with your fellow scholars.


The Tromso International Film Festival, Norway’s largest, brings a short festival to St. Petersburg for one day only during Scandinavian Oddities, starting at 7 p.m. today at Rodina Cinema Center. Tickets for the event are 100 rubles ($2.80).


Sunday, Apr. 20


Celebrate Easter at Pavlovsk during the Easter Fair that begins today and continues through next Sunday. Visitors will have the chance to paint Easter eggs and children can take part in games as well as help decorate a tree in honor of Christianity’s holiest day.


Today is one of the final days to see the exhibit Cacti — Children of the Sun at the Peter the Great Botanical Garden. Starting Apr. 17, budding botanists will marvel at the variety and beauty of the desert’s most iconic plant.


Monday, Apr. 21


Improve your grasp of Neruda, Bolano and Marquez at TrueDA’s Beginners Spanish Lesson this evening at their location on the Petrograd Side. An experienced teacher will be on hand to help all attendees better understand the intricacies of the language and improve their accent.


Tuesday, Apr. 22


SPIBA’s Breakfast with the Director event series continues as the association welcomes Andrei Barannikov, general director of SPN Communications, to the Anna Pavlova Hall of the Angleterre Hotel this morning at 9 a.m. Attendees must confirm their participation by Apr. 21.


The AmCham Environment, Health and Safety Committee Meeting is scheduled to begin at 9 a.m. this morning in the their St. Petersburg office.