Meet Sochi's Gentle Giant Ambassador
Published: January 17, 2014 (Issue # 1793)
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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