Interview with Mr. Ivan Popov

The International Rowing Federation /FISA/ expressed its high opinion of the organization of the Under-23 World Rowing Championship in Plovdiv. The main credit for the flawless event went to the president of the Organizing Committee Ivan Popov and his team who already have experience in organizing such events – they were organizers of the European Rowing Championship in 2011 and the World Youth Championship in 2012.

- Mister Popov, Plovdiv received very high appraisal from FISA for the Under-23 World Rowing Championship. Is there anything that could have been even better?

- Comparing this championship with the previous one in 2012 I will say that we have improved a lot of things. The organizing was better and more accurate, the teams worked in harmony. Everyone saw that it was a perfect competition but they didn’t see the organization work and the things behind the scenes and I think that it is the way it should be. Of course there were some problems but the participants never learned of them. There were starts every 5 minutes and there were times when there were 3 races simultaneously on the channel – one was starting, another was finishing and a third was at the 1000-meter mark. That was a challenge for the television too so in the future we will have to change the way the eliminations are organized. I really hope that for the next two big tournaments – The World Youth Championship in 2017 and The World Rowing Championship in 2018 we will build the second rowing canal in Plovdiv. Its construction can begin in 2016 and approximately 12 months will be needed for its completion. That is why I hope that we will be able to use the waterway and the bridges above it for the competition in 2017.

- What is your evaluation for the cooperation of the institutions during the Under-23 World Rowing Championship?

- The Under-23 World Rowing Championship made clear something really very important – when the administration works in harmony the results are great. It is the same as in our sport – you may have really great rowers in the boat but it doesn’t matter if there isn’t harmony between them. I can proudly say that during the championship the synchro between the Ministry of Youth and Sport, the Municipality of Plovdiv, the Bulgarian Rowing Federation and the Organizing Committee was that of a wonderful quadruple skull. I say my thanks to the Youth and Sports minister Krassen Kralev for his financial support. I would also like to say my thanks to the Mayor of Plovdiv Ivan Totev because it was the municipality that made great enhancements to the Regatta Venue. Mister Totev is really very committed person – he cancelled his vacation in order to come to the opening of the championship. Our sponsors saw all this support from the state and the municipality and this motivated them to help us. We appreciate all this.

- Why are there such imbalances – we have world class rowing canal but don’t have world class rowers? What is your explanation?

- Let’s recall the competition in 2012. Bulgaria had just 3 boats – one of which was women’s eight. We formed it in the last minute because we realized that there will be just 5 such boats. That is how our women rowers entered directly in the final. In 2015 these kind of boats were three times more but we lack quality. Our problems are not from this year; they go back in time but become evident on a major tournament. I will be honest – there were a lot of compromises for our rowers just because we were hosts. Thus the main principle was neglected – in World Rowing Championship takes part only this rower who qualifies and meets the standard. This was not the case here – everyone who had boat received permission and took part in a World Championship.

- What is the future of the rowing in Bulgaria?

- There must be a change in the management of the Bulgarian Rowing Federation. There will be tough decisions that will lead to great changes. The first and most important step is to create a system for discovering young talents. The truth is that the classes in the specialized sport schools are not full and when you fill them with children that were not put on a test and are not good enough at rowing the results are terrible. It is common knowledge that children in big cities are more whimsical. That is why we must search for talents in smaller towns and villages. The second step is to provide suitable living environment for these children. You can’t leave them in a sports school housing because on the second year they get bored. Of all the 38 rowers in this last championship just 5 or 6 are studying in a sports school. The third step is the education of new coaches. We have glorious generation of specialists many of which work even after their retirement. These people created the greatest names in this sport in Bulgaria but they can’t work forever.

- How do you think – will there be enough money for this change to take place?

- Here is my idea – we must create national rowing center here in Plovdiv. This way all children who have talent will come to learn in the sport school here regardless of the team who found and trained them. They will be trained by coaches that are above the clubs. At national competitions the rowers will represent their clubs and also will provide the base for our national team. This way they will have purposeful and successful preparation which will boost the quality of the rowing in Bulgaria. I think that this way we can have 40 or even 50 strong rowers. If we don’t work properly with the gifted children, we will never have good rowers. Many of the coaches in the clubs don’t have methodology, don’t have experience. But if a child comes here in Plovdiv and trains by the highest standards and better coaches, one day the results will come. In addition to that the club will have one world-class rower who will bring fame to it and the club even won’t pay for the education.

- What do you think – who can fund such national rowing center?

- The municipality of Plovdiv can engage with a certain sum, also there will be sponsors involved. If this center is public-private partnership it can seek European funding with the support of the Ministry of Youth and Sport. We are not talking about millions – the most expensive parts in the rowing are the boats and the channel and we have all that. The students can have scholarship. If there are 5 or 6 coaches this amounts to 5 or 6 thousand levs a month. It is not that much and in return we will have world-class rowers.

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World Rowing Championships
9-16 September 2018
Plovdiv, Bulgaria

U23 championship

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