Plovdiv has established itself as one of the preferred destinations for holding major rowing championships. This year's World Rowing Under 23 Championship will be followed and in 2018 by the World Rowing Championship.
Interview with Ivan Popov - the major sponsor and deputy chairman of the "Hebros" rowing club and OC chairman for the two upcoming championships.
Mr Popov how would you describe the last year for the "Hebros" rowing club?
-Very Successful! 12 gold medals out of 12 possible for the Hebros men in the National Championships. Excellent performance for our club as always.
And what about the beginning of 2017, what are the aims?
-After the achievements this year the bar is raised very high. The aim is to repeat our total success in the National Championships of course, but now we look forward to a success as part of the national teams because the Hebros athletes form its core.
Plovdiv has always received high marks from FISA for the organization of major championships, is there anything to improve for the World U23 Championships in the summer?
- This week we have a meeting with the Deputy Mayor in charge of the sports and youth activities, with the Sports Directorate and the Regatta Venue management. There are several things which we aim to achieve. The repair and renovation of the hangar building, that was partially damaged in a fire and the anti-doping center is currently unusable. There are also some pending improvements of the new hangars and the finish tower. The accessibility elevator of the finish tower is assembled, but is yet to pass the necessary inspections before we can have it running. Beyond that - there is not much else to be done. For a first time the venue is almost ready long before the deadlines of the approaching championships this summer.
In this way, how do you work with the institutions when you are organizing major championships? Do they help you?
- The Municipality of Plovdiv and the Ministry of Sports support us. The Municipality of Plovdiv has a committee that deals with these things. Unfortunately the municipal budget is not endless, but they spare no efforts to help promoting the rowing sport and the reputation of Plovdiv as a preferred destination for major rowing events.
What about the Second Rowing Chanel in Plovdiv? Will it be ready soon?
- [Laughing...] I want it the most. Unfortunately to see the project finished in the way we all imagined it seems more and more unlikely. However, if we do not have the return channel ready, after 2018 we have no chance to apply for any major championship and there is a strong possibility that we are taken away even the 2018 World Rowing Championships. We should not allow it. It may not be on the scale that we want and the most of project might be left for the following years, but at the very least having the second water body is imperative and I believe we will have it in time.
What about the idea for national rowing center in Plovdiv?
-Unfortunately the Rowing Federation is against it.The Sports Minister initially supported the idea, but the President of Rowing Federation was strongly against focusing such big part of the Bulgarian rowing in Plovdiv that was all about it ...
And how Plovdiv beat the others in the rowing?
-With the base. It is easy to work on this regatta venue. Other clubs in the country are not guilty that they don't have such a wonderful facility right in their backyard. I offered them a perfect solution - to select children from all around the country who can study in the Plovdiv Sports School and they can be competitors for the clubs who had selected them while having easy access to the venue for training all year long.
What do you think, who will take the medals from the World Championship this year?
-The combinations of the boats are not ready, yet. Rangel is one of the leaders and I am sure that he will find a place in the final six. Exactly with what rowing boat he will participate depend on the condition of the other athletes. If only he is in top shape, he will participates in the skiff.
You Are in the team of veterans of "Hebros". 2016 was very successful for you. What is ahead this year?
What do you expect?
-Surely, we are finalists. We expect at least to be among the first three. Now we feel better. The boat is better equipped. We make a lot of effort.
Do you see an future Olympic champion among the Bulgarian rowers?
- The Olympic games are far. I wish at least one medal during the 2018 World Championships in 2018 in Plovdiv. We have two leading rowers who have achieved considerable success in the Olympics. 9th place is an achievement. Many of their rivals have finished their active rowing carrier. Their chances to be in the first six are extremely large. I hope that a lot of Bulgarian spectators and the familiarity with the venue while rowing on their home waters will be an advantage and their success will be decorated with medals. Boris, who previously was competing for Uzbekistan, is a world champion in the skiff for youths. Now he came back in Bulgaria. This is another option to expand the circle of players and chances to seek a bigger boat where the likelihood of success is greater. It is very early to make a combinations. Now we look at the 2017 World Under 23 Championship - at least two boats in the final is our goal. There is also a World Championship in the USA in September where we hope to win a medal.