Athlete in Focus: Sergey Ustiugov: Rising star of Russian Cross-Country skiing?

01 March 2012 11:30
Sergey Ustiogov with four gold medals from Erzurum
Sergey Ustiogov with four gold medals from Erzurum -

Sergey Ustiugov is a rising star in Russian Cross-Country Skiing but he would never admit that to you. In spite of four gold medals from the FIS Junior World Ski Championships 2012, Ustiugov is just a modest young skier from Khanty Mansiysk.

Actually, not quite exactly from Khanty Mansiysk. “I come from a small village close to Khanty Mansiysk, only a seven hour drive. That’s really not far away on Russian scale,” he says smiling. Ustiugov does not come from a Cross-Country Skiing family. He started skiing when he was a kid and was attending the local grammar school with biathlon classes. “Until I was 15 I was doing only biathlon. Then, I took part in a competition that was organized to select skiers for a local team. I was 11th in that race and I joined the local squad, which is considered to be one of the best in Russia,” Sergey reveals.

Becoming a skier was not really the only dream for Sergey Ustiugov. “At first I was only enjoying skiing downhill. I would never imagine I would be training one day so hard and becoming professional skier,” he says.

Sergey Ustiugov is not a surprise of the season. Already last winter he became the junior sprint world champion and a silver medalist in the relay. This year, his medal count is even more impressive. Four gold medals; sprint, individual start race, skiathlon and relay. What happened during the last year? “Last winter, I was in the same physical shape as this year. I was very well prepared for the World Championships,” he reveals. “However, I was not mentally set for victory. I was racing without my head,” Ustiugov explains.

So is it only about your mind? “Yes, I think so,” he confirms. “My coaches helped me to learn from my tactical mistakes. For example, I was not pushing hard enough in a classical competition. Not because I would not have been trained enough but my mind was not set for it,” Ustiugov reveals and he seems to be on the winning track not having any weakness.

He has dominated in free technique, sprint, mass start or individual start competitions. “I think, my weakness is free technique, especially in climbing. I need to improve that. And my strengths? I think I am not that bad an all-rounder, I can be competitive in all race formats.” Indeed, not bad at all, with four gold medals from this year’s Junior Worlds around his neck.

Despite his great successes last week, Sergey Ustiugov is a realist. “It seems to me that Junior Worlds mean nothing to Russian national senior team. I was competing with athletes of the same age as me. If I want to get in the senior squad, I need to prove my skills and shape also in competitions with seniors,” Ustiugov knows.

Plans of all Russian skiers are directed towards the next Olympic Games in Sochi in 2014 and Sergey Ustiugov is not an exception. “I am sure Sochi is a big dream for all the skiers. Everybody will tell you that the biggest goal is to win a medal there. It would be great if I could achieve that but many things can happen in upcoming two years,” he says.

If he is the rising star of Russian Cross-Country skiing? “I do want to think about it. Maybe I am superstitious but I am taking everything step by step. I will see what the future brings,” Ustiugov concludes smiling.