The executive director of the free-style wrestling club “Abaza”, Leonid Bodzhgua, spoke in an interview to the WAC web information portal on the successes of the “Abaza” club, the best students and the main tournaments in the country.

Interviewed by Said Bargandzhia

  - How did the idea of ​​creating the “Abaza” Freestyle Wrestling Club come about? When and under what circumstances did the club start its activities?

  - I lived in St. Petersburg and there I had a sports club “Olympioni”. Already at that time we were friends with Mussa Ekzekov for over 30 years. We have repeatedly discussed the possibility of opening a free-style wrestling club in Abkhazia. Mussa Khabalevich himself is a great fan of wrestling, master of sports of the USSR and a multiple wrestling champion of Leningrad. And so, when I moved to live in Abkhazia, we managed to bring all the previously discussed plans to open such a club into reality.

So six years ago we opened the “Abaza” free-style wrestling club. At that time, Mussa Ekzekov helped with the purchase of inventory and all the necessary things worth more than 15 million rubles. He continues to help today, of course, without him all this would not exist. Every month, about 500 thousand rubles are allocated for salaries to coaches. He also helps to send our athletes to various international tournaments, assists in the acquisition of the necessary equipment.

- How many children for the entire period of the club attended the freestyle wrestling trainings? How many children are involved in the club at the moment and in what age categories?

- It is very difficult to name the number of all the children who during the six years of the “Abaza’s” existence came to us to train. There were so many children who were engaged for about 2-3 months and left, there were also those for whom the struggle became a significant part of life. In the  “Abaza” club children from all regions of the republic were engaged and continue to be engaged. Today, we have 840 children from 5 to 16 years. Many of our graduates study in the best free-style wrestling schools in Russia.

- Tell us about coaches. Are these students of the Football Federation of Abkhazia or are there already students from the club among them?

- The “Abaza” club currently employs 36 coaches, some of them are former students of our sports club, many distinguished sports figures not only in the Republic of Abkhazia, but also abroad, particularly in the Russian Federation. These are people who are truly supportive of their work and, despite all the difficulties, always try to use all the opportunities to find the means and send the children to international competitions and team camps.

- What sports events are held by the “Abaza” club, how popular are they in Abkhazia and beyond? And who can take part in them?

- It is important to understand that the “Abaza” club is inextricably linked with the Federation of free-style wrestling of Abkhazia. For example, I am also the vice-president of the Wrestling Federation of Abkhazia. Independently, the “Abaza” club annually from the moment of its creation holds one tournament - named after Mussa Ekzekov. All previous years, the tournament had an international format, and only this year it became a republican one. The tournament is popular and held at a high level. In general, in Abkhazia, the Freestyle Wrestling Federation of the Republic holds 16 tournaments, republican and international ones. The “Abaza” club always assists in their organization. Our tournaments are quite popular and help to identify the best of the best.

- Tell us about the brightest and most talented students of the “Abaza”?

- We have many talented children, but I will tell about those who have already achieved certain results. Inal Ketia - the winner of the championships of Russia, Europe and the world. Now he is training in the national team of the Russian Federation. Rustam Ampar - the silver medalist of the World Championship, the master of sports of international class. Osman Dzhugelia is a no less talented wrestler, who is now training in the Russian team. You can also highlight Astamura Beniya, Astamur Gumba and Aslanbek Gvaramiya. By the way, Aslanbek recently became the  Russian youth champion. I repeat, we have a lot of very talented fighters, persistent and purposeful. If we could exhibit the Abkhaz team in freestyle wrestling at the World Championships or the Olympic Games, I am sure that we would enter the top five of the strongest fighters in the world.

- Many coaches are convinced that for the successful development of an athlete it is necessary for him to regularly participate in international competitions? How often do club members go to sports competitions outside Abkhazia and who helps them in this?

- We face great difficulty here. You can hold 30-40 internal competitions, but still, there won’t be the expected effect. Every athlete, regardless of the sport chosen, must go to international tournaments, he must compete with other more experienced athletes. We need to take our athletes out of the Republic of Abkhazia. Result can be achieved only in a hard struggle. We sometimes sponsor trips from personal funds and send athletes to camps. Of course, the help of Mussa Khabalevich is invaluable in this matter. Sometimes the trainers themselves are looking for funds, addressing the heads of district administrations and local patrons of the arts. This year we plan to hold camps here  in Abkhazia, in which our most outstanding talents from all regions of the republic will take part.

- What difficulties does the club face in developing freestyle wrestling in Abkhazia?

- The main problem is the absence of a large sports school, which does not allow us to hold competitions at a higher level. We urgently need a sports complex with a capacity of at least two thousand guests in order to hold competitions at the highest level. I also suggested to our Government to open a sports and educational base at Auadkhara (mountain resort of Abkhazia with mineral springs - ed.). This is all necessary in order to bring our sport to a new level. Despite all the difficulties, there are a lot of talented guys in Abkhazia, not only in freestyle wrestling, but also in other sports. And our main responsibility is to contribute in every way to the development of these talents.