By Ekaterina Baleva, SportBox.ru, Dec. 25, 2009:
The Washington net's guard Semyon Varlamov, included in the preliminary roster of Russian Olympic team, said that he got a pleasant surprise from the Coaches of the national team.
"What can I say, a great gift!" Semyon could not hide his joy. "It's Christmas today, the whole America stands on its head!"
In Vancouver, you will be the third goalkeeper. Do you think you will have a chance to go on the ice?
Everything will depend on the coaches. Of course I know that we have two main goalkeepers: Ilya Bryzgalov and Evgeni Nabokov, and I'll help them as much as I possibly can. I don't want to think about something bad, I mean the injuries, but we all remember the World Cup in Quebec where the team lost all three goalkeepers. It was not a very pleasant situation, well, it's good that Misha Biryukov helped... In general I will be ready for anything, as long as we can get the title of Olympic champions.
What has surprised you in the declared roster?
The main surprise was when I saw my name in the list. My dream came true, I'm going to the Olympics! But there are two more months to Vancouver, you have to show yourself, get in shape after the injury and show a good game. Unfortunately I missed two weeks, but the most important thing is to be healthy and the groin must be healed. The day after tomorrow I plan to go on the ice. As of getting in shape, it won't take long. I was working out in the gym, so just two workouts will be enough for me to play.
Nabokov is seriously preparing for Vancouver, he even ordered a new mask with the Russian theme!
I also want to order a new goalie mask. I don't know yet what I will put on my mask, but I still have time to think. Of course everything will be done in the colors of team Russia. I think by my arrival to Vancouver it will look beautiful! (laughs)
Both Bryzgalov and Nabokov are in excellent shape now. Do you think it's too early, given that the peak should be at the Olympics?
No, absolutely not. Some goalies get in shape at the start of the season, some do it during the season. I am sure that Evgeny and Ilya will arrive to the Olympics in perfect shape, they both are the top goalkeepers in their teams, they are constantly playing and it generates the confidence.
In the fight for the third place you beat goalkeeper Alexander Eremenko. The choice in your favor is apparently made with an eye on the Sochi-2014. Are you aware of responsibility?
Of course I am aware. But I think that now Russia is producing a very many promising goalkeepers. The main thing that the guys should work hard and have the professional coaches who would help them to improve their skills. I know that Russians are closely watched by the scouts from the NHL. I even know for whom in particular and it is very cool! I think in the near future there will be more of our compatriots over the pond. Right now there are only four Russian goalies in the entire league, this is not enough. Especially when you compare it to Finns and Swedes who mass-produce awesome goalkeepers. One have to admit, we are still a little behind in terms of the school of goalie's development. Even Canadians recognize that at the moment they are at this point weaker than the Finns. And I agree with them; the Finnish hockey school [for goalies] is the number one in the world today.
Will it be the main Finnish asset in Vancouver? After all, as they say, the goalkeeper is a half the team?
This is a trump card, but not only for the Finns. A whole lot will depend on the goalkeepers at the Olympics, and it is a huge responsibility. Now the goalkeeper is not even half of the team, it is a little more, especially in crucial games. It was a huge burden for Nabokov and Bryzgalov in Quebec and in Bern, they showed a confident game in the semifinals and finals, and this was the key to success. And the older I get, the more clearly I understand it.
Russians are the double world champions, could it become too much of a burden to our players?
We face the major challenge to confirm the status of the World's strongest team. Of course, we'll think about it before the Olympics, and perhaps even before the games. But when you go on the ice you should forget about it, you should concentrate on the game and just do your job. I don't think that someone will have jim-jams: we have grown, all guys played at the Olympics and at the world championships, plenty of experience.
And after all for whom it will be more difficult, for us or for Canadians?
It will be equally difficult for both teams. We have very painfully clicked on the Canadians nose, twice in a row, after defeating them at the world championships. Especially in Quebec, in the Centennial year of hockey, it was something! But we have to think about our fans, how many years we haven't won the Olympics? The main thing now is to live up to Vancouver without injuries and other problems.
Ovechkin and Semin are also in the Olympic team Russia roster, no surprise here.
Photo image courtesy "Emily's archives".