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Date: 8/25/2012

Russia is one of the dominating powers in women’s youth and junior handball since decades. No team had become Junior World Champions more often, nearly no team have such a high number of highly talented players. But despite this youth programme the women’s team missed the semifinals and the medals at the two past major competitions: the 2011 Women’s World Championship in Brazil and the Olympic Games in London.

Now youth team coach Wjatscheslav Kirilienko, a highly experienced coach in clubs, national teams and youth programmes who was assistant of women’s team coach Evgeny Trefilov, hopes that new generations will get their chance in the senior team. On the fringes of the IV Women’s Youth World Championship in Montenegro, Kirilenko spoke to www.ihf.info.

His team is one of the gold favourites after five straight victories but will face Norway – another main contender - in the second semifinal on Saturday night. Both teams had played in the final of the European Open in Gothenburg only some weeks ago.


Five matches, five victories, the berth for the semifinal – you should be highly satisfied with your team?

Wjatscheslav Kirilienko: I am satisfied with our results in Montenegro, but I am not satisfied that we lost two key players due to injuries.


All observers say that Russia is the strongest team in Montenegro – do you agree?

Wjatscheslav Kirilienko: If we would have all players ready to play and would not have hit by injuries, I would agree, but now we have to change and adapt our tactics. In preparation time we had trained our squad with two different groups of six players each on the field. Due to those rotation opportunities we were able to play full speed for 60 minutes, but now we have the problem that we have to change our rotations.


In former times, Russia was well-known for their tall back court shooters, who stood strong in defence too. Is it a change of tactics that your team now counts on counter-attacks with smaller players?

Wjatscheslav Kirilienko: No, this is not a new tactics, we just had to react, as we do not have those big shooters anymore, so we adapted our style to counter-attacks. The first group of six players is extremely fast, the second group is a little bit slower. But it works only if we have all of them onboard. And of course we have to focus on the opponent we face to switch our tactics. Our biggest problem was the short term of preparation. Eight players, who are now in Montenegro, had played the Junior World Championship in Czech Republic in July, so we only had 20 days to prepare the team, and the first few days of preparations were for treatment of those players, who returned from Czech Republic. They needed some time to rest and recharge their batteries. So the time was short especially to prepare our new defence system with highly movable and aggressive players, who then intercept to start their counter attacks.


You had been coaching a huge number of Russian youth and junior teams. How do you rate the current team?

Wjatscheslav Kirilienko: You cannot compare those teams, as the players and the circumstances had been different for every team. But concerning this team I have to mention that we miss time to improve their individual skills and techniques. In former times we had longer training camps, not this time. So I had to choose a tactic for the teams, which adapts to the individual tactic of every player to shorten the process of preparation.


After five victories, Russia have reached the semifinal against Norway. How important is it for you and the team to win a medal in Montenegro?

Wjatscheslav Kirilienko: It is very important. Important for Russia, important for our handball federation and important for the players, as our sports minister would reward them with a fee for a medal.


What is more important for you: To win a medal in Montenegro or to develop the team and the players for future tasks?

Wjatscheslav Kirilienko: It is my and our most important objective to prepare as many players as possible for the senior national team. This is task number one in Russia. When I look upon the current women’s squad and the squads of the last decade, I was the responsible head coach for most of the players during their youth and junior time and I brought them to the national team, which makes me extremely proud. I coached them from their start in the Russian jersey until their debut in the senior team. But now we need to implement more new players in the national team. The current youth team have already the ambitions and discipline to go all the way.


Your major key player is right back Anna Vyakhireva. Aged 17 she already was awarded All Star team member at the Junior World Championship and she imprinted the Youth World Championship like no other player. Do you agree that she is a clear candidate for the senior national team?

Wjatscheslav Kirilienko:  Of course, in any case she will go her way. It is a real pleasure to be her coach.  She is not only our team captain, but Anna is absolutely professional, serious and disciplined and she is the current biggest talent in our team. But she knows that talent is not enough, she has to learn every day to develop and improve and she will continue on her way.  And there is an interesting story about Anna Vyakhireva. When she started playing handball, she threw with the right hand, but then her father - a coach – taught her how to throw and shoot with the left hand in perfection. She still writes with the right hand, but shoots left-handed.


After failing in the Olympic quarterfinal in London, Russian women’s head coach Evgeny Trefilov said that the pool of talented players in his country is decreasing. Do you agree?

Wjatscheslav Kirilienko: No, in my opinion we still have a big number of highly talented young players in Russia. But even after the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing the senior team should have been rejuvenated. Now it is our mission to prepare young players in the next Olympic circle for Rio 2016. In a meeting with the coaches and the federation in September Trefilov will rate the Olympics and all of us will work on the plans and strategies for a successful future.