Sergey Tetyukhin in action at the London Olympics in 2012
Lausanne, Switzerland, September 4, 2015 - The fact that Sergey Tetyukhin was in London for the Olympic Games in 2012 and won a gold medal at the fifth attempt was quite an achievement in itself.
The Russian, who turns 40 on September 23, is now working towards his sixth Olympics in Rio in 2016. Gold medal winning trainer Vladimir Alekno, who was recently renamed coach of the Russian team, has included Tetyukhin in his preliminary squad for the FIVB Volleyball Men's World Cup in Japan from September 8-23, at which the first two tickets for next year’s Olympic Games are up for grabs.
Tetyukhin had actually retired from the Russian national team after winning gold in London three years ago. However, he is now attempting to help a team that endured its worst result ever in the FIVB Volleyball World League in 2015.
"After the Olympic Games in London, I was one hundred per cent certain that I would not be back again. But it turned out differently. I'm glad that I'm here. I can help and train with the young guys,” he said in an interview.
“At the moment we are only talking about the World Cup, because we have to complete a mission. But I know that our famous volleyball player Zhenya Artamonova was at her sixth consecutive Olympic Games in London. I could do the same in Rio. Any athlete, no matter whether at the start or end of his career, dreams about the Olympic Games. Should it all work out for me, I would be grateful. Especially because the tournament will be held in Brazil, whose team stands out a bit as one of our main rivals.”
Only four volleyball players have ever appeared in six Olympic Games: Artamonova, Brazil’s Fofana, her compatriot Mauricio Lima and Italian hero Andrea Giani and Tetyukhin never thought his career might be so long when he began playing in the Ferfana region of Uzbekistan.
His first coach was his father Yuri Ivanovich. The family moved to Russia in 1992 and Gennady Shipulin, one of his coaches in Belgorod, recalled: “I couldn’t decide which position this talented guy should play. He had phenomenal coordination and basically everything you need for volleyball – including the right figure and a clear head.”
Tetyukhin's first match for the national team came in May 1996, and a few months later he was at the Olympics in Atlanta.
“It was a miracle! In Atlanta I went everywhere with my mouth open because for the first time in my life I saw around me many famous athletes, actors and politicians.” Russia finished fourth and it was the springboard to a sensational career. Tetyukhin won silver at the 2000 Olympics, followed by bronze in 2004 and 2008, before finally claiming the long-awaited Olympic gold in 2012 – in a competition he shouldn’t really have been playing in.
“After playing for 16 years, my body could no longer take the stresses and strains and began to falter. In 2011, doctors made a disappointing diagnosis: heart rhythm disturbances. I was forbidden to play or exercise. But I took the risk to stay fit, in the hope of making it to the Olympic Games. As a result, I got medical permission just before the tournament and Alekno picked me for London. The rest is history,” said Tetyukhin.
Tetyukhin's heart is working “like clockwork” again and he continues to add lines to his list of successes, which includes medals at World and European Championships, two victories in the FIVB Volleyball World Cup (including the latest triumph in 2011) and ten championship titles and cup wins in Russia. Last year, he won the European Champions League with his club Belgorod and was named the competition's MVP. This was followed by an FIVB Volleyball Men's Club World Championship title.
Tetyukhin has now started to think about life after his career as a volleyball player. As a representative of Belogorod, he has already done a lot for the city. And his children are progressing nicely too. His two eldest sons play volleyball and talk is that they have inherited some of their father’s talent and could, in time, continue the Tetyukhin legend.