"Girls... I'm dying." The USSR leadership brought the great Ukrainian coach to a heart attack, and his heart stopped in the locker room
30 years ago, in November 1993, the heart of the best handball coach of all time, Ihor Turchyn, stopped beating. The coach, who made the USSR national team a two-time Olympic champion and Kyiv's Spartak a 13-time winner of the European Women's Champions Cup, passed away as he had planned, at work.
DIDYOU KNOW: Turchyn was never a professional athlete, but he proved that it is not necessary when you have a bright head and tremendous dedication. He graduated with honors from high school and then from the Physical Education Department of the Kamianets-Podilskyi Pedagogical Institute. At that time, he didn't think about handball at all, and was going to work as a basketball coach. But there was no suitable position at the Kyiv Children's and Youth Sports School, where he was sent by assignment.
Instead of basketball, Turchyn was offered table tennis and a women's handball section. He agreed, and this determined not only his life but also the development of world handball in many ways. Turchyn himself went to schools and invited girls aged 12-13 to train.
"A young, handsome, self-confident man appeared in our school. He asked our physical education teacher to find him some fighting girls from the 6th and 7th grades. And there were no fighters in the school like Galka Manokha and me, so we ended up in his class. Later I brought the whole class to him. You see, he is a brilliant coach. It seems to me that his talent would manifest itself in whatever he undertook. His table tennis students were champions of Ukraine. He organized classes in a very interesting way," recalled Zinaida Turchyna, the coach's wife, the best handball player of the 20th century.
In 1962, this girls' team was used to create the Spartak handball club, which later became the 20-time champion of the USSR and the 13th winner of the European Champions Cup. In 1976, the Ukrainian was recognized as the best coach in the world. For his incredible achievements in sports, Turchyn and his team are listed in the Guinness Book of Records.
CONSPIRACY. The coach also found his love in the team he created, but at first he and Zinaida Stolitenko had to hide because the entire team was in love with Turchyn. And the future great handball player knew that if the girls found out, they would tear her apart with jealousy.
But one day the couple was spotted in a cafe near the botanical garden. And during the next training session, the girls first made a fuss in the locker room and then plotted against Zinaida: "I'm standing in the center and I'm supposed to keep the game in my hands. But the balls fly by as if I'm not there... It went on for quite a while."
As soon as Zinaida turned 18, Turchyn, 10 years older than her, proposed to her at the Union Championship in Chisinau, and after returning to Kyiv, he came to her parents and said he wanted to marry her: "My mother said nothing in his presence. And when he left, she attacked me: "Zina, he's an old man!" I answered her: "Mom, everything will be fine." I was flying on wings with happiness."
After the wedding, the attitude of the teammates only worsened. The young wife would come home and cry, until one day the coach could not take it anymore and threatened to leave them and go to Ashgabat with his family. After that, Zinaida was left alone. And as the handball player later admitted, they had a very happy marriage. It was on the court that he was strict, but at home he was "just a sweetheart."
"We all sat on his head. You could hide behind Ihor as a man and not think about anything. Later he admitted to me that he was indifferent to children. But when he had his own, he began to look at other people's children in a completely different way. He adored Natasha, she was his favorite daughter. She resembled him both in appearance and in character. It's a pity we rarely saw her, we had to travel a lot, and my parents were with her," Zinaida Turchyna said.
Growing up in such a family, Natalia had nowhere to go but to play handball: "In general, it was unique - mom and daughter play on the same team, and dad coaches them. In Ukraine, it somehow went unnoticed. But abroad, all the newspapers wrote about it. Wherever we flew, photojournalists and TV crews met us at the gate."
But, as is customary, success also had a downside. Handball always came first for Turchyn, he was a terrible workaholic. During the competition, the coach was very emotional, living every episode with the team, so he argued with the referees, yelled at the players, and could start a fight with the fans.
Naturally, every match took a lot of strength and health from Turchyn. In 1973, the coach suffered his first heart attack. He had three heart attacks in total. Doctors warned that they would not save him the next time. The coach himself understood everything perfectly well, but he could not help himself: "If I die, it will be during a training session or a game."
And one of his students, three-time world champion Marina Bazanova, once said that the coach directly predicted his death: "I feel like I'm going to die soon. Do you know how I will die? On the bench." The attitude of the Soviet leadership also had a negative impact on the coach's health.
"For more than two decades, Turchyn's Spartak was the base club of the USSR national team, which won Olympic gold (in 1976 and 1980), was a bronze medalist in Seoul in 1988, and won two world championships. But after the 1988 Olympics, the country's sports authorities considered the third place to be a failure, which upset Turchyn. The coach suffered a heart attack and underwent coronary artery bypass surgery in Norway.
A Norwegian club, which held training camps at Spartak's facilities, offered to pay the coach $25,000 for the deal. To earn the money, Turchyn had to work as a head coach for a short time in a Scandinavian team.
"People used to go to Turchyn's training sessions as if they were watching a performance. The audience was packed to the brim. No wonder the Norwegians are now the leaders of world handball. They absorbed everything he said like sponges. And for some reason, we don't need his handball," Turchyna later complained.
THELAST GAME. However, the legendary coach could not live in Norway for long. After 8 months, he returned to Ukraine and his native Spartak. On November 7, 1993, 56-year-old Ihor Yevdokymovych played his last match in Bucharest. On that fateful day, Spartak played in the 1/8 finals of the European Handball Federation (EHF) Cup against the local Rapid.
Representatives of the Ukrainian team later recalled that in the morning, before the match, Turchyn looked out of the window of the hotel where the team was staying and drew the attention of his assistant Viktor Karasyov to a huge flock of black crows circling in front of his windows. He remarked: "This is not good."
During a break in the locker room, he felt sick, but the coach managed to give the players instructions for the second half. When the handball players were leaving, he wanted to follow them. He stood up, threw his bag over his shoulder, but then slowly sank down on a chair and said: "Girls... I'm dying."
The TV broadcast from Bucharest was conducted in Ukraine with a "picture", so when Spartak came out for the second half, the commentator in the Kyiv studio did not understand why the players were crying.
Zinaida Turchyna did not fly to that match, but stayed at home with her children. She watched the game on TV. And she suspected something was wrong when the commentator said that one of the players was sick. The crying faces of the Spartak handball players confirmed her guess: "I started crying. My son Myshko, who was in the next room, came running. "Mom, what's wrong?"
As a result, the match was interrupted. The organizers called an ambulance, but it arrived only 20 minutes later, when doctors could only record death from a heart attack.
In memory of the outstanding coach, since 1995, an international handball tournament, the Turchyn Cup, has been held annually in Kyiv, bringing together the world's strongest teams. And on July 1, 2016, a Ukrainian documentary film by director Dmytro Tomashpolskyi, Winning Everything, was completed, reflecting the coach's maximalist approach.
The emotional climax of the film was the reenactment of the deaths in Bucharest. "The athletes gave me amateur footage from that match. The video was shot by their families. The most valuable thing is the fragments of the return game that took place after the coach's death. There is a recording of Turchyn's voice, where he talks, comments and makes remarks to the players. In the last game against Romania, Spartak lost. After what happened, the game was canceled. When the match was replayed, they won. Actually, this is a movie about how he died to win the game," the director said.