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#1 2010-03-03 07:49:13

Elvira Leleka

Sport Vocabulary

The Winter Olympics on Russian television offer the viewer the usual complement of bizarre sports (Curling, anyone?) as well as very entertaining commentators. It's also been a good opportunity to brush up on some of that underused sports vocabulary.

Medals are on everyone's mind, of course. You can say, for example, that an athlete won a gold medal («выиграл/завоевал золотую медаль»), but announcers often shorten that by saying: «Он выиграл золото для России!» Although they've been saying that less than they've wanted to this winter, sadly. A medalist can be referred to as a медалист or призёр: «Сейчас мы видим на наших экранах Евгения Плющенко, золотого призёра Турина и претендента на еще одно золото здесь в Ванкувере.» (On our screens now is Yevgeny Plyushchenko, gold medalist in Turin and a contender for yet another gold medal here in Vancouver.) As it turns out, no such luck, but he's still a двукратный Олимпийский призёр (two-time Olympic medalist).

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When it comes to watching the competitions themselves, there are plenty of familiar-sounding Russian words for English-speaking viewers. We've got a старт and a финиш, and there are various лидеры in any race: «Шведская лыжница на старте гонки лидировала, но ближе к финишу двум соперницам удалось ее опередить.» (The Swedish skier was in the lead at the start of the race, but two of her rivals managed to move ahead of her close to the finish.)

Then there are a couple of words that seem like they would be interchangeable between the two languages, but have important differences in meaning. An атлет in Russian is usually someone who competes in track and field or gymnastics, while an athlete in English is pretty much anyone taking part in any kind of sport. The Russian equivalent for athlete is спортсмен/спортсменка. In English, ‘sportsman' usually only refers to someone taking part in hunting and fishing, or showing good sportsmanship (i.e. fair and gracious conduct in competition).

If it's a close race and the announcers are getting excited, you might hear verbs like вырываться and отрываться. You can see they both have the root рыв, and they both have the literal meaning of tearing oneself away from something. «Немец неожиданно вырвался в лидеры после первого этапа.» (The German competitor unexpectedly broke into the top three after the first round.) «Она отрывается от преследовательниц на финишной прямой!» (She's breaking away from on her pursuers on the home stretch!) The same root can show up when athletes near the finish - this can be called the финишный рывок (final push/dash).

Another interesting verb in use to describe besting an opponent is привезти: «Он привез соперникам целых 20 секунд.» (He beat out his opponents by an entire 20 seconds.) This verb usually means to bring something, but this usage, which is fairly widespread in sports media, makes it sound like he's bringing defeat to his opponents. Then there's выложиться - to give all you've got. Here's a quote from American speed skater Shani Davis, translated by the Russian paper Sport Express: «Решающий забег отнял у меня все силы, я выложился на сто процентов и даже больше.» (The original quote: "That race depleted me 100 percent. I never want to leave anything on the track.")

The final part of the race is when the announcers really lose it, and start shouting encouragement to the athletes. Молодец is a common exclamation among coaches and fans, and can best be translated as "way to go", or "excellent". People can say this in a calmer situation as well; a mother might congratulate her young son on tying his shoes by saying: «Вот какой молодец! » (What a good boy!)




My favorite exclamation at the Olympics was when a joyous announcer started shouting: «Молодец! Красавец!» The latter, of course, literally means a beautiful or handsome man, but in this context it just expresses excited approval.

The most common shout is давай, usually heard as: «давай-давай-давай!» We're used to seeing this word fulfill the function of "let's" in sentences, such as: «Давай возьмем такси.» (Let's take a taxi.) But in this context, it can be translated as "Go, go, go!", or "Come on!"

In a fitting twist, the weirdest Olympic sport - curling - had the weirdest commentator. I really can't blame the guy, because I imagine that it's hard to maintain a monologue about women sweeping ice in front of stones, but at one point he did start talking about the soul of the stones. After an unfortunate play, he said: «Да, камень имеет душу, и может не только сделать великим, но и унизить.» (Yes, the stones do have souls, and can humiliate as well as glorify.) There's probably a way to work that into my active vocabulary.

Sara Buzadzhi is a translator and English-language teacher in Moscow.



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