"...One evening I found Natasha looking through our family album. She was slowly turning the thick pages of white cardboard and suddenly stopped. As for me, I always feel alarmed when my wife suddenly begins to brood over old photos. What is the matter with her? Is she melancholy? Or displeased with something? Or sad about some unrealized hopes? Or remembering the passing youth?
Looking over Natasha's shoulder I saw the snapshot which had caught her eye. It dated back to 1972. It was my return from the Olympic Munich. The meeting at the old airport which at that time was located in the very center of Krasnoyarsk. We were detained on the first step of the gangway to be awarded honor bands. The bands were mixed up in the commotion. Mine read: «The Coach of Olympic Champion», and my coach's one had the words: «Olympic Champion». People were crowding near the plane and even behind the barriers of the airport. They shouted something to us, threw flowers, and not only we, but also these people seemed to fail to distinguish the inscriptions on our bands. And I knew that Natasha was somewhere in the crowd, but my eyes could not find her, We met only three hours later...
I remembered that coming back and everything that had happened before, in Munich, so vividly as if it had been yesterday, not 26 year ago. Astonished at the time having passed so quickly, I suddenly thought: «Half of your 48 years passed in strife to become an unsurpassed wrestler in the memory of people. And the second half you did nothing but try to bring up a sportsman who would surpass you and make null and void everything you had done then in Munich, at the Olympic Games. Isn't it strange?»
This thought was so striking that I did not question my wife at all and went to my room, i By whom, when and what for had my life
j К been programmed in such a way, I thought that evening. And I recollected other photos — black -: and white and colored — pressed with transparent film in our family albums. Many of them depict me with sportsmen and coaches, with famous busi- i nessmen and political leaders... Did anything in my childhood in my native Sizaya foretoken my acquaintance with all these people and even my friendship with some of them?
Nowadays the city boys dream of becoming drivers up to the age of ten, no older; but in Sizaya sixteen-year-old chaps longed to turn the wheel. Lord, how I resisted when someone tried to tear me off from it. But all the same it happened: suddenly a stodgy, black-haired, round-faced man appeared in my life and introduced himself as a free-style wrestling coach... Was it a chance? Of course. A man came to look at a football match of some obscure teams and suddenly saw a lanky fellow, the goalkeeper, who, nevertheless, sometimes took absolutely «dead» goals. And he guessed something about this chap. Years had passed before I understood that both his coming to the match and everything that had followed were a chain of regularities. A chain which had begun perhaps a thousand of miles from the Abakan stadium with its poor field and swaying gates, in a small Georgian village of Tchalaubani, in the sunny Kachetia. Maybe it had begun still earlier. But where then?
That evening I first felt a desire to make sense of my life and of myself. It was sharp as a lumbago attack..."