‘I give my medals as souvenirs to my fans’

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Leader of the ice hockey team of Darkhan-Uul Province and Sharyn Gol team and International Sports Master Ch.Purev-Ochir entered many domestic and foreign competitions. He participated with the Mongolian national hockey team in the 2002 Men’s Ice Hockey World Championships in New Zealand in 2002 and in Armenia in 2008. From 2013 to 2015, he competed in the Asian Challenge Cup and won a bronze medal. Among the hockey players who participated in this tournament, he scored the most (10) goals against the opposing team. In addition, he was selected as the MVP of 2013 at the annual National Ice Hockey League of Mongolia. When Ch.Purev-Ochir led players of the Sharyn Gol team in the league, he won the golden trophy twice (in 2017 and 2021). Also, in 2019, he was selected as the Ambassador of Intelligence’, which is the highest award of the Mongolian Young Teachers’ Association. He is currently working as a physical education (PE) teacher at School No. 52 in Khan-Uul District.

The Sharyn Gol team won third place in the second-round match of the National Ice Hockey League. Is it not easy for you to participate in competitions while busy working?

I like to challenge myself in many things. I play ice hockey and soccer. I am an Asian soccer coach with a C degree. I work as a coach for Shonkhor Sports Club. I go to work early in the morning on weekends because I am busy running around participating in the Ice Hockey World Cup with my teammates and training my soccer students. In the league tournament, the Sharyn Gol team won the championship twice and second place eight times. Before the start of the second-round match in Sharyn Gol soum of Darkhan-Uul Province, I practiced with my teammates for two days. Two legionnaires come from Russia to play in our team. Working with them had many advantages. The goal of my team was to win this league. As a PE teacher, I advise my teammates on how to manage their sleep, food and rest during games. I must complete so many tasks at the same time, so I sometimes want to make multiple copies of myself.

Considering that you have been the leader of the Sharyn Gol team for many years, were you born in Sharyn Gol soum?

Yes, I was born in Sharyn Gol soum. After finishing 10th grade there, I moved to Darkhan-Uul Province and worked there for three years. Even when I participated in the provincial soccer championship, I was always ranked second. One day I told my family, “I am going to go to Ulaanbaatar. I want to compete with the best soccer players and know where I’m going with my skills.” This is how I set foot in Ulaanbaatar and came to work as a PE teacher at School No. 52. At that time, I mobilized myself in every way, trained in soccer and ice hockey, attended training and took exams. Before I realized it, 10 years had passed. Now, I think I did the right thing. Fewer PE teachers teach soccer and ice hockey nowadays. My 13 to 15-year-old students won three times in the District Students’ Soccer Championship and six times in the Club Championship. I worked for a year at Mongolian Ambition School with the Cambridge Program and when I returned to School No. 52, I was very proud to see my first students playing in the soccer league.

Are you able to complete your plans on time?

People need to have good life management skills. I can’t imagine what kind of a person I would be if I didn’t play ice hockey and soccer. In addition to my main job, I have been trying to plan and plan everything on time, such as when to train in soccer and hockey and develop myself. I don’t eat out even if I am very busy. To play in the major leagues of both ice hockey and soccer until the age of 50, I must live a healthy, active life and eat right. In addition to speed and skill, the sport of ice hockey also requires strong mentality. Leader S.Ganbileg from the previous generation of the Sharyn Gol team played until he was 55 years old. At that time, he lost a bit of speed and power, but he calculated how he should play with his team players well. We have missed him since his retirement. B.Ankhbayar and N.Ulambayar have been playing in the team for many years. It is the result of proper nutrition and exercise that you can be as fast, strong and skilled as your teammates.

Which sport did you start with, ice hockey or soccer?

I started with soccer. As a child, I used to wait impatiently for ice hockey matches to be broadcast on the Russian channel ORT. After watching ice hockey all night, I used to go to school with red eyes in the morning. Ice hockey was developed in Sharyn Gol under the influence of Russians living in Darkhan-Uul Province. Collecting the money that people gave on the Christmas tree at home on New Year’s Day, I bought skates and took part in the ice hockey tournament named after Z.Chirbat. I did not expect that I would be selected as the best forward. I was inspired by the competition organized by his daughter and my classmate O.Jargal and decided to keep playing it. Since then, I have been playing soccer during summer and ice hockey during winter. PE teacher of our school O.Battulga suggested that I participate in the provincial soccer championship, so I started playing soccer. Soccer and ice hockey foot techniques are similar. The matches of both are competitive and therefore, attract a lot of viewers. When I was in 8th grade, I played in the finals of the Sharyn Gol team. That year, I was recruited by the national soccer team of the province. In the first two years, I did not play in matches but used to carry the ball and prepare the clothes of my teammates. I started participating in soccer league matches when I was in 10th grade. As a child, I played with my father’s friends in the national soccer and ice hockey teams. When I was playing on the ice rink, I did not think that I would later become the leader of a famous ice hockey team.

Many people expected you and your teammates to participate in the 2017 Asian Winter Games in Sapporo, Japan. Why didn’t you enter this event?

Athletes face many obstacles. Some of them persevere for success and some can’t. After playing in the national hockey team for more than 10 years, I participated in the World Cup and the Winter Sports Games (held in Astana and Almaty, Kazakhstan) with my teammates. After participating in the Asian Winter Games in Japan, I thought that I would retire from the national hockey team. There isn’t an athlete on the national team who majored in physical education, except me. There are many people who haven’t specialized in it but talk about ice hockey. Before participating in the 2017 Asian Winter Games in Japan, I was disqualified for expressing my views. The Sharyn Gol team had won the league that year and became the champion. Six athletes from the team were not included. They did not like the performance of two other members. After eliminating them, the coach asked me if I wanted to play instead. I told him to follow the rules and refused to participate. It doesn’t make sense for me to participate by myself after two members have been disqualified. Mongolian ice hockey players came in fourth place at the Games. If we had participated, we would have won a bronze medal.

Was that sports festival one of the competitions you had been waiting to compete in for many years?

Yes, I waited a long time to participate in it. Previously, when we were in Astana, Kazakhstan, our team lost 2:1 to the Malaysian national team and came in fourth place. At that time, we were crying because we couldn’t get a medal. Malaysia is a country that spends generously on ice hockey. Mongolia didn’t have an indoor ice ring at that time. We used to train outside in the freezing cold for the Winter Olympics and other competitions. It was the dream of many generations of Mongolian ice hockey players to have an ice rink with a covered roof. Hockey players have overcome many obstacles to succeed in this sport. The foundation for the development of sports in Mongolia is being laid now. Parents of children who play ice hockey and soccer ask me whether their child’s performance and skills have improved after one month of training. A child’s success will not be seen in a few days. While Mongolian children play ice hockey from eighth and ninth grades, foreign children are trained as professional athletes from the age of five.

The FIFA World Cup has ended in Qatar. After watching its exciting matches, I wondered when Mongolia would enter it.

People saw how Japan took its first victory. However, in Mongolia, poor-quality buildings are built at the place where soccer fields were supposed to be built. Mongolians understand soccer more than ever before. Along with that, it now has fields and an indoor ice arena for holding soccer and ice hockey matches. Countries of the world develop by investing in sports. In Asia, Japan, China and South Korea are developing their sports highly because of their economy, environment and support of fans. Hockey fans think we’re great at the World Cup. To tell you the truth, we cover the expense of participating in the competition ourselves. Game uniforms, skates and rackets are expensive. We train a few days before the competition. It is not easy to adapt to the country’s time difference, environment, climate and food. Hockey players practice four times a day. If we can’t find an ice rink, we practice outdoors on fields not designed for ice hockey. After training all night, we enter competitions in the morning.

The success of athletes depends on their families. Would you say that the support you got from your family contributed to your success?

My wife B.Enkhmandakh is from Darkhan-Uul Province and teaches Mongolian and English languages. We met while working as teachers at school No. 52 in Khan-Uul District. I think I got married late because I was busy with work, sports and competitions. My wife is now my loyal fan. Having an athlete as a spouse is hard. We move forward together with perseverance and patience. My wife raises our children, taking them to school and kindergarten in the cold and cooking for them. My wife is calm but I am emotional. When there is no competition, I try to help my wife and take care of some of the housework. The best thing is having my family come and watch my medal matches. We have two sons. They are still too young to play ice hockey and soccer. My eldest son is more interested in soccer. The younger says he will become an ice hockey player like his father. Mongolians have an ice arena now, so I believe that skilled athletes will be born in the future.

It is said that an ice hockey match is not interesting without a brawl between the teams. Do you agree?

Most of the athletes who play on the Mongolian national hockey team are from the Sharyn Gol team. There is rarely a hockey game without a fight. Hockey matches have a lot of spectators. The fights on the ice are probably popular and interesting. This is also the case in Mongolia. Mongolian players won the bronze medal in the B group of the Ice Hockey World Cup. Even the spectators were surprised and couldn’t believe it when our team defeated teams from countries where ice hockey is well-developed. They finally noticed the Mongolian national team. They say that Mongolian hockey players are strong and invincible.

A team needs a good leader to succeed, right?

The team leader is the closest to the coach. I constantly think about which five players should start a game and who they should be switched with later. My brain does not rest from the day the league starts until it ends. There are no friends in ice hockey matches. There is an “enemy” on the rink. Even if it’s a friend, the rule of fair competition is always followed.

Mongolia has a song and statue dedicated to ice hockey players. Is it true that you were involved in the design of that statue?

There is a song “We are hockey players” about ice hockey. The first monument dedicated to ice hockey players in Mongolia was erected in Sharyn Gol soum. I was the model of that statue. My classmate created the design. Russian legionnaires saw the statue and were impressed because Russia doesn’t have a single statue dedicated to ice hockey players.

When teaching lessons to your students, do you always advise them about eating healthily?

Mongolian athletes pay more attention to training than to their nutrition intake. PE teachers of secondary schools should eat properly. If you can’t eat properly, you can’t train future athletes. Many people feel ashamed to ask someone what they don’t know. Some teachers and students ask me about food science.

How many medals have you won so far?

I won medals in ice hockey and soccer matches, but I give my medals as souvenirs to my fans. Hockey players change their uniforms every two years. I give away my uniforms, rackets and skates to my fans as well. I have my first set of uniform that I wore when I became the leader of the Sharyn Gol team and participated in competitions. Lately, sportswear has become my go-to outfit. Wherever I wear it, it expresses my goals, aspirations, and dreams.

Enkhnaranjav Tumurbaatar

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