The footprints were the largest you could have in men’s handball, but Oleg Kuleshov and Alexander Rymanov are beginning to successfully follow them. The coaching duo – former world and Olympic champions as players – succeeded Vladimir Maximov after the EHF EURO 2012, when Russia (for the first time ever) failed in the qualification for Olympic Games and missed out on the 2011 World Championship for the first time in over 50 years.
Nevertheless, Kuleshov and Rymanov depend on Maximov’s work, as he is still coach of record national champions Chekhovskie Medvedi, the base for most of the national team players.
The first hurdle to cross for the new coaching duo was the qualification for the 2013 World Championship and they managed it at the expense of the Czechs in the play-offs. January in Spain saw the new style of Russian handball. More speed, less power, more individual class of the players like Konstantin Igropoulo, Timur Dibirov, Sergi Gorbok and Pawel Atman.
The Russians were a refreshing sight for international handball and made it to the quarter-finals in Spain, bringing an end to the dark period for the team. Kuleshov is aiming for the qualification for the Olympic Games 2016, but the EHF EURO 2014 should be another milestone for his team.
The 30-year-old left back can arguably be regarded as traveller in the handball world. He was born in the Belarusian capital of Minsk where he learned the game of handball at local club Arkatron for which he played from 1994 to 2003.
What followed were stints with ZTR Zaporozhye in Ukraine, RK Celje in Slovenia, Rhein-Neckar Löwen in Germany and Chekhovskie Medvedi in Russia. Since the start of the 2013/14 season he again plays for Rhein-Neckar Löwen.
Gorbok, whose biggest asset is his large variety of shots, can look back at a very successful career in which he won the national championship at least once in all countries he played apart from Germany.
After having played for Belarus' national team until 2009, he assumed Russian citizenship and has been eligible to play for Russia since March 2012.
Born in Russia with a Greek heritage, the left-hander does not fit into the typical category of strong, muscular and tall back court player; however, Igropoulo is not to be underestimated.
He is a virtuoso and has a tremendous strength and precision in his throws. Not only can he be placed on the back court positions, but as a playmaker he is unique. Igropoulo started out playing for Stawropol before he moved to Greece to play for Panellios Athen.
From there he returned to Russia and signed a contract with Chehkovskie Medvedi. After four years with the 'Bears', he said goodbye to Moscow and moved to Spain where he played for FC Barcelona for three years.
At the start of the of the 2012/13 season he joined German capital side, Füchse Berlin, with which he is currently playing in the EHF Cup.
THE COACHES - Oleg Kuleshov & Alexander Rymanov
An era came to an end in spring 2012 when the legendary Vladimir Maximov stepped down as Russian head coach after his team only came 15th at the EHF EURO 2012 and also failed to qualify for the Olympic Games.
Now it is up to Oleg Kuleshov Alexander Rymanov to bring back success to Russian handball.
Kuleshov played 123 international matches for Russia and was European champion in 1996, world champion in 1997, EHF EURO silver medallist in 2000 and bronze medallist at the Olympic Games in 2004 – the last medal Russia won at a major championship.
Rymanov was part of the USSR team that won gold at the Seoul 1988 Olympic Games.
Their first success as coaching duo was steering Russia to the 2013 World Championship at which they finished 7th.
Past Performance at EHF EURO Events