The Soviet secret services were rarely able to bring in deserters from abroad, especially athletes. Most of them have been planning their trip abroad for months, if not years, and calmly went to their goal. At the same time, his motivation was clear and precise: the athletes wanted to live in a different society and receive different salaries. It was extremely troublesome to convince such desperate immigrants…
However, there were exceptions to this rule. The charms of the capitalist world turned the head of Sergei Nemtsanov, but at the last moment the young diver refused to leave his homeland.
His beloved grandmother convinced him to return home from abroad.
The modest charm of the bourgeoisie
Nemtsanov’s talent was first talked about in the mid-70s. The guy began diving in Bishkek, where his grandmother brought him up alone: the mother of the future athlete lived on Sakhalin, and his father served in Hungary. Sergey quickly reached a solid level, after which the section advised him to move to Alma-Ata, where the famous coach Galina Mikheeva worked. Under his leadership, the jumper won two USSR junior championships and soon received an invitation to the main tournament of his career – the 1976 Olympics.
– When the rest of the athletes performed one hundred jumps per training day, Nemtsanov did 300-400. He came to the pool even on weekends: he stretched, pumped up muscles, practiced entering the water … As a result of this crazy plowing, Sergey began to win one tournament after another within the country, – Elena Vaytsekhovskaya wrote about the athlete.
While preparing for the Montreal Games with the national team, the young man began to participate in international competitions. The Florida tournament also fell into the pre-Olympic cycle, which turned fateful for Nemtsanov. In the United States, a young athlete meets local jumper Carol Lindner, who is also the daughter of a millionaire.
The girl invites Sergei to go crazy on her father’s luxury yacht, rides in her father’s Mercedes, and their mutual friend, the translator George, openly criticizes the Soviet system, not hiding his contempt for the communists. The modest charm of the American bourgeoisie does his job: the athlete leaves the United States completely fascinated by Western life.
“That won’t be enough, you bastard!”
In the USSR, Nemtsanov’s expectations were the highest: he had to leave Montreal with at least one medal, ideally gold. Sergey confirmed the status of favorite two months before the start of the Games, having won first prize at Canamex, another North American tournament. However, at the Olympic Games, the athlete unexpectedly fails at the qualifying stage, having lost the opportunity to compete in the final.
After an unsuccessful jump into the locker room, one of the national team coaches breaks into Nemtsanov’s sobs. A flurry of curses and threats rains down on the already crushed jumper:
– Well, wait, let me go back to Moscow … It will not seem enough to you, you bastard!
Perhaps this episode was the last straw for Sergei. According to the former Soviet ambassador to Canada, Alexander Yakovlev, Nemtsanov was already under special surveillance at the time, as he was prone to escape. Allegedly, the 17-year-old jumper was even assigned a “personal observer”, but he did not fulfill his main task.
On July 28, a few days after the end of the Games, the athlete disappeared from the Olympic Village. On the eve of the fateful date, Sergei again met with Lindner, who attended the tournament as a spectator and went with the girl to a party. There, specially trained people gave the jumper a drink, or he overdid it with alcohol out of habit, or generally bribed him; one way or another, by morning, the guy had already turned to the Canadian authorities, asking for political asylum. .
“Don’t leave one, come back”
The Soviet sports leadership was given the task to return Nemtsanov to his homeland at all costs. Initially, the authorities threatened the IOC to boycott the remaining days of the Olympic Games, but this plan did not take effect. Officials then reproduced the situation by declaring the young jumper’s escape a kidnapping. The fact is that the guy at that time was only 17 years old; before reaching the age of majority, he could not independently obtain refugee status.
The tension grew. Meanwhile, the Canadian authorities had already granted the athlete a visa at the end of January, and in the United States there was even a couple ready to adopt the athlete … But this was not necessary. The Soviet side insisted first on one, and then on the second confrontation with Nemtsanov, as a result of which he decided to return to his homeland. His lonely grandmother’s call, which was recorded by KGB officers in Kazakhstan, played a key role. Hearing the voice of a relative, Sergei gave up:
Who did you leave me for? I was left completely alone. Don’t leave a single one, come back soon.
In mid-August Nemtsanov returned to the USSR. There were no reprisals against him, apart from the expected ban on performances abroad. Three years later, Sergei will win gold for the first time at the national championship, this achievement will become the main achievement of his career, and after the failure at the 1980 Olympics, he will leave the sport. Subsequently, the athlete will still move abroad, but already in old age, following his son to the USA, who also became a diver. The former athlete lives there now.