International Olympic Committee (IOC) President Thomas Bach personally invited the President of the International Fencing Federation (FIE), Alisher Usmanov, to attend a surprise meeting with Russian fencing great David Dushman at the IOC headquarters in Lausanne last week.
It was more than 35 years since the 92-year-old Dushman had last seen Thomas Bach. The IOC President knows Dushman from the early 1970s, when he was a junior fencer and Dushman one of the world’s greatest fencing coaches.
“Despite the Cold War and Mr Dushman’s personal experience with World War II, he immediately offered me friendship and counsel,” President Bach said. “This was a very noble gesture, which I will never ever forget. The invitation was a thank-you to him as well as a way to refresh the friendship offered by him.”
Dushman had tears in his eyes during his visit. “This is so fantastic,” he repeated, overcome by strong emotions on meeting the IOC President. Dushman is still an active coach and dons his fencing gear three times a week at a fencing club in Munich where he lives today.
Dushman remembers not only Thomas Bach from his time as a fencer and Olympic Champion at the Olympic Games in 1976 in Montreal; but also Alisher Usmanov as a young boy. The FIE President first 'crossed sabres' with Dushman when Usmanov was just 5 years old and starting as a fencer.
But Dushman was not only a hero on the fencing piste, he was also a major in the Russian Army during the Second World War, and on 27 January 1945 he was one of the soldiers who came to liberate those imprisoned in the concentration camp in Auschwitz.
“My biggest dream and hope for future generations is to live in a world where there is no war,” Dushman said. “I urge Thomas Bach and the IOC do everything they can to use sport as a way to spread peace and reconciliation around the world. War is something that should never happen again.”
After studying medicine and sport, Dushman became the best fencer in the Soviet Union in 1951. He later became coach of the Russian capital’s elite club Spartak Moscow. He was still in charge of the national team until 1988. Many Olympic champions went through his school. The best known was Valentina Sidorowa, who won more than 11 medals. During the Olympic Games in Munich in 1972 Dushman counted two gold, two silver and three bronze medals from among his different fencers.
This week the three famous fencers were reunited by the sport they love to share their stories and to meet once again at the IOC headquarters. On 1 April, Dushman will celebrate his 93rd birthday. They agreed to meet in seven years to celebrate his centenary.
Photo: IOC/Christophe Moratal