The Great Mother of the Great 8


Every time Alex Ovechkin flies off the bench for a shift, you can see in his powerful stride that he will leave it all on the ice. Alex’s deep passion had to come from somewhere, and we believe that a lot of it comes from his mother Tatyana.

RMNB recently sent Fedor out to learn more about the Ovechkin family’s strong athletic heritage, specifically his two-time Olympic Gold Medalist Mother, Tatyana Ovechkina. Many people know that Tatyana was one of the greatest basketball players in Russian History, but there’s a a lot more to know, and we’re here to share.

Below the jump, find out about the people who inspired her, why she picked the number eight, and what she really thinks of her son. Enjoy!


Dynamo Arena in Moscow. Home of Dynamo basketball and Fedor's favourite arena. Ovechkina's jersey is highlighted in the red circle.

Dynamo Arena in Moscow. Home of Dynamo basketball and Fedor's favourite arena. Ovechkina's jersey is highlighted in the red circle.

Born in Moscow in 1950, Ovechkina has won 2 Olympic gold medals (one of 5 players in world basketball history), including one from Montreal in 1976 and the other from Moscow in 1980. Ovechkina never lost a game in an official international competition and also managed to win the 1975 World Championship, six European Championships (1970, 1972, 1974, 1976, 1978, 1980), and the 1977 Summer Universiade. In recent years, she was overwhelmingly chosen the century’s best female point guard by the readers of the Sport-Express, and currently she is a candidate for induction into the FIBA Hall of Fame.

The great Russian coach Vladimir Kondrashin once said to his team, when Dynamo (Ovechkina’s club) visited St.-Petersburg: “Guys, I canceled practice tonight. We’ll go watch Ovechkina and Voronina’s play…”

Ovechkina became a coach in 1984 at a Children’s Sports School. In 1990 she became the coach of the famous Dynamo Moscow team.

“Everything Alex Ovechkin has as a player he took from his mother. Tatyana had great basketball sense, a splendid game mind. She didn’t have the greatest physical gifts but she could do everything on court – and do everything at a very high level. I think that she and Galina Voronina is the standard of communication between point guard and center. Voronina only had to move her brow, or make an imperceptible movement (for others) and then the ideal pass came after it.” – Evgeni Gomelsky, Olympic Champion.


Alex's resemblance to his mother Tatyana is uncanny

Alex's resemblance to his mother Tatyana is uncanny

Question – Who had the biggest influence on you as a player?
Tatyana Ovechkina – First of all Vladimir Cinman. I even took number 8 in honor of him. Now he’s better known as a coach, but I loved his talent as a player. His passes were the best in basketball. You could even write books about his game management! When I became older Nelly Fomina and Lidia Guseva also exerted a big influence on me. I tried to take the best from them as well.

Q – What was your best skill on the court?
TO – That’s hard to answer immediately… I guess, it’s all about my leadership abilities. It was always nicer for me to give assists to my teammates. It was more of a joy for me than scoring. Very often – one of our leaders couldn’t find her game. And for me, I aspired to give her more passes in order to help her overcome her difficulties. I guess it turned out okay.

Q – What is your most revered title?
TO – The Russian Championship.

Q – What?!
TO – I won the Olympics, the World Championships, the European Championships, but I couldn’t win the USSR Championship as a player. So when I won the Russian Championship as a coach, I couldn’t stop smiling!

Q – Point guards are the bearers of coach’s philosophy on the court. I guess, for that reason, players tend to become coaches easier…
TO – I don’t know, if it’s right or not, but I always tried to understand all players. I thought: how could I connect with that player, would it be easy to play on a team with her? I think, it was a rationale that bore fruit. Even when I became a coach, I always acted like I was playing in the game. I guess, I didn’t sit down on the bench at all. Also, I tried to not over-compliment the players. When I said you were “okay” it meant “very good” on my scale.


You can see where the passion comes from.

You can see where the passion comes from.

“Sasha is a gentle man. He never holds a grudge. Journalists often ask me about the World Championships in Moscow [2007], when he was moved to the 4th line. And my answer is that it makes no difference to him being on the 1st or 4th line. But time on ice is another story altogether. When you play 15 seconds and you sit on the bench 10 minutes after it – what can a coach expect from you? This is the only problem! That situation is hard to take. Alex was in a great mood before that Championship! I consoled him as much as I could. I told him: ‘Be patient. You have to go through it.'”

“My Son never complained – even during his childhood. One game when he lost his tooth, my husband and I saw it on TV in Washington. We were very upset. Sasha has such a beautiful smile! Even now, with gap, it’s still very fascinating. That’s OK, it will heal soon.”

“We were not told when Alex broke his nose playing for Dynamo. It didn’t heal very well – it’s the fault of people who were near him after the first fracture. They had to set the nose immediately – using tampon or anything else around. And when he came to play without a shield he always took shots to the face with the stick or elbow of other players. I saw it in Dynamo’s home games – it was intentional!”

“Not a lot of people know that Moscow mayor Yuri Luzhkov helped to raise Alex. I never told journalists about it. We met in 90’s, when Luzhkov supported basketball “Dynamo”. There were many different situations, but if I had any questions About Alex’s development, I asked Luzhkov. And every time his advice was right. When Alex was drafted 1st in 2004, Yuri Luzhkov was the first person I called. And after signing with the Caps I sent a nice message to Luzhkov’s reception. I thanked him from our family.


Lastly, for those of you who haven’t seen this video yet, here’s Alex’s mom jumping up and down with extreme joy after Ovi nets a Hat Trick against the Penguins. Tatyana shows up in the video around 7 seconds in. Normally she is more reserved, but against the Penguins anything goes.


Interviews, quotes:
Sport-Express (31.10.06, Vladimir Mozhaycev)
“Best players of century of Russian basketball – Tatyana Ovechkina” (18.09.08, author not specified)
“Tatyana Ovechkina: “Sasha never complains”

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  • I love this interview. Never gets old. She seems like an amazing and powerful woman, and I can see where Ovie gets his passion from as you mentioned. I read this other one where she was talking about how she’s sometimes hard on him. [Her being a coach.] But she is very proud of him. I really don’t know what to say. It’s awesome.

  • Writing this story with Fedor was a pleasure. What an incredible woman and family. Totally agreed, Jessica.

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