International Ice Hockey Federation

OAR's smiling face

OAR's smiling face

Kaprizov relishes Olympic debut

Published 12.02.2018 16:52 GMT+10 | Author Andy Potts
OAR's smiling face
Kirill Kaprizov (in the middle) and other players of the Olympic Athletes from Russia men's ice hockey team watch the OAR women's team play Canada on Sunday. Photo: Andre Ringuette / HHOF-IIHF Images
Away from the controversy around the Olympic Athletes from Russia, Oleg Znarok's team is eager to start playing. And none more so than CSKA's Kirill Kaprizov.

For most athletes, competing in an Olympic Games is the realisation of a dream cherished since childhood. Even so, few betray the visible excitement of Kirill Kaprizov, a forward with the Olympic Athletes from Russia.

The CSKA Moscow man, still only 20, blazed through last year’s World Juniors but was not selected for Oleg Znarok’s roster at the World Championship in Cologne. Back then, he admitted, he was far from certain that he would be invited to come to PyeongChang – and now he’s here, he’s making the most of every moment.

All smiles on the ice, all smiles in the mixed zone, Kaprizov shatters the stereotype of the dour Russian hockey player. And it’s easy to believe him when he insists he never believed he would be on the verge of making his Olympic debut in this year’s event.

“I remember watching the Games in Vancouver, and in Sochi, but back then I never imagined that by 2018 I’d be playing at the Olympics myself,” he said after OAR’s first practice in Gangneung on Monday. “I’m sure it’s going to be a wonderful experience.”

The team only arrived in the Olympic Village on Sunday afternoon after playing its final warm-up game in Anyang, and Kaprizov is already excited by the unique atmosphere of the Games.

“I was a bit surprised to see everyone eating together. I’m not really used to that, it’s my first time here,” he said. “Everyone lives side-by-side, everyone rubs along together, it’s interesting.”

And as for the food, there are no restrictions on trying the spicy local cuisine, despite its obvious differences from Russian cooking. “I’ve tried a few Korean dishes already,” he said. “Certainly, nobody is going to stop us.”

Having made it to PyeongChang, Kaprizov is well aware that there is serious work to do. Asked about the events he’d like to see while in Korea – he and his team-mates saw their female compatriots in hockey action on Sunday – the forward focused on his own game. “Most of all, I want to be part of our games,” he said. “I want to make sure I’m on that roster.”

With five goals in seven international outings this season, plus 40 points in 46 KHL games, it seems likely the Novokuznetsk native will get his chance to shine in Korea. There are already promising signs for his partnership with Vadim Shipachyov, a player rejuvenated by his return home after an unhappy spell in Vegas. But Kaprizov is taking nothing for granted.

“The main thing is to start playing the tournament,” he said, looking ahead to Wednesday’s Group B opener against Slovakia. “It’s important for us to go into that first game in good shape – both physically, and tactically – so we can continue through the tournament in the right way.

“We played some exhibition games, and we could see that there were places where we needed to improve on the power play and penalty kill. But each day we’re feeling better and better about this.”

And one look at Kaprizov’s beaming smile tells you that he’s not kidding – on the eve of the action, this is one player witnessing his dreams coming true.

 

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