Sunday, August 27, 2017

Tursunov Q&A Part III: Don't blame Russia for Trump

Dmitry Tursunov says voters, not his native Russia, put Donald
Trump in the White House. 2014 photo by Paul Bauman
   Russia has been in the news a lot lately. 
   The nation almost was banned from last summer's Olympics in Rio de Janeiro because of doping. In the end, 270 of its athletes were cleared and 167 dismissed.
   Former world No. 1 Maria Sharapova returned from a 15-month doping suspension in April.
   And former FBI director Robert Mueller is heading an investigation into alleged Russian interference in last year's U.S. presidential election.
   Former top-20 player Dmitry Tursunov discussed these issues -- as well as Donald Trump, Vladimir Putin, politics, favorite cultures and global warming -- during the recent $100,000 Nordic Naturals Challenger in Aptos, Calif.
   Tursunov, a 34-year-old Russian, moved to the San Francisco Bay Area at 12 to train and turned pro at 17. He owns a townhouse in the Sacramento suburb of Folsom but is based in his hometown of Moscow.
 Tursunov is scheduled to play British qualifier Cameron Norrie in the first round of the U.S. Open on Monday at 8 a.m. PDT on Court 14. It will be Tursunov's first appearance at Flushing Meadows since 2014, when he lost in the opening round to Alejandro Gonzalez of Colombia. Tursunov has reached the third round of the U.S. Open four times.
   Why has Russia had such a doping problem in Olympic sports?
   I think they wanted to win that way (laughs). I wouldn't be able to answer that question. There are a lot of theories. I believe that none of these high results can be achieved on Flintstones (vitamins). This is so far beyond what people can buy at the store. All the athletes are basically guinea pigs for all the stuff you end up buying at GNC later -- creatine powders, protein powders. Anything you buy at GNC had to be tested somewhere, and it's tested on athletes.
   I think there are basically two entities working. One is trying to develop something that helps you perform better, and the other is trying to keep up with the first one and trying to figure out, OK, this is helping you perform better, so this is considered doping.
   I don't know why marijuana is on the forbidden list because it doesn't seem like it helps with performance. But it's OK for medicinal purposes. ... Caffeine in large amounts was considered doping -- I don't know if it changed or not. If you had enough Red Bull, you would test positive. It's just gradations, I guess. ...
   I'm taking some protein shake, and I already feel nervous because anything you take, it's your responsibility. It doesn't matter where you buy it; it doesn't matter if the package doesn't say it contains something forbidden. We do get some warnings about eating in China and Mexico because steroids from the meat can get in your bloodstream.
   It's a tough situation because you can't perform eating Flintstones or One-A-Day Centrum. If you think about it, you're a race car that you're supposed to drive on street tires from Big O. You have to treat professional athletes like a race car. Don't expect it to be running on the same type of gas and using the same type of oil and tires or have anything similar to a regular car. You have to try to find advantages and improvements all over the place in order to perform better.
   What do you think of Donald Trump?
   He was always a bully. It's kind of funny because if you told anyone 10 years ago that Donald Trump was going to be president, no one would have believed it. Of course, everyone can blame Russia for it, but the fact of the matter is if another country can really influence the election of the greatest country on the planet, there's something wrong. It doesn't add up when people say America is the greatest country in the world but then they blame another country for messing with their election. They're shifting blame from themselves. Someone had to vote for him. ...
   I'm pretty far from politics, but Donald seems like not the guy you want to be friends with. He's a pretty tough, abrasive guy. I think he's fairly obnoxious. How many people would say he's a guy they would like to have a drink with or have a round of golf with? He's like the kid who would take the other kid's lunch money.
   But I also feel like he's getting so much criticism for everything. OK, he's doing some stupid s--- here and there, but even if he decides something good, people aren't going to let him do it because they're so busy criticizing him. If he's so bad, how did he end up being a candidate for president? That's puzzling to me. ... People should have been worried (about him) a long time ago, not whine and cry about it now. ... Impeach him or let him do something. ... People are fighting him tooth and nail. It's kind of sad to watch.
   Are you a dual citizen?
   No. Just Russian.
   If you could have voted in last year's U.S. presidential election, would you have, and if so, for whom?
   I don't like politics. Politicians are going to say what they need to say. Let's say I want to become mayor of a city. First, I need to identify what the citizens are most unhappy with, and then I need to sing to their tune. If they're all, hypothetically, against gay marriage, then I, as a (mayoral candidate), am going to have to say, "No gay marriages in our town." Then the citizens are going to respond to me. (I) might be for gay marriages, but to become the mayor, you need to do what the citizens want. You don't belong to yourself. You're like a windmill. If the wind blows south, you turn toward south. If it blows north, you turn around. ...
   So you don't vote in Russian elections?
   No. As much as people say voting matters, I don't think it truly does. I think most people vote without a true understanding of what they're voting for. We don't have enough information to make a qualified decision. We have to study it and analyze it. Reading media is not necessarily a good thing. Listening to a couple of (debates) ... they all have their points written out for them. They're going to point a finger and say, "Oh, yeah, but you smoked weed in college, so you wouldn't be a good president. What you got to say about that?" It's all a bunch of noise. I don't really believe in that.
   We're too consumed with looking at others instead of looking at ourselves. The world would be a much better place if each person woke up in the morning and said, How can I today be better? Instead, we say, "Donald Trump wants to build a wall. Oh my god. What a terrible president. I can't believe the damn Russians. They gave us Donald Trump for president." It's not very productive.
   What do you think of Vladimir Putin?
   I think he's doing what's best for his country, whether other people like it or not. Just like Donald Trump is going to do what's better for his country. I don't know (Putin) personally, but the public perception is he's a pretty tough guy. Some people say he's a dictator; some people say he's the best president for Russia. I don't know. I guess we'll find out in time.
   There's a lot of issues in Russia, some he's been able to fix, some he hasn't or maybe has made worse. Can we blame him for it or somebody else? ... It's not like he just waves a magic wand and corruption disappears. There has to be a lot of steps to fix it. ... Not a lot of countries are in love with him at the moment. There are sanctions and other stuff. He's sort of treated like a villain, but it's not as black and white as the media like to portray it. ...
   Honestly, I'm not the most educated person to make a qualified assessment of whether he's a good or bad president. Who am I to say Donald Trump is a bad president? A lot of people say, "He's a horrible president." OK, if you were president, would you do a better job? When I play tennis, there are 200 coaches out there saying what I should be doing different, but somehow they're not better players. It's very easy to look at it from the sideline and say, "This guy's bad, and he should be doing this and this different," but if you're so good, please be my guest. Pick up the racket and go out there.
   In tennis, I'm more or less able to say, OK, this person should do this, because I've played tennis for 30 years of my life, and I understand some things. Even then, I could be wrong. But when I have to talk about a politician or a president, it's really not my comfort zone.
   Is corruption the biggest problem in Russia?
   I live in Moscow, and Moscow is doing very well compared to most other cities. I feel the biggest problem is not corruption. It's with people. It always lies with people, within a culture. It's a collective effort. If many people are rowing in the wrong direction, the boat will go the wrong way.
   In general, the majority of people (around the world) are too consumed with greed and doing anything they can to get ahead. They don't have that much respect for anybody else. They're not considerate of others, and you can see that on the road, whether someone sits in the left lane and drives 30 miles an hour and thinks no one should pass them or whether someone is tailgating and trying to pass everybody. All these people have egos, and (when) each one thinks he's the most important person on the planet, you're going to have issues.
   I like cultures that are more respectful to others. I like cultures that cultivate pride in (one's) work and becoming a better person, a better worker, a samaritan. ... We're all too consumed with "I want this," or "I want that." Not too many people think about what's good for others, what can I do to help someone. I know it's a little like psycho-babble and that sometimes people are too busy making a living and don't want to think about helping somebody else because they can barely feed themselves. But when you always pull the blanket toward yourself, someone's going to get cold.
   What cultures do you like?
   I feel like Japanese people are more respectful. I feel like they take pride in their work. When you walk in the street, you feel like it's built for people, generations and the common good. It's not built because, "We're going to make a profit on it today," or because, "The shareholders are going to be happy."
   Even when you land in Germany, you look out the window, everything is manicured, everything is nice. They're like perfectionists. I can't say that every single German is like that. I'm sure some Germans are crazy, but I feel like they take pride in their work. I feel like when they lay tile or when they're a carpenter, it's a life trade. They wake up early, they go to work, they take pride in their work. That translates into a much more productive economy, country. In general, they're going to advance further than when they just sit on their ass, pick their nose, don't do anything and feel the world owes them. I think it's a wrong approach to life. ...
   Are you concerned or worried about global warming?
   I think people are going to mess it up way before the global warming. We're constantly having these little wars and these little sanctions on each other. We're trying to separate our little plots of land and saying, "This is mine; this is yours," "No, you keep this," "No, you give it back to me." I'm not sure if the climate is going to finish us off before we finish ourselves.
   If I have the option of trying to conserve some stuff or recycle or not use more than I need to, then I'll do it. But if someone told me that a solar or battery car is going to cost three times more than a gasoline car, of course I'm going to buy a gasoline car because I'm going to think with my (pocketbook). In the end, people always think with their (pocketbook). ...
   In general, we should not feel we're the owners of the planet. We should feel we're the guests of the planet, and as guests, we should not leave a mess behind ourselves. You make a mess, you clean it up as much as you can. We don't always have that option or have the time or energy to do it, but if guests come to stay at my house, I want them to respect my place. I think we don't do that.
   Again, we don't think about others. Generally, we just think about:"What's good for me right now, and that's what I'm going to do. The planet is going to be here for another 80 years, and I'm probably going to die in 80 years, so I might as well just turn on my car and idle for the next 20 years (laughs)."
   Did you get your philosophical outlook from reading Russian classics?
   Russian classics are generally depressing. In the U.S., all the movies sort of end on a good note. The hero struggles but prevails, and everything is great. In Russia, everyone always dies and everything is miserable, and it ends like that.
   I don't know if I got it from somewhere, but a lot of things come from analyzing it and thinking about it. In general, if you look at what you're doing and you think, OK, would you like other people to do that to you, how would you feel about it? We just have to be a little bit more considerate. When you consider something other than yourself or don't think of yourself as the middle of the universe and everything revolves around you, if you think of yourself as just part of it, then you start approaching things with a different mindset.
   It's a process and a journey. I didn't start where I am today, and I'm probably going to finish somewhere else. I'm always evolving. I think everyone has their own little journey. I'm trying to see how can I improve, and I think that's a more exciting way of approaching life. It might not be the easiest, but I think it's more rewarding when you try to improve yourself and help others than when you sit back and say everyone owes me.
   I'm not saying my way of thinking is right. It could be wrong. It's definitely not the easiest because when you're trying to be a perfectionist in a lot of things, it definitely makes life more difficult. But I can't really change myself that much.

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