Russian volleyball has been thrown into mourning after the death of three-time Olympic medalist Vadim Khamuttskikh, who passed away on New Year’s Eve at the age of 52.
Winning silver with the Russian team at the 2000 Olympics in Sydney, Khamuttskikh additionally scooped bronze at the 2004 Games in Athens and the 2008 Games in Beijing.
Khamuttskikh also won silver at the 2007 European Championships in Moscow, where he was also named Best Setter across the tournament.
Leading the tributes was Gennady Shipulin, vice-president of the All-Russian Volleyball Federation and ex-Belogorie head coach.
“Khamuttskikh was a big figure for Russian volleyball,” he said to Sport-Express.
“This was a very strong personality. A wonderful person and player. He did not spare himself, [and] played without compromise, to the end. Khamutskikh always gave his best. We grieve, we grieve, we cry. This is a very big loss,” Shipulin said.
Speaking to Eurosport, 2012 London gold medalist Maxim Mikhailov spoke of “the unexpected and shocking news” after recently seeing a “healthy and happy-looking” Khamuttskikh, who was his teammate in Beijing.
“He is truly a legend. More than one generation grew up on his game, including me – on that famous Belogorie [team], which did not lose at all,” he added.
“Vadim was very charismatic in the Russian national team, he always played the main role, wherever he was. I played with him in the club when I was still very young, and he at the end of his career.
“One could feel his support: he was such a kind person, despite the difference in age, he supported and helped the young, he was a dad.“
Shipulin told the press that Khamuttskikh’s cause of death was a cardiac arrest.
“Vadim had a cardiac arrest right before the New Year. We lost him. He was a wonderful guy, we all loved him – the whole city of Belgorod, the whole country,” he told RIA Sport.
In addition to his Olympics exploits, Khamuttskikh won the 1999 World Cup and 2002 World League.
For his club, he was a seven-time Russian champion and six-time winner of the National Cup while also excelling on the continent by claiming the Champions League twice and the European Volleyball Confederation Cup once.
But as commentator Vladimir Stetsko pointed out to Match TV, a “man who served military service should not have had any volleyball career.
“Due to his character, [and] crazy desire, he managed to achieve everything practically from scratch.
“He served in the construction battalion, [and] was a liquidator at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant.
“We admire such people, but we didn’t feel sorry for them. After that he was able to become an outstanding player,” Stetsko further noted.