MOSCOW (Reuters) - Sergei Ovchinnikov, who coached the Russian women’s volleyball team at the London Olympics, was found dead on Wednesday, prompting speculation that he committed suicide. He was 43.
“Sergei Ovchinnikov suddenly passed away at the team’s (pre-season) training camp in Croatia,” Ovchinnikov’s club team Dynamo Moscow said on their website (www.vldinamo.ru), without giving details of the cause of death.
Croatian state news agency Hina quoted a police spokesman as saying a foreign citizen had been found dead in a hotel in the city of Porec without giving his identity.
“The circumstances are still being investigated,” Valter Opasic told Hina.
Croatian media reported that the Russian coach committed suicide in his hotel room by hanging himself.
The Russian Volleyball Federation (RVF) declined to comment on the cause of Ovchinnikov’s death.
“We are still gathering more information and until we get all the facts, we won’t comment,” RVF press officer Irina Zolotova said.
Ovchinnikov was appointed national team coach last December and guided Russia through qualification for the 2012 Olympics.
In London, the powerful Russian team, who won back-to-back world titles in 2006 and 2010, were considered leading medal contenders but lost in the quarter-finals to eventual winners Brazil after squandering six match points.
Russian media heavily criticized Ovchinnikov for the Olympic failure, saying his lack of top-level international experience was the main reason for losing to Brazil.
“I could see his reaction after that loss,” Vladimir Alekno, who led the Russian men’s volleyball team to the Olympic gold medal in London, was quoted as saying by local media.
“He took it very personally. He was very hard on himself, probably blamed himself for not winning that match.”
However, Ovchinnikov’s agent, Yegor Nozdrin, said personal problems might have led to his client’s death.
“There was absolutely no reason for what happened from a sporting point of view,” Nozdrin told the daily Sovietsky Sport.
“He was thinking of continuing his coaching career, discussing his future plans before leaving for Croatia. I think it had to do with some personal things in his life.”
Ovchinnikov is survived by his wife and two children.
Reporting By Gennady Fyodorov; Additional reporting by Igor Ilic in Zagreb, editing by Ed Osmond