Senior coach of the Russian cross-country skiing team Yuri Borodavko told in an interview with Sport when he will start three-time Olympic champion Alexander Bolshunov, why gender equality in cross-country skiing is beautiful only in words and how to resist the world that has turned against Russia.
Bolshunov does not train fully
– What shape is Bolshunov in now after his summer injury?
– The injury is quite serious and it takes quite a long time to recover from it. Gradually we started more rigorous training, he can already do interval work. But in the same way we will look at the MRI results, what condition the hernia is in and then make a decision.
– It is in full training?
– No, not in full. There are restrictions on running, all jumping training, strength exercises and speed work.
– Will he be able to compete at the first stage of the Russian Cup in Khakassia?
– We will also make a decision depending on the condition, on what we see on the MRI. Alexander Bolshunov will most likely miss the test starts in Khanty-Mansiysk.
– Does the fact that his parents live in danger affect him? (Bolshunov is from the village of Podyvotye, Bryansk region, which is 2 km from the border with Ukraine – approx.).
– Everything is fine in his emotional state, and it’s better to tell you the details himself Alexander.
– Is it difficult to equip and update skis due to sanctions?
– Everything we have is foreign, we don’t give up on sponsors, we have all the minimum amount of equipment. But still, of course, there is no such level of inventory as we received before. Thanks to a set of skis from previous years, we are getting out of this situation. We are trying to maintain contact with ski companies.
Vyalbe recommends, but does not impose
– So far, the exclusion from international competitions for Russian skiers is in effect, but other federations have begun to carefully admit athletes, but in a neutral status. Why did no one object to neutral status during the Olympics in 2018 and 2022, but now they are categorically against it?
– You need to clearly understand what neutral status is in 2018 and neutral status now. All federations and the IOC itself have changed the requirements. If we look at the requirements, the athlete must not depend on the state and must not serve. All this discredits us, making us refugees and traitors. I don't think any medals are worth it. When they remember the champions and medalists of the Olympic Games, no one says that they were neutral athletes, everyone says that they were Russian athletes. The conditions were still acceptable then, but what is happening now… Today's conditions cannot be met simply for ethical reasons.
– What is the mood of the national team due to the suspension for the upcoming season? Is there apathy and decreased motivation?
– Almost everyone has a decreased motivation. This is obvious, we are trying to fight it, we organize competitions of a high level and quality. The state is meeting us halfway in terms of the prize fund.
– Have the skiers lost a lot financially?
– First of all, the leaders who competed at the top at the World Cup and Olympic Games lost. And everyone else just purchased. Now the prize money at Russian competitions is greater than before. Therefore, many only benefited from this situation.
– Elena Vyalbe has said many times that she is categorically against skiers competing in competitions without a flag and anthem. Will the president of the federation ruin his career with such statements?
– Firstly, she doesn’t forbid anyone. Each person can have their own opinion, and she expresses hers. She recommends and does not impose. In cross-country skiing, I haven't heard anyone talk about moving to another country either. We have practically no people who are ready to fulfill the requirements of the IOC, since, like throughout the world, sport is supported by law enforcement agencies. Many members of the national team are in uniform, some can connect their lives with this after sports. Therefore, for our athletes this is an obstacle to complying with the requirements of the IOC.
We also see that the International Olympic Committee shares the situations in Russia and Israel. This is pure discrediting of Russian athletes; it is clear that everything is directed specifically against us. There are no Olympic ideals left, this is pure politics.
– Aren’t you offended by the policy of double standards?
– It’s not offensive, we just understand more and more why all this happens to us. We see this not only in sports, but also in politics and business. Everything that happens in the world leads to the collapse of democratic values and is pushing us closer and closer to confrontation and the Third World War.
– Have you felt such pressure in sports before?
– This has always been the case. Our country has always been feared and disliked, so nothing shocked us. In the early 2000s, the warming was noticeable, we had very good relations with many foreign athletes, coaches, federations, but politics intervened and ruined everything.
– You don’t think that international Are competitions becoming less interesting? Are Norwegians getting bored?
– No, not boring. The same Finnish, Swedish and German skiers are rubbing their hands and are very happy with the situation.
– Can their medals be called full without competition with Russian skiers?
– Of course. In just a few years, no one will remember that there were no Russians at the starts. This is only interesting to us; foreigners don’t even think about it. For them, we are a headache, a stress, they don’t want to lose. But the audience was just interested in watching the competition. The viewability of the stages of the World Cup and the Olympic Games was at a high level, but now all views have dropped very much. This suggests that ordinary people vote with a button.
– Do you have hope that we will be able to go to the Winter Olympics in 2026?
– All wars are early or ends late, so the time will come when we will return to the international stage. In terms of preparation, we are only thinking about 2026. Our entire training calendar is built with a focus on the Olympics.
– FIS has approved the same distance lengths for men and women at the World Cup and World Ski Championships. This will happen at the Olympics in 2026. How do you feel about this?
– Gender equality on paper sounds nice, but for girls to run a distance of 50 km… The bulk of all competitors are young athletes, girls who are 20 years old, and It will be very difficult for them to run on the hardest routes, for example in Norway. This is a very serious test that only a few can cope with. The level of loss from the leaders will be simply catastrophic; there can be no talk of any beauty in cross-country skiing.
– If we talk about distances of 10 and 20 km?
– Same story. This will be a serious test for young girls.
– Will these rules be implemented at Russian competitions to prepare athletes for the new format?
– We simply must do this. From this year, more races for men and women will be according to the new regulations with the same distances.