Russian Ski Racing Federation (FLGR) President Elena Vyalbe for the first time loudly outlined the position regarding the possible transitions of athletes to other countries. All our skiers will definitely stay in the country, and this is great news.
The situation with the removal of Russia from international competitions made some athletes think about changing their citizenship. As a rule, they motivated this by the fact that a career in sports is short, and they did not want to waste time in isolation. There were many such “escapes” last year – cyclist Pavel Sivakov decided to compete for France, track and field athlete Sardana Trofimova will represent Kyrgyzstan.
In chess, there is a flow at all. Alina Kashlinskaya changed the Russian flag to the Polish one, Evgeny Romanov will now defend the colors of Norway, and the most notorious departure to another country at the moment, perhaps, was the transition of the world champion Alexandra Kosteniuk under the Swiss wing. And these are just some of the examples.
But there will definitely not be any body movements in cross-country skiing. But this is the sport that brought Russia the most medals at the last Winter Olympics in Beijing. The whole country rejoiced at the victories of Alexander Bolshunov, Natalia Nepryaeva and our other top skiers. Vyalbe put an end to the conversations about possible transitions.
"At the moment, no one has applied to either the federation or the association. If one of the members of the Russian team now decides that he wants to leave the country, I will definitely not sign such a paper for anyone. Because without us, he won't be able to compete there. Everyone knows this procedure – first, two countries must agree among themselves, then they write the FIS paper, and they must accept this and put the code not of the Russian one, but of another country. When it comes to children, situations are different. Perhaps the parents can go somewhere. There is unlikely to be an obstacle on my part,” Vyalbe said during the broadcast on the channel “Skiing”.
There is no point in leaving. For the first time, the head of a large Russian sports federation makes such a statement. Previously, no one dared to prohibit transitions and changes of citizenship. Do not be surprised that it was Vyalbe who became the pioneer. Elena Valerievna has earned a reputation as a leader who keeps everything under strict control. By and large, she brought Russian cross-country skiing to the level that we all saw at the last two Olympics and several world championships.
Vyalba managed to build a system that works and brings results. Bolshunov and Nepryaeva became the owners of the Big Crystal Globes. At the Beijing 2022 Games, out of 32 medals of our team, 11 were won by skiers. And if you look at the number of gold medals, the statistics are even more revealing. Four of the six gold medals were won by the cross-country skiing team. It is clear that Vyalbe does not want to let anyone go to other countries in such situations.
The head of the FLGR probably understands that the sanctions against her wards will be lifted after some time. Moreover, there is absolutely no competition in cross-country skiing without Russia. It's nice that the athletes themselves have not yet given any reasons and have not declared their intention to flee the country.