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Vyalbe, grievances and natives: a frank interview with an Olympic medalist


In 2018, Andrey Larkov won bronze and silver at the Olympic Games in Pyeongchang, performing under a neutral flag. In an interview, he told when he would finish his career, why Alexander Bolshunov should not be interested in performing, and how the natives interfere with the development of skiing in his native region.

“If I were Bolshunov, I wouldn’t be interested”
– Do you plan to compete this season?

< br>– I plan to open my own school in Zelenodolsk. If everything works out, I will end my career and all my strength will be invested in a new business with which I connect my future. But until school is open, I will run. It became less interesting for me to compete at Russian competitions, because you know that the fight is always among 10-15 people. They are practically all equal.

– Is the excitement disappearing?

– There is always excitement at competitions, I don’t perceive sport as work. But now I don’t feel the same way about Russian competitions as before. In Zelenodolsk I’m worried about responsibility, but I calmly ran through other Russian tournaments and went home.

– Do you think Bolshunov has enough competition at domestic Russian tournaments? ?

“If I were him, I wouldn’t be interested.” But Russian skiers will not become weaker because of this. Today everyone is equal, it is decided by additional means – skis, the work of servicemen and conditions. Everyone trains almost the same, everyone has come to a method that brings results.

– How was the news about the removal of Russian skiers from international competitions received?

– I was in Tyumen at that moment, the World Cup final was supposed to take place there, when there was talk of suspension, it immediately became clear that everything was over for Russia. The guys then came from Norway, were preparing for the marathon in Holmenkollen, but they were not allowed there. Everyone quickly turned up and came to the Russian Championship. Everyone was annoyed.

– Was it offensive?

– I competed at the World Cup for quite a long time, I can’t say that I got used to it, but I spent enough time at international tournaments. So it's not so offensive. But for the guys who had just broken into the ski racing elite, of course, it was unpleasant.

– Do you feel like this is all a policy of double standards? Our athletes are suspended, but there are many other armed conflicts around the world, for example, Israel and Palestine.

– A difficult question. Perhaps this is true. I didn't delve that deeply. There is a feeling of injustice, the situation is incomprehensible.

– Other sports federations have begun to admit athletes, but with certain conditions. Would you compete as a neutral?

– At the Olympics we competed under a neutral flag, but now the situation is different. At that moment we understood that neutral status didn’t really mean anything; everyone knew what country we were from. Then everything turned out this way because of the doping scandal. Now the context is different. I think I would not agree.

“I call those invited natives”
– President of the Russian Ski Racing Federation Elena Vyalbe has said many times that she is categorically against the participation of Russian skiers in competitions without a flag and anthem.

– Elena Valerievna always expresses her thoughts quite clearly. As she said, so it will be. We must live in the situation that exists.

– Is Vyalbe afraid in the national team?

– Elena Valerievna always tells it like it is. I think they are not afraid of her, but respected.

– How do you feel about athletes who change their sports citizenship?

– They thought that it would be better for them, this is their choice. I couldn’t change it, I couldn’t even move to another region. They offered me Moscow, but it didn’t work out. There were no trainers in the republic at that time who could give good training, so I wanted to leave. But at a certain point I got sick, couldn’t come to Moscow and everything fell through.

– How do you look at the fact that Tatarstan is actively adopting skiers from other regions?
– How does this interfere with local skiers?

– The main coaches of the national team are almost all visitors, so they have their own the group is brought in from other regions. It's a very long story. I believe that it is better to raise locals and invest in them than someone from outside.


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