Yelena Välbe was always known for her bold, no compromise performance on the ski tracks – the one that earned her 3 Olympic champion titles and incredible fourteen golds at the FIS World Championships.
Now, running the Russian Cross Country Ski Federation and being the member of FIS cross country skiing Executive Board, she seem to have lost none of her fiery style.
In interview with the Russian R-Sport new agency, she totally doesn’t shy away from calling a spade a spade – the quality that earned her both admiration and scorn from ski fans.
Here are some of the choicer excerpts:
On the future of Skiathlon:
“It’s the smaller ski nations that are interested in kicking the skiathlon out of the World Championships’ program. It’s both complicated and expensive for them to prepare the tracks for the skiathlon. I would’n want to see that happening. Moreover, I believe that race formats that are forming part of the Olympic and World Championship programs, should become a part of the World Cup race program and national competitions as well”
On Sergey Ustiugov ( who’s been absent lately from the team training at Dachstein)
” He’s got an injury – not new, but not too old either: Sergey is not a kind of guy who would bite the bullet and ignore the pain till it’s too late. Anyhow, he can’t run – but could ski no problem. I hope, his season would not be affected.”
On Alexander Legkov
“ Sasha ( diminutive from Alexander) wasn’t too good at the Olympics in Turin and Vancouver. And I’m not sure he would have won in Sochi either, were it not for Isabel Knauthe, knowing his personality He needs both a carrot and a stick to perform at his best. His long-time coach, Yuri Borodavko was a stick – and so was I. Isabel, by contrast, wasn’t only organizing the whole training process for him – she turned out to be a very good psychologist. She figured out how to support the sportsman – and how to deliver criticisms gently. BTW, there are many still who are reproaching me for my critical words about Legkov – as far as I am concerned, I have a right to say what I deem necessary”
On Johannes Høsflot Klæbo
“I’m really looking forward to watching how Klæbo, the new Norwegian star, would run this season. He’s more of sprinter, but also runs distance races – an incredible sportsman, very special, with his own approach to the classic skiing technique. Many got their mouths open in awe looking at him. It turns out, one could “run” on skis literally, the way we run on foot. It was a total revelation for me, I never saw anything like that before. I also think the Norwegian would become yet another sportsman who shall prove that one does not have to specialize in sprint exclusively to win – even if you’re very good at it.”
“ People tend to take my remarks very sensitively, even panicking. There was a case when I told a skier: “ Tomorrow everything is in your legs” – and he, as it turns out, could not fall asleep all night because of that. One simply should not be in elite sport with such a fragile mental state”
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