Elena Vyalbe just got an important additional job. To her exisiting titles of the chairwoman of the Russian cross country ski federation (since 2010) and the senior coach of the national team (since 2012) she adds the one of a chairwoman of the whole Russian Ski Association (RSA).
RSA is an umbrella organization that includes four sports federations that act rather independently: Alpine Skiing & Snowboard, Freestyle, Ski Jumping & Nordic Combined and, of course, Cross-Country Ski. This is a standard national organizational chart, in a way mimicking the FIS’ own structure.
National Association president title carries not just a lot of prestige, but quite a bit of weight as well – NA presidents are the ones who officially represent their countries in the International Ski Federation (FIS) .
As an athlete Vyalbe won 3 gold Olympic medals and 14 golds at the World Championships, including unprecedented and still unbeaten five-out-of-five in Trondheim in 1997, making her one of the most decorated skiers ever.
She is an absolute legend & quite a bit of a celebrity in Russia through combination of recent results of her team and high media profile. Vyalbe is known to be passionate in defense of “her” skiers, straightforward yet highly respected in international skiing circles.
Equally, Vyalbe is famous for her unvarnished comments regarding athletes – including her own ( e.g. “ In the relay Ustyugov looked like a zero after 6k” ). Clearly, some fans hate that directness – others love it. Some say that when Russia’s Channel One considered restarting broadcasting of cross country skiing, their condition was Vyalbe commenting on air at least some of the races.