The president of the Russian Ski Association, Elena Vyalbe, has said she “doesn’t give a damn” whether on-track clashes between skiers help raise the profile of ski sports if Russian athletes are unfairly deprived of gold medals.
Vyalbe reacted emotionally to the suggestion that a heated set-to between the Norwegian star Johannes Klaebo and Russian champion Alexander Bolshunov, which occurred at the finish of the men’s 50km race, might have helped to attract more fans to the sport.
She emphasized that she didn’t care about the sport’s popularity because the Russian had lost the chance of winning the marathon as a result of Klaebo’s transgressions.
“I don’t give a damn what popularity it might raise, when Bolshunov was denied a chance to win gold,” Vyalbe said.
“What difference does it make, if Sasha finishes second or third? It doesn’t matter! There is no gold medal – this is important,” she added.
The Russian Ski Association head was referring to the incident that took place at the end of the men’s prestigious marathon at the world championships, when Klaebo, who was following Bolshunov, made an illegal move to impede Bolshunov while passing him on the final straight.
As a result, Bolshunov, who had been leading the race, broke his ski pole and finished third behind Klaebo and his compatriot, Emil Iversen.
Klaebo was disqualified minutes later for obstruction, with Iversen being upgraded to gold while Bolshunov took silver.