Ski boss boycotts media over claims ‘Russians shouldn’t be in Beijing’
The president of the Russian Ski Association, Elena Vyalbe, has declared a boycott against Norwegian media after news outlet NRK published a provocative article saying Russian athletes shouldn’t have been cleared to compete at the Beijing Games.
The three-time Olympic champion demanded a public apology from the outlet, which she said had simply tried to find an excuse for their skiers’ failure in the 30km men's skiathlon won by Russian star Alexander Bolshunov on Sunday.
“I have announced a boycott of the Norwegian mass media. They came to me after the sprint races, I told them everything that I think. I will not talk to them anymore,” Vyalbe said.
“They have violated all thinkable and unthinkable laws. Neither I nor my athletes have ever reminded them about disqualifications of their athletes, which were many. Why don’t we talk about them?” Vyalbe fumed.
“I was shocked (by the article). That’s why, no! That’s enough. I want public apologies. Some narrow-minded people simply wrote a clickbait to cover up their failure in the opening race. I can’t react calmly to that,” she concluded.
The opening race in the Olympic cross-country skiing program was won by a big margin by Bolshunov, who claimed his first Olympic title.
The 25-year-old finished more than one minute ahead of countryman Denis Spitsov as they completed a Russian Olympic Committee (ROC) double, ahead of Finland’s Iivo Niskanen in third.
It was a disappointing day for winter sports powerhouse Norway at the Zhangjiakou National Cross-Country Skiing Center, as their best-placed finisher was Hans Christer Holund in fourth, followed by Paal Golberg in fifth – although both men were more than two-and-a-half minutes behind Bolshunov.
Norway star Johannes Klaebo surprisingly came in 40th, almost nine minutes behind Bolshunov.
Commenting on the results of the race, Norwegian journalist Jan Petter Saltvedt, who works for outlet NRK, responded with bitterness by saying that Russians should not have been allowed to compete in Beijing.
“Alexander Bolshunov took as much gold as he could. The only problem is that he and the other Russian athletes should never have been on the starting line in this Olympics,” Saltvedt wrote on NRK.
Russian Olympic Committee (ROC) team member Veronica Steponava, who took part in the women’s sprint two days ago, also reacted to the article, accusing Saltvedt of trying to “kick her and her country out of the Olympics.”
“Mr. Saltvedt, you really don't want to see me at the Olympics, do you? Sorry for taking it personally, but you seem to want to deny me the right to participate in the Games because you somehow concluded it's ‘unfair’? Unfair to whom, may I ask?” she wrote.
“Perhaps you should come and run here in Zhangjiakou instead of me. Sure it would please the NRK viewers immensely. Oh, sorry – NRK seems to have lost the battle for the rights to show the Olympics. Are you trying to compensate for that by being so loud?....
“I actually wrote this a couple of days ago and then changed my mind, decided not to publish this. Not to stir. But then I noticed that Mr. Saltvedt just wouldn't give up – and thought: Why am I keeping quiet when someone is so busy arguing for kicking my country & me out of the Olympics?”
Russian athletes are competing in Beijing without their national flag and anthem as a result of sanctions imposed by WADA for alleged manipulations of information at a Moscow Anti-doping laboratory.