Ski sensation wins title while suspended for being Russian
Olympic gold medalist Natalia Nepryaeva has won ski World Cup title the big crystal globe – despite not even competing at an event in Norway because Russian athletes have been barred from competing by the International Ski Federation (FIS) because of the invasion of Ukraine.
Swedish rival Ebba Andersson and American Jessie Diggins cannot catch Nepryaeva following the race in Oslo, allowing the relay champion at the 2022 Winter Olympic Games in Beijing to absently seal the title.
“Let's not run ahead of the engine," Nepryaeva's mother, Irina, told Championat, speaking amid a plethora of sporting bodies and organizations imposing punishments on Russian athletes.
"When [Natalia] has a cup in her hands, then we will be happy. In the meantime, all this in absentia – we will not rejoice."
Yulia Chepalova, whose triumph in 2001 had made her the last Russian woman to finish top of the standings, congratulated Nepryaeva, and the head coach of the Russian national cross-country skiing team, Yuri Borodavko, told the outlet the "lord ordered" the "amazing" win.
“Natalia worked well on the Tour de Ski and created a reserve [of points] there," said Sergey Kryanin, the Vice President of the Russian Ski Racing Federation.
"Despite all the inadmissibility and difficulties, Natasha won this trophy. If it was in a fair fight, then the presentation would take place in Tyumen.
"There would be a huge hype – it would be great to get a prize at home at the final stage.
"It is a pity that the events affected the sport and we did not see the [celebration] in full – this is the most undeserved [aspect].
"It was a great season for Nepryaeva. In any case, congratulations. Let's hope that in the future our athletes will fight on equal terms with everyone and prove that we are the strongest."
The FIS said last week that its council had unanimously decided to bar Russian and Belarusian competitors from participating in competitions for the rest of the season "to ensure the safety and security of all athletes."
"The FIS Council does not take the decision lightly not to allow any athlete to participate in any competition and is only doing so in accordance with the FIS Statues, which states ‘FIS shall conduct its activities in a politically neutral manner’," it added.
"[That] is a cornerstone of the FIS values adopted by its 140 member nations.”