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19 Apr, 2022 18:13

Ski boss denies Olympic champ planned Putin snub

Social media speculation claimed Denis Spitsov had declined a meeting with the president
Ski boss denies Olympic champ planned Putin snub

Leading figures in Russian cross-country skiing have denied social media claims that Beijing 2022 gold medalist Denis Spitsov was planning to snub President Vladimir Putin.

A message circulating on Telegram alleged that Spitsov, who helped the Russian team win the 4 x 10km relay at the Beijing Winter Olympics and bagged a silver in the 30km skiathlon, would not attend a traditional meeting between Putin and his country's Olympians. 

But the president of the Russian Ski Association, Elena Vyalbe, refuted the rumors in comments to Metaratings.

"This person wrote [this] on his Telegram channel, and many reposted [it]. You need to call the author and ask where he got all this from, [and] from what source," Vyalbe stressed.

"But there is no author there, there is a Telegram channel to which everyone refers. This information is, of course, incorrect.

"Denis, like many athletes, is now in quarantine and is preparing for the award ceremony which will be held on the 24th [of April], and I don’t understand why unknown people are writing something there, also in quotation marks. I wonder where they got this information from," Vyalbe pondered.

To RIA Novosti, Russian national cross-country skiing team head coach Yury Borodavko also confirmed that Spitsov, 25, was in quarantine ahead of the meeting and suggested that whoever "wrote this about Denis" should be "deprived of accreditations and everything else."

"They also have to apologize, because the information is absolutely unverified.

"I repeat, you need to apologize to the athlete for this. As for the meeting with the president, everything is fine, Denis is preparing for it, everything is as it was," Borodavko finished.

Russian cross-country skiers enjoyed great success at Beijing 2022 with a record nine medals, which was the highest of any Russian team in Olympic Games history.

As the 4 x 10km men's team scooped top honors, Spitsov's colleague in the discipline Alexander Bolshunov won two more golds in the 30km skiathlon, where Spitsov claimed silver, and the 50km mass start.

Russia's cross-country skiing success helped the ROC to finish ninth in the Beijing medal table but second only to Norway (37) in terms of overall medals on 32.

President Putin has thus far been unable to personally congratulate the stars of the competition as well as Russia's Paralympians, who were barred from the Beijing Winter Paralympics due to the conflict in Ukraine. 

On Monday, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov insisted that Putin had not forgotten about the special ceremony which traditionally sees him fete his country's athletes.

“Let’s not get ahead of ourselves, we will inform you in due course [about a meeting]," Peskov told reporters.

“I can only say that this meeting has not taken place so far, but this doesn’t mean that the president has forgotten, he will definitely hold such a meeting.”

While the Winter Olympics finished on February 20, Russia's military offensive in Ukraine began four days later.

Russian skiing officials suggested in March that the ceremony might be held on April 6, but that date passed without any official news.

As Vyalbe noted, it now appears that the meeting will go ahead on April 24.