Russian snowboard chiefs and politicians react to FIS council snub
The president of the Russian Snowboard Federation and a Russian State Duma Deputy have reacted after their compatriot Elena Vyalbe was not re-elected to the International Ski Federation's (FIS) council.
A congress of the global ski authority held in Milan and online saw the three-time Olympic Champion and Executive Committee member of the Russian Olympic Committee (ROC) snubbed as promised by the likes of Sweden, Poland and Finland.
A total of 23 candidates sought to claim one of the 18 FIS Council spots on offer, and with Vyalbe overlooked, Russian Snowboard Federation President Denis Tikhomirov branded the rejection political.
"I'm upset that Elena was not re-elected," Tikhomirov confessed to Match TV, saying that the development was "connected to politics".
"This is the wrong decision. I hoped that she would be re-elected," Tikhomirov added.
As relayed by the same outlet, Match TV, Russian State Duma Deputy Dmitry Svishchev called the move a "strategic mistake" that would come at a cost to skiing.
"This is a strategic mistake," began Svishchev. "Vyalbe is the person who develops skiing and sports, [who] opens schools. This is a well-deserved person with unquestioned authority in the world of sports.
"Russia is a big market for the development of skiing, and now the FIS is essentially breaking those ties," he pointed out, with it still unclear "whether the federation will be able to restore these ties later".
"Apparently, some representatives of the FIS did not vote because of fear or because of anti-Russian hysteria. But by not electing Vyalba to the governing bodies, FIS causes great damage to skiing," Svishchev finished.
Though Sweden, Poland and Finland announced they would not back Vyalbe's campaign after she made comments in support of President Vladimir Putin and the military operation in Ukraine in April, Vyalbe refused to step down.
"As for me, I will go for the time being as a member of the FIS Council, I will participate in the elections and I myself am not going to act," she told Russian media earlier in May.
"I think that it is not necessary to mix everything and everything, this is wrong. Of course, I understand that I will have opponents who do not want to see me on the FIS Council, but there will also be those who want to see me there," she claimed.
Earlier in March, Vyalbe, who is also the head of the Russian Cross-Country Skiing Federation, said that foreign rivals would one day apologize for their "Russophobia" when they realize they have behaved inappropriately, and she also suggested that her country merely needs to ride out the widespread sporting sanctions currently placed on it.
"The question of the attitude of foreign athletes to Russian ones is quite individual. All athletes, by and large, are dependent people," said the 53-year-old to Rossiya 24.
"I understand that politics and sports have been together for a long time, but everyone should still do their own thing," Vyalbe stressed, additionally saying that "there will be order everywhere in the world" if athletes and politicians stick to their own trades.
"This general Russophobia, which, unfortunately... We just need to get through this time. I am sure that we will see how these people will apologize.
"They will say: ‘Yes, guys, we didn’t know much, they didn’t tell us much, we now learned and, of course, we are ashamed of our actions,” Vyalbe finished.
After the global body acted on an International Olympic Committee (IOC) recommendation, the FIS announced on March 1 that Russians will not be able to compete in any of its events through the 2021-2022 season.