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8 Aug, 2022 10:57

Olympic skiing champion discusses Western ‘masochism’

Russia's Veronika Stepanova spoke out after missing the prestigious Blink festival in Norway
Olympic skiing champion discusses Western ‘masochism’

Russian Olympic champion cross-country skier Veronika Stepanova has said she is patiently waiting for a “sense of reality to return to the West” so that it lifts the sporting bans imposed on her and her compatriots at international competitions.

Stepanova, 21, was one of the sensations of the Beijing Winter Olympics earlier this year as she anchored the Russian team to a brilliant gold medal in the 4x5 km women’s relay.

But Stepanova and her fellow Russians have since been sidelined by the blanket ban imposed by skiing authorities the FIS because of the conflict in Ukraine.

Never one to shy away from making her feelings clear, Stepanova discussed the situation in a social media post following the conclusion of the prestigious ‘Blink’ rollerski competition in the Norwegian city of Sandnes.

Also known as ‘Blinkfestivalen’, the annual summer event typically gathers some of the world’s best cross-country and biathlon talent for the start of the rollerski season – although this year Russians such as Stepanova were absent.

The former world junior champion lamented the current state of affairs, but suggested the West would come to its senses sooner or later.

“Another Blink sports festival has ended. This is an ‘alternative world championship’ – in any case, most of the best skiers come to Sandnes in Norway every year,” Stepanova wrote on her Telegram channel.

“Usually, they invite the current champions and prize-winners of the Olympic Games, the World Cup, plus, of course, the Norwegian team.

“I was called last year as the current junior world champion. This year neither me nor other Russian athletes were invited. But they expressed regret and hope to see us in the near future.

“And to the actual question: do they want to ‘cancel’ Russian athletes in Europe, and if so, for how long?” asked Stepanova. 

“Western politicians and, in part, sports functionaries are one thing, but competition organizers, equipment manufacturers and athletes are quite another.

“I’m calmly preparing and waiting until a sense of reality returns to the West and cures their current masochism,” concluded the Kamchatka-born star.

Having initially said Russian and Belarusian athletes could compete under neutral status, the FIS performed a U-turn in early March and imposed a blanket ban on the two nations while stripping them of all events under its auspices.

That followed an International Olympic Committee (IOC) recommendation as well as specific pressure from the likes of rival skiing powerhouse Norway.

After a meeting of the FIS Council in July, the organization announced that its current policy “will remain in force through the summer season,” but that it would “revisit the topic in the Autumn as the situation in the Ukraine evolves.”