On February 26, the Norwegian Ski Association (NSA) issued a statement stating that in light of the country’s recent invasion of Ukraine, Russian participation was not welcome in the upcoming sprint races of the World Cup in Dramman or the Holmenkollen distance races outside Oslo. . In addition to these cross-country events, Norway is expected to host alpine skiing, Nordic combined and ski jumping competitions, including the Ski Flying World Championships in Vikersund.
A press release shared by Norwegian news source NRK said: “The board of the Norwegian Ski Association today discussed the situation related to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and how this affects the upcoming World Cup races. world and the world championship in Norway. Norwegian skiing The Association’s message to Russia and to Russian athletes is clear; We do not want their participation!
NSA President Erik Røste told NRK that a request had been made to the International Ski Federation (FIS) to officially ban the Russian programme’s participation, but on Saturday the FIS had taken no action to comply with the request, pointing to the manager instead. cancellation of remaining FIS events held in Russia.
“The attack on the Ukrainian people and the great suffering of which we see images now, sport cannot remain passive and be neutral”, Røste said of the request. “Therefore, the board of the Norwegian Ski Association has made it clear that this must have consequences beyond what has already been decided. Therefore, we will send a clear and distinct signal to the FIS indicating that we do not want Russia and Russian athletes to compete in Norway in the coming weeks.”
Ultimately, it is up to the FIS board of directors whether Russia will be allowed to participate in the other World Cup events. A NRK response received via email today declared:
“The FIS Board of Directors has been clear in its approach to Russian athletes in all FIS competitions. To ensure fair and inclusive competition at all FIS events, National Federations and local organizers should not exclude athletes on the grounds of gender, race, nationality or sexual orientation.
As such, no Russian athlete or coach has been refused entry to Norway, and Stefan Marx, general manager of the Holmenkollen ski festival, said there was little more organizers could do to prevent Russian participation in the events.
“We have to let them participate,” Marx told NRK. “Those who FIS and the Norwegian Ski Association believe should be allowed to participate. We do not have the power to refuse anyone to participate, but we have supported the position of the Ski Association and the Norwegian Ski Association. “Sports Association. It’s up to the FIS or the authorities to decide, but we are clear in our support for the Ski Association’s proposal that Russian athletes are not wanted because of the violations of international law that have been committed.
After flying in from Helsinki after the World Cup races in Lahti, Russian teams began arriving in Norway. Pressed by the media on his arrival, World Cup distance leader and favorite for the next 50km classic at Holmenkollen, Alexander Bolshunov chose to remain silent. NRK has however received comments from several Russian coachesincluding head coach Marcus Cramer who believed sport and politics should be kept separate.
“What do sports and athletes have to do with this situation? It’s really difficult. I’m just sad that the Norwegian association thinks like that. We have really good communication between us. With everyone who works there. It’s sad to hear that, especially when they report it to the press and not to us first,” Cramer said.
Another Russian coach, Jegor Sorin, who had worked at the Junior/U23 World Championships in Lygna, NOR and was planning to join the Russian team in Oslo, echoed that Russian athletes should not be held responsible for the
“I am very upset that the Norwegian association wants this,” Sorin told NRK. “I can understand that nobody wants to go to Tyumen for the World Cup, but I don’t know what happens to us… We are Russian athletes. We are here, we are not in any war. We are athletes, not soldiers. Maybe they think we have guns. We want peace and for me that is very strange.
While Russian coaches have focused on a separation between sport and politics, others have emphasized the direct links between sporting success and military reconnaissance. Used as an example, Bolshunov and Denis Spitsov were promoted to captain in the Russian National Guard in recognition of their success at the 2022 Olympics. Bolshunov, who has won a medal in each of his nine Olympic appearances, including three gold medals in Beijing, received additional honors in the form of the Alexander Nevsky Order, given in recognition of “special service to the Fatherland”.
FIS head of cross-country committee, Vegard Ulvang told NRK“Russian athletes are [military] officers. This makes the symbolic value [of their participation] even bigger.
A similar statement was made by world athlete representative and former US Ski Team athlete Noah Hoffman.
“While I feel for individual athletes, all Russian skiers should be banned from the FIS Cross Country World Cup for the remainder of the season,” Hoffman tweeted. “Their results are used to stoke nationalism and strengthen the Russian state. Allowing them to compete helps Russia. #StandWithUkraine.
Ulvang is asking for a stronger answer of the Norwegian Ski Federation, suggesting that they give up the FIS World Cup status of the events at Holmenkollen in order to gain the authority to ban Russian participation.
Jan Petter Saltvedt, sports commentator for NRK, described Ulvang’s statements as a “moral ultimatum”.
“Ulvang demands an open rebellion by the NSF against its own superiors”, Saltvedt said. “And he should get it.” Vegard Ulvang puts so much pressure on the Norwegian Ski Association that they can’t help but act… At the same time, he expresses a very strong and clear criticism of the FIS, of which he himself is one powerful leaders of the committee, but still does not. feel that it is heard at all.
Norwegian athletes who were asked for comment gave mixed responses, often acknowledging the complexity of the issue and whether athletes themselves should be responsible for government decisions.
Among those who have a clear position, Erik Valnes spoke to refuse Russian participation. “There is a heavy symbolism in there. It would send a signal. Since [Bolshunov] East [a captain of the Russian National Guard], they have already mixed sports and politics in a way. It’s difficult. It is a pity that this is so. »
Johannes Høsflot Klæbo also spoke out in support of the NSA urging the FIS to remove Russian athletes from competition.
“As an athlete you want the best to start with. We train all year to compete and then you want the best to go,” Klaebo told NRK. “At the same time, I support the attitude of the ski association now. There is no doubt about what is happening in Ukraine, and Russia must be condemned. I strongly condemn it and I think it is good that the association takes a stand.
Therese Johaug acknowledged that the athletes may not have been directly involved in Russia’s military actions, speaking instead of their role in representing their country through sport.
“I feel sorry for the athletes, first of all I understand that they have nothing to do with it”, Thérèse Johaug told NRK after narrowly winning the Lahti 10k Classic on the Russian Natalia Nepryaeva. “But on the other hand, I think that’s completely wrong. They face their country and the flag both on their chest and on their forehead. And that a country should also ravage the sporting arena and fight for victories and face his country in the situation we find ourselves in – I think that is completely wrong.
The position is not unanimous within the Norwegian team. Sindre Bjørnestad Skar, who took third place Lahti Free Sprintspoke about the injustice towards Russian athletes.
“Of course, I’m 100% against everything that’s happening between Russia and Ukraine right now. It’s completely inconceivable. But I also don’t think that the fact that they have a Russian passport means that they should be punished and deprived of the opportunity to do their job. In a way, I think it’s also a bit unfair,” Skar said. says NRK.
So far, no other changes in Russian participation have been reported. FasterSkier will continue to follow this story as it unfolds over the next few days. The World Cup classic sprint races are currently scheduled in Drammen on Thursday, with the women’s 30km mass start classic in Oslo on Saturday March 5, followed by the men’s 50km on Sunday.