Last weekend, two of the most striking events of the season in the world of cross-country skiing ended - the World Championship in Planica and the alternative tournament "Champion's Heights" in Malinovka.
In the absence of Russian skiers, competitions in Slovenia turned into a frank Scandinavian brawl.
So, in the men's part of the program, all six gold medals, plus four silver and two bronze medals, went to the Norwegian team.
Vice-champion of the Vancouver Olympics Alexander Panzhinsky, who followed the development of events, called the 2023 World Cup dull and not dynamic, and even foreign experts, surprisingly, did not argue with this.
“I think we can all agree that men's cross-country skiing is boring right now.
We have only one question: will Johannes Klebo lose.
We pray for guys like William Poromaa,” Swedish journalist Thomas Pettersson said at the height of the tournament.
Of course, a lot was expected from the Norwegian prodigy at this tournament, but not all the advances given to him by Johannes were able to justify.
The five-time Olympic champion, of course, surpassed Alexander Bolshunov in the number of awards at the world championships, having replenished his piggy bank with five awards, but he had only one victory in personal races in Planica: at the very start of the competition, he was on duty excelled in his crown sprint.
In the skiathlon, Klebo was content with silver, losing to Simen Kruger, and in the individual 15 km race he showed only the fourth result, although he started exactly after Hans Christer Holund, who eventually outstripped him by 0.9 seconds.
But perhaps the most painful for the eminent Norwegian was the defeat in the marathon, where Paul Golberg passed him at the finish line.
After the race, Johannes angrily announced that he was supposed to receive gold at the "fifty dollars" two years ago at the World Championships in Obersdorf.
Then, we recall, he finished first, but was disqualified for violating the rules against Alexander Bolshunov: overtaking an opponent, he broke his stick.
Even the coach of the Russian Yuri Borodavko remained at a loss from the fact that the Norwegian, who was supposed to become the main star of the world championship, performed rather nondescriptly.
“I'm surprised by Klebo's losses, as Johannes has shown great results before.
He spent bright, powerful races with complete dominance, and at the World Championships he is very close, but he is beaten, and very seriously, ”said the specialist.
Perhaps Klebo's problem is similar to the one that Natalya Nepryaeva faced in the conditions of forced isolation of Russian sports - a lack of motivation.
As the same Borodavko noted, the current season is not easy for the Olympic champion, because she is trying to win with “little blood” and does not find the strength to work at her maximum, no matter what.
“It’s hard to force yourself to win for a minute and a half, just to bring such a lead.
It is necessary to win - she wins by adding at the finish line, but this does not add to her high functional readiness.
We will still seriously discuss with Natalia, since this will not lead to anything good, and the recovery will be longer, ”the coach explained.
Probably, the absence of competitors in the face of the leaders of Russian skiing had a negative impact on Klebo, because he, too, in a sense, is forced to stew in his own juice, competing by and large only with compatriots.
The drop in motivation in such conditions can be called quite natural and understandable.
It will not be surprising if the Norwegians eventually begin to lose their leading positions, simply losing worthy landmarks.
“No one likes a one-sided game.
As a result, the popularity and watchability of the sport falls.
Competition generates results, and the total advantage of one single team is the path to degradation, ”said Alexander Bessmertnykh, silver medalist of the Sochi Olympics, to RT.
It is no coincidence that Holund reacted very positively to Yulia Stupak's proposal to gather several athletes from each country and jointly discuss the issue of allowing Russians to participate in international competitions.
“Dialogue is always good, so I would be ready for such a meeting,” the Norwegian said at a press conference in Planica.
A similar situation has developed in women's skiing, only there the Swedish athletes came to the fore.
They have four World Cup golds, as well as three silvers and four bronzes.
Two more medals of the highest standard went to the American Jessie Diggins and the Norwegian quartet.
And the main heroine of the World Cup was Ebba Andersson, who won the skiathlon and marathon, and also took bronze medals in the "individual" and the relay as part of the national team.
At the same time, the Swedes, in particular Lynn Swan and Jonna Sundling, are known for their tough anti-Russian position and are even ready to boycott the competition if athletes from Russia and Belarus are allowed.
According to Anastasia Faleeva, this is a short-sighted approach.
“Aren’t they bored running around among themselves?
Yes, what are you?
In sprints, Natasha Nepryaeva would have been so fluffed up now ... So they are afraid of competition.
Why do you play sports then?
- quotes the athlete "Sport-Express".
At the same time, Anastasia herself admitted that she would be glad to compete even with Norwegian, even with Swedish skiers.
Along the way, she even invited them to the "Champion's Heights".
“Let them come, we are hospitable.
We try to provide the same level of competition.
Our program is the same (as at the World Championships. -
I don’t feel somehow disadvantaged, ”Faleeva added.
After all, sport is built on competition.
It is the struggle of worthy rivals that attracts spectators and fans to the stadiums, and children to all kinds of sections, which in turn ensures the development of the sport.
Therefore, the return of Russian skiers to international starts is necessary not only for themselves, but also for their foreign opponents, no matter how some try to deny it.
This was also confirmed by the Olympic champion Yulia Stupak, who trained in Toblach on the World Cup tracks in early February.
According to her, foreign athletes approached her and admitted that they miss Russian skiers.
“From so many countries came up and said: “We want you to come back.
You are not enough at all."
I was pleased.
Therefore, she reacted very lightly to what later surfaced in the media, ”Stupak said in a commentary on Match TV.