- After winning the classic sprint at the Russian Championships, you said that you became a completely different person compared to the Games in Beijing. What's the difference?

– Motivation and summer training. These are probably the two most compelling reasons. I feel it even in my own movements, They have become different.

- Others, worse in terms of?

- Yes, it's worse. Maybe it won't be too nice for me to talk about other girls, but I don't see any increases in anyone," to be honest.

- Maybe this is due to the fact that in the post-Olympic season there is almost always a certain decline?

- Maybe that's who he is. And I hope that in the future I will be able to return to the previous condition. I really hope so.

- I remember well my own condition after I won the Olympic Games. It was impossible to pause in Soviet times, because in this case three others immediately stood in your place, but the desire to at least temporarily get away from everything related to training and performances was completely unbearable.

- I didn't have that. There is still motivation, a desire to achieve even more. But there is no inner sporting anger. Therefore, sometimes it is difficult to gather yourself and set yourself up for the race.

"After such stunning successes as winning the Olympic Games, it is sometimes impossible to realize this. Understanding what you actually did often comes only after a few months.

- I can't say that about myself. Maybe that's what happens when you go out to a race and you don't expect to win. As it was in the "butchering" of a very young girl Alina Pekletsova. She even said in an interview that she could not understand anything at all. And when you prepare to win the Games all your career, you go to the start with one goal. Of course, in such cases, understanding immediately comes.

- And if we talk about winning the World Cup?

- It was more complicated than that. Dasha, my sister, still remembers how I went home almost with tears in my eyes, almost sure that now I will definitely not be able to stay at the head of the overall standings. I set myself up for this internally. I was angry, of course, but pretty quickly managed to get it all out of my head. Some marathons commercial started running. And all of a sudden, I'm like, Natasha, you've won! It was cool, yeah.

- When was the Olympic season coming to an end, and it was already known that Russian athletes were suspended from international competitions and, perhaps, for a long time, did not think to end their careers?

- No way.

- Why? You collected all the titles you could last year.

- Because I don't think it's time for me to finish. I don't feel like I ran over. When I begin to understand that my body can no longer give such results that I would be satisfied with, I will begin to think about changing something in my life.

— You said about the lack of competitive motivation, but in addition to this, you need to force yourself to tune in to training.

- Globally, I have no problems with motivation. She just became different. Self-love came to the fore: why should I lose to anyone?

- Well, you don't lose. Almost.

So you said the key word: "Almost." It's most frustrating when it's almost. In addition, the hope that we will return is sitting in my head. And you need to return with dignity, in good shape. If I don't work the way I'm used to, can you imagine the state I'll be back in? This is also very motivating. And how else to keep yourself in shape, except for not heavy training and racing.

- Yulia Stupak, who is now training with you in the group of Yuri Borodavko, at some point in the season said that it became difficult for her to constantly work on the rupture of the aorta, as is his custom. Is that a problem for you?

- As you can see, no. I have been training with Yuri Viktorovich for many years, I spent the bulk of my career with him. This technique suits me perfectly, Julia did not fit, but this is normal. All athletes are different.

- Sometimes it seems to me that you skiers are just masochists in your character. That at some stage of your career, the ability to enjoy all that goes into the concept of "endure" comes to you. Enjoy the loads, the overcoming, the pain.

- That's true to some extent. And not only for skiers, but for most professional athletes. I really like the state when you come from a hard workout, feel that the body is completely exhausted, and barely drag your feet for lunch. There's a certain inner buzz to it, or something.

- And what is the main buzz of ski racing?

— For me, it is about seeing the results of my work. I think for any person in any profession this is important. Understand that your work, your efforts, and sometimes suffering, result in results.

— By what criteria, in the absence of major starts, do you manage to understand that the work that you do gives exactly the effect that you want to get?

- Probably only by internal feelings.

- But sport is such a thing where you constantly compare yourself with your rivals. The higher the level, the better you understand your own capabilities.

- I agree. That's why I don't really understand what I might look like in international competitions.

- Are you generally satisfied with yourself?

- Yes. If I'm unhappy with any individual races, I don't worry about it, to be honest. After all, this is really a passing season, for which, since the summer, I have not set any global goals and objectives.

- The race, which I especially want to remember, can you name?

- This is either the first two races in Tyumen, or in Malinovka. Before that, everything did not go as we wanted. Before the New Year, there was general darkness. But I didn't have a race like that to "wow."

- In Tyumen, you won a very convincing victory in the sprint, while I periodically hear that you do not like sprints. It's true?

- Nope. When I talked about it, I meant that the sprint is one of the hardest races. The same "spot" is easier to run: I tuned in, ran once, gave out everything I was capable of, and went home. And here four times in a row you tune in to each race, as a full race, and go to each start as the last. Therefore, it is usually very difficult for everyone to run on the second day after the sprints. You're morally just emasculated.

  • Natalia Nepryaeva
  • RIA Novosti
  • © Pavel Bednyakov

- In a sprint or skiathlon, it is absolutely clear to me what concentration is important and what it is aimed at. But when you run 30 or 50 km, you can't just think about skiing from start to finish? What happens in your head during this time?

- You have time to think about anything there. About what worries you, about some problems. Although I still try to focus on the distance, on the opponents and drive away outside thoughts. In my opinion, when such thoughts get into my head, it suggests that there is no proper mood, some kind of sports anger.

— Every day I hear from your colleagues that the track in Tyumen is incredibly difficult, and, as I think, I understood why: while I was walking from the stadium to your hotel, several times I could barely stand on my feet.

- That's what's called a lack of concentration.

- Does the same thing happen on the track?

- Sure. The track in this regard greatly affects the result. When there is ice on the track, you can not relax for a fraction of a second. The skate circle is especially difficult in Tyumen. There are such steep climbs of the catchers, all the heaviest ones collected. The classic circle is more or less gentle after all. And on the skate, in addition to the ascents, there are many descents with turns. It was there that Sergey Ustyugov fell at the finish of the skiathlon. And Nastya Sedova and I, when we ran the skiathlon, entered directly sideways into the turn, it was very dangerous there.

It's also hard because there's no way to rest. Usually, when you go downhill, one way or another you recover. And here it turns out that you work both in the ascent and from the descent in constant tension. Many girls complained after the skiathlon that on the descents and on the plains from the tension brought down the periosteum. It's an unpleasant feeling, to be honest.

- I also heard that the current Tyumen weather is very difficult in terms of lubrication.

- Yes, many complained after the "cutting" of skis. But here the questions are not to the athletes, but to the service. Personally, my skis worked very well in the first two races. Not as good as some of the local girls, who showed that it was on the slopes that they were reducing the gaps, but I was absolutely satisfied. The question is simple: do you cope with rivals on your skis or not. I did.

— When you watch videos of your own performances, do you like yourself?

- Actually, I don't rewatch races very often. I saw, for example, the final of the sprint in Tyumen, but only because my sister showed: look, look, I was the third to go here.

- Is video recording used in training at all?

- Yes, of course. In summer training very often. Especially often high-speed training is recorded, after which there is, let's say, a debriefing of flights. There it is immediately clear what mistakes a person makes in technology.

— Are your skis the area of responsibility of Borodavko or service crews?

- Usually the skis are prepared by the brigade, but here Yuri Viktorovich is engaged in this. We are not running for the national team in Tyumen, but for the Arkhangelsk Region. And Borodavko is our personal trainer.

— Do athletes participate in the preparation of skis to some extent?

- I'm not. I'm not allowed to ski. If I cook myself, I will not go far on such skis.

- But did you have such an experience, judging by the confidence in the voice?

- Only as a child. My first coach Alexander Vasilyevich Smirnov, with whom I skied in Tver, sometimes trusted to remove some ointment or paraffin from training skis. That is, theoretically, I can do all this, not some white-handed.

- When four-time world champion Albina Akhatova finished performing, it was a revelation to many that she began to make boxes for rifles, and cool ones at that. I still thought at the time that women in sports were somewhat undervalued when it came to doing something with their hands technically.

- Yes, definitely. But I think there are few girls who want to take off the paraffin and smear their skis. It's not from the good life that you have to do this. Although I am sure that many people know how to do this and practice it.

You almost never stop in the mixed zone. Usually this is how a person behaves, whom journalists have offended with something.

- Oh no. I just don't like it. After the race, the most important thing for an athlete is to quickly change clothes, hush up. And not to stand in the cold in a wet combe, giving interviews. Especially all this escalates after a failed race. When there's a lot to think about, so to speak. As for the grievances... Of course, there are people who ask incorrect, and sometimes just stupid questions. Still, it seems to me that a journalist, coming to the competition, should also somehow prepare for this. Therefore, it is annoying when people are completely off topic, but at the same time demand to say some words to them.

Did the Norwegian media get in touch with you during the suspension?

- The last time I talked to them was before the Olympics and I really did not like how it was done. We were at the training camp, living in the same hotel with the Norwegian team and their coronavirus. When NRK journalists arrived, I immediately explained that I was preparing for the Olympics, so I did not want to give interviews in advance, tell you how many medals I plan to earn, who I consider my main rivals, what I think about Teresa Johaug ... In general, I think it is wrong to talk about this before the competition. Especially before the likes of the Olympics.

The Norwegians did not hear me – they decided to act through Borodavko. And Yury Viktorovich has a kind soul and, of course, promised: "Don't worry, everything will be fine. Well, I gave them an interview. Which they deserved. They never contacted me again.

- A kind-hearted person once admitted that at one time you were frankly frightened by them. Like, you will train badly, you will go to Borodavko in the group. Like Carabas-Barabas. Was there a period when you were really afraid that now a whip would be pulled out of the chamber?

No, I just figured out pretty quickly when it's best not to approach a coach.

- And when?

- When he's evil. In this case, it is better to do a good workout and side, side go to rest. Of course, we have disagreements, and quite often. But in the coach-athlete bunch, that's fine. Yuri Viktorovich is a maximalist, so he is always dissatisfied with something. For my part, I will also not say that I have a simple character. I can flare up, but the coach, of course, immediately stops it.

- I would say that it is difficult to love your mentors in general. Because the coach is the person who constantly says unpleasant things to the athlete.

- Actually, there should be a balance. When you are constantly being scolded, it becomes difficult to keep motivated to go to training.

Is it important to you to be praised?

- I think any girl cares.

- Do you remember the greatest praise from Yuri Viktorovich?

- It was before the skiathlon in Beijing. Borodavko was forced to stay in Moscow, and we talked to him on the phone. I remember even being surprised then. He doesn't usually set me up like that before a race. And then all of a sudden: I have the best, the strongest, the coolest! You will succeed! The next day I call him and realize that I can't speak – I'm crying. Even now I remember, and tears are coming.

If you had the opportunity to give yourself an 18-year-old some advice, what would you say?

- Actually, I wouldn't want to change anything in my life, that's the truth. Because it was thanks to some previous mistakes and disappointments that I turned into the person I am now. And, knowing myself at the age of 18, I would not have listened to anyone's advice.

- I know you don't like personal questions, but I'll ask. When you're constantly on the team, a lot of things cause a kind of chain effect. Someone started embroidering, knitting or coloring pictures, after a while everyone begins to do the same thing. Someone alone went on maternity leave, everyone involuntarily also begins to think about this topic. Perhaps, you are also familiar with the desire to create a family, perhaps to give birth to a child? Moreover, in cyclic sports, it is believed that after the birth of a child, the female body moves to other turns, and other opportunities open up.

It seems to me that each of us has his own life path, and it would be foolish to worry about the fact that your life is not developing in the same way as that of others. Everything has to have its time, and my time is definitely not going anywhere from me. In this regard, I am absolutely satisfied with my own life. Perhaps I have slightly different life values, but I definitely will not give birth to a child just to run faster.