"MLKB competitions with crazy prize money"

Veronika Stepanova is perhaps one of the most media personalities in skiing. She can compete only with the head of the profile federation Elena Vyalbe, who has to communicate a lot with the press due to her position, and the Olympic champion Alexander Legkov, who has been commenting on competitions on television for more than one year.

The girl has a position on print and online media, with which she does not communicate on principle. In her opinion, writing journalists only know how to take long interviews about everything that no one is interested in. At the same time, she does not mention the large number of analytical materials published in parallel, and the fact that it is the observers who comprehend the processes taking place in sports that largely become opinion leaders in the media space.

"A Dagbladet or Nettavissen correspondent almost always writes about the problem – interviews several athletes at once, provides statistics, graphs, all this is accompanied by professional photos, and not stolen from the athletes' social networks. I understand that it is much longer, more complicated, more expensive, but much better. And most importantly, hundreds of thousands of people read such materials about cross-country skiing. And this is in little Norway. And ours have hundreds, but only without thousands. And I'm trying to speak and write for hundreds of thousands. Without inept intermediaries," Stepanova wrote.

Nevertheless, the skier is happy to express her opinion in the columns on Match TV. Moreover, he does it once a week, even now, when the ski season has started in Vershina Tyoya with the stage of the Russian Cup. And from her publications, it is easy to trace the main topics that bother the athlete.

First of all, almost every column talks about finances. So, Veronika was impressed by the Cup of the International Club Biathlon League. According to her, this tournament is envied even abroad.

"The information that the Russians arranged competitions with some crazy prize money reached Europe. In any case, I had to explain to several colleagues and acquaintances there exactly what was happening in Khanty-Mansiysk. There are no "crazy prize money" in MLKB, of course. But they are already equal to what they pay at the World Cup stages (both biathlon and skiing). Taking into account the fact that we have 13% taxes on prize money, and in Europe it is several times higher. And what if the prize money is bigger?" the Olympic champion asked.

Stepanova is sincerely sure that the future belongs to such club tournaments. And foreign athletes, who do not get into the prizes all the time, but strive to earn money, will reach out to Russia for money.

"World leaders will not come to our MLKB yet. They don't need to, they're fine as it is, so far, at least. But starting from the tenth numbers of the ratings, it is quite possible. They also became professionals not because they like to train 30+ hours a week," the skier explained.

However, according to the athlete, the new project will be able to compete with the IBU only when an Arab or Chinese billionaire decides to create a biathlon club instead of buying a large yacht or a football team.

"But in order to convince big business to invest, we need new technologies and new ideas on how to hold competitions and how to promote them. Contact me, I will share mine!" wrote Stepanova.

Among Veronika's creative ideas is an offer to popular bloggers to go skiing in Khanty-Mansiysk, thus popularizing local resorts.

"Fashion for young people is defined by those who used to go to Davos, Zermatt and Aspen, and now, apparently, to the Emirates, to Ski Dubai. Those who go to Barvikha and the Patriarch's Ponds on Friday evening, and in the morning try to force themselves to drive to Meshchersky Park to work with a coach. So, I want them to get on a plane on Friday night instead and get up on the snow in the morning. And the main thing is that all +100500 followers on his/her social networks see it," the athlete said.

In her opinion, in this way it is possible to make Siberia more prestigious than the Alps, at least in the fantasies of the younger generation.

"That's the only way to get a business to say, 'Oh, skiing is a profitable business! Let me build a sports hotel, a healthy food café and the ski track itself," Stepanova wrote.

As for the athletes themselves, according to Veronika, they should also earn money at the expense of small and medium-sized businesses. More precisely, advertising their products. Only, for some reason, he stubbornly does not go to medium-sized athletes. At the same time, the Olympic champion did not specify which category she belongs to.

"There is no doubt that marketing professionals are already working individually with the stars of the first magnitude — Alina Zagitova, Evgenia Medvedeva, Alexander Bolshunov. But their cooperation has a price tag, and small advertisers simply won't be able to afford this price tag. This is right and normal – for small and niche advertisers, there are athletes with more modest recognition," Veronika said.

  • Veronika Stepanova, Elizaveta Pantrina and Elizaveta Kaplina.
  • RIA Novosti
  • © Alexander Wilf

"If people don't go to the show, something needs to be changed in it"

While admiring Alexei Nuzhdov, who organized the MLKB Cup with huge prize money, Stepanova continues to criticize her own federation for low attendance at tournaments. In particular, control trainings, in which almost the entire national team took part together with biathletes.

"It's like a football player's exhibition match before the start of the season: it doesn't count, but you can look at the athletes you miss. Only those who missed it were extremely few. There were practically no spectators at the beautiful, one of the best in the world ski stadium named after Filipenko. Yes, the main stars – Bolshunov, Sergei Ustyugov, Natalia Terentyeva – did not run. But, by the way, at the same time we trained on the same tracks. But there were the best biathletes, including local stars. Liza Kaplina, for example," the skier wrote.

According to her, this is another wake-up call for the organizers. Because if there are few spectators at the training session, there is no guarantee to gather a full stadium at the stages of the Russian Cup.

"If people don't go to a ski show in a relatively large city, where you can walk to the stadium from anywhere at the same time, something in this show needs to be changed," the athlete said.

Moreover, Stepanova also has proposals to increase the popularity of the competition. However, for most skiers, they are hardly acceptable. For example, Veronica likes the promotion of events at the UFC, when before the fight there is a weigh-in of opponents, a battle of glances and a press conference.

"I'm not suggesting that all sports copy everything and immediately switch to the UFC model. Although, admit it, amateurs and especially ski lovers, it would be interesting for you to see how Saveliy Korostelev calls Alexander Bolshunov and they go through the entire mandatory preliminary program - with weigh-in and sterdown? Or will you turn away and not look at this on principle? Don't worry, your daughters will take a look!" wrote Veronica.

At the same time, in her opinion, skiers can tell much more before the race, and not after, since the sport is interesting due to the unpredictability and a certain boast of the participants.

"I will definitely have no problem promising something the day before. As they say, haters will have something to hate, and fans will have something to remember. From words to deeds. I suggest that Alexander Legkov try out this format of presenting the participants at the race named after him in February next year. Alexander Gennadyevich, can you hear me?" said Stepanova.

The Olympic champion has no less extraordinary ideas for holding show tournaments. The meeting of the Russian Cup in Belokamenka with the participation of 2Drots, which took place in early September, inspired the athlete with the idea of holding a match with media players.

"I suggest the following option: in the first half they play against the team of skiers with a ball on the field, and in the second half we all stand on roller skis. The slides in Kononovskaya are such that the directors of Match TV will purr with pleasure from the picture," Stepanova suggested.

A visit to the phygital sports stand at the Russia exhibition at VDNH prompted Veronika to the idea of creating virtual competitions for skiers. In her opinion, the future of many sports lies in this, and not in the construction of tracks and stadiums.

"Luckily, we already have a phygital simulator – and we use it sometimes. Ski treadmill. And it doesn't have to be as super advanced as the Russian Olympic Committee. It can be simpler. The main thing is to be able to compete online with other skiers. By the way, I very much doubt that the Norwegians will invite us to the World Championships in Trondheim in 2025 - so I am ready to run on the virtual track of the World Championships," the athlete joked.

  • RIA Novosti
  • © Pavel Bednyakov

"Work only with your target audience"

Another topic that Veronica constantly touches on is her personal brand. The 22-year-old skier teaches other athletes that social media is a tool of influence, and athletes themselves are opinion leaders.

"A musician or a director can't, he doesn't have the right to say, 'It doesn't matter who listens to me or watches me.' Another thing is that one wants to be liked by millions, and the other only wants to be liked by a small select group. Everyone chooses for themselves. From the first badge of a candidate for master of sports, an athlete needs to firmly grasp: your task is to choose the target audience and work only with it, for it. If anyone wants to join, they are welcome to join. But you can't please everyone," Stepanova wrote.

As the athlete admits, she takes an example from Vyalbe, who always openly expresses her opinion. But at the same time, the Olympic champion considers the professional athlete a showman, which is definitely alien to Elena Valerievna. According to Veronica, victories on the track, on the field or on the mat are just one of the reasons to be remembered, but not the reason.

"From the very beginning, I accepted the rules of this game: you can't please everyone, it's important to please the target audience. Attacks don't upset you — the main thing is not to confuse it with your namesake/namesake. Our target audiences don't overlap with her, but so far she's beating me on the noise they make and, apparently, the income from media activities. Well, it's not evening yet," the athlete said.

At the same time, the sport itself is practically absent in Veronica's columns. For all the time, she told only about the feelings of skiers before the start of the sports season.

"The end of autumn is a wonderful time for most people, when the leaves fall and the first frost comes. For the skier, this is the moment when, on the one hand, the preparatory season is almost over. And very soon you will stop training for 30+ hours a week and will "just" compete. But for now, absolutely the whole body says: "How sick of all this! Is it possible to slow down somehow?!" admitted Veronica.

Instead, she scolded the rest of the athletes for their frequent stories about injuries. In her opinion, this creates the wrong image of professional sports.

"Everyone decides for themselves, of course, what to bring to the public from this area, and what not. But I have a question: have you, colleagues, ever thought that stories about injuries in all the details of the diagnosis are a bad advertisement for your (our) sport? When a journalist comes to report on a new restaurant, he is not told that the cook is sick, the waitress has aching legs, and the loader has quit his job altogether. Because no one will go to such a restaurant," the Olympic champion wrote.