23-year-old Alexander Bolshunov is one of the strongest athletes in the history of this sport.
This winter, he won most of the distance racing. The last mass start of 15 kilometers brought him a fourth victory in a row. The race was in unstable, technically difficult conditions, which initially were not at all suitable for Bolshunov. Nevertheless, it was the Russian at the end who overtook the most staunch opponents and quite easily overtook Shur Röthe in the finish spurt.
The spectacle was as amazing as the result that Bolshunov showed, powerfully climbing a monstrous climb to the Tour des Ski. Then Alexander, with his weight of more than 80 kg, went steeply up almost as easily as Shur Röthe and other “mountain goats.”
And here, of course, the question arises: is Alexander Bolshunov also just another Russian monster from the ski world?
It is very sad to ask such a question right after an ideal ski race, in which not only time showed that the strongest wins.
The victory was determined not only by the finish spurt. It was Bolshunov who set the high pace right from the start, it was this Russian who found strength in two spurs during the race, and it was he who withstood all the attacks of strong Norwegian skiers.
And finally, Bolshunov himself made a breakthrough and broke away from the group, and only Rethe managed to hold on to him until the finish. It is simply impossible to prove even more convincingly in a mass start that you are the best skier in the world.
And yet it is precisely such a question that I would like to ask a young skier, brought up by the system that is now awaiting an international court in the case of many years of fraud.
After two major races in Falun missed by injured Johannes Høsflot Klæbo, it seems that Alexander Bolshunov will win in the overall World Cup. This in itself is good. Sport needs a change, and Norway was completely dominant at last year’s World Cup.
So we are not talking about distrust of competitors for our own success. In the cramped world of skiing, any competition is, by definition, good. Unless, of course, this is really competition.
It is hoped that in the summer we will learn more about this. Initially, it seemed that part of the Russian team would not be allowed to compete this winter, pending the decision of the Sports Arbitration Court (CAS) regarding the removal of all those involved in Russian state fraud at the Olympic Games in Sochi.
This did not happen. Not always harmonious everyday life of international skiing is taking its course in anticipation of a CAS decision. But when it is accepted, we all will have a chance to learn more. CAS hearings are likely to be open. The World Anti-Doping Agency asked for this, and the Russians agreed.
It is very good. Any closed doors in themselves raise suspicion.
Unfortunately, this was precisely the tactic of the Russians, who held on to managers and trainers who worked with skiers who doped, as was proved. Alexander Bolshunov is only 23 years old, he is too young to be involved in fraud in Sochi six years ago, but he spins in the Russian skiing environment, which means he is closely surrounded by the guilty.
Even at the last Olympic Games, Alexander made a great impression, being in a group of young skiers who could become a substitute for stars removed from the competition. But even then, his achievements were partly overshadowed by the scandal. The Russians paid less attention than they deserved.
Meanwhile, the venture of the harsh ski manager Elena Vyalbe, who wants to use the services of trainer Yuri Borodavko, accused of doping, to nurture a new generation of stars, is hopeless. He should not be allowed to return to the sport after removal.
That’s where the mistakes begin – with the actions of the Russians themselves.
So we should be more careful with each individual skier. There is no doubt that after the exposure of fraud in Sochi they began to be closely monitored. But large-scale checks before the 2018 Olympic Games did not reveal anything special.
And all this has nothing to do with the series of powerful results of Alexander Bolshunov. He became the best, but on the way to the top he also had natural difficulties. In the 15-kilometer classic-style race in Toblach during the Tour de Ski, he carried along his compatriot Sergei Ustyugov, setting a powerful start, but at the end he overstrained. At that time he was not a ski monster and did not fight for victory – just like a few days later in Val di Fiemme at the same distance where Klebo was clearly faster.
Bolshunov does not look too “prepared” for the 50-kilometer race at the 2002 Olympics, Johan Mullegg (Johan Mühlegg defeated, but was disqualified for doping – Ed.). By will and pressure, the young Russian resembles other stars of ski history – those who, apparently, won fairly.
So the problem is not in Alexander Bolshunov.
Responsibility lies only with the cynical Russian professional sport.
InoSMI materials contain estimates of exclusively foreign media and do not reflect the position of the InoSMI editorial staff.