The World Ski Federation FIS elected a new board at its congress in Milan. The big loser is the Russian head of cross-country skiing, Yelena Välbe, who loses her job and is punished with a disastrous election result. This causes trouble in Russia.
The fact that the Russian cross-country skiing icon Yelena Välbe was even allowed to stand for re-election to the FIS Board of Directors caused a tremendous response weeks before the World Ski Federation Congress in Milan. Most major nations demanded the exclusion of the Russian, who made headlines several times after the start of the war in Ukraine with sometimes scandalous statements and, among other things, publicly attacked those responsible in Norway.
This week, the three-time Olympic champion and 13-time World Championships gold medalist received the payoff for her highly controversial behavior. Välbe was one of 23 candidates, with the fewest votes, she missed her re-election to the committee. This caused a stir, especially in Russia.
"This decision is a scandal," wrote cross-country skiing expert Vladimir Ivanov in his "Express" column. In an interview with the Norwegian newspaper "Verdens Gang" he explained: "It is important that the big nations like Sweden, Finland, Norway and Russia make the decisions. That's where the money and the best athletes come from. It's wrong that the future of sport will be determined by nations that are not in the position." He knows that the political situation is "difficult" at the moment, Ivanov explained: "But IOC President Thomas Bach has said that it is wrong to make decisions solely on the basis of origin."
Välbe has dedicated her whole life to skiing: "And she shouldn't be excluded just because she has a Russian passport. If she had been politically involved, that would be a different issue, but she only cares about skiing." Norwegian MP Ingvild Bretten Berg, however, welcomed the voters' decision. She told "VG": "The FIS Congress has clearly distanced itself from the situation and the regime in Russia. In Norway we have always had a clear position, so we are satisfied with this clear signal."
And how did Välbe himself react? At least let it out. The Russian explained after her election bankruptcy: "That was predictable. There was a letter from the Ukrainian association in which it was demanded that everything be politicized. There were calls from all sides to exclude us. You don't have to make a tragedy out of it now . I was prepared for it." There is no evidence of the letter from the Ukrainians or the request from other nations mentioned by Välbe.