World Cup in Planica is "a dirty competition," says National Guard Officer Aleksandr Bolshunov
The Russian Ski Federation placed one of this year’s biggest competitions in the country on the exact same time as the World Ski Championships in Planica. It appears like an attempt to blur Russian athletes’ consciousness about their ban from international sports.
The Russian games take place in Malinovka, a remote resort located about 600 km south of regional capital Arkhangelsk. Snow is plenty and tracks are great, but the place lacks hotels and infrastructure and can best be reached with a 13 hour train travel from Moscow, journalists complain.
Contrasts to the championships in Planica are huge. But the Russians do not miss their foreign competitors. At least judging from the country’s top skier Aleksandr Bolshunov.
According to Bolshunov, the games in Slovenia are “dirty.”
“It is not interesting for me how those dirty competitions proceed. It is better to compete where we are well received.”
The World Cup is “dirty” because Russian athletes are not allowed to participate, he explains.
“Of course, all the strongest skiers should be allowed to compete against each other.”
The Russian games take place not only at the same time as the World Championships in Planica, but also on the one-year anniversary of Russia’s full-scale onslaught on Ukraine.
The 24th of February was a day of victory for Bolshunov. He won the 30 km skiathlon with safe margin ahead of fellow national team colleague Sergei Ustyugov, results from the Russian Skiing Federation show.
Aleksandr Bolshunov is himself closely associated with Russian armed structures. Like several other top skiers he carries the rang of officer in Rosgvardiya, the Russian National Guard.
Since the start of the massive attack on the neighbouring country, the skier has not made any attempts to express opposition to the war. On the contrary, only few days after the start of the onslaught, the press service of Rosgvardia published a lengthy interview with him in its corporate newspaper.
Following his participation in the Beijing Winter Olympics early 2022, Bolshunov got an official greeting from Putin. In 2018, he was awarded the Friendship Order by the president, and in 2022 the prestigious Aleksandr Nevsky Order. The latter is awarded to civil servants for “honest service and excellent results.” In March 2022, Bolshunov participated in a major rally in Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow devoted to the Crimea annexation.
Rosgvardiya is a military force established by Putin in 2016. It is directly subordinated the president and is not connected with the country’s Armed Forces. More than 340,000 people are believed to be serving in the force. Many of them have been in Ukraine to fight, and losses are believed to have been massive.
Rosgvardiya is also known as the armed force responsible for protecting public order, and officers from the force have crushed numerous opposition rallies across Russia.