How Kuleshova pushed aside Stepanova
...When Veronika Stepanova won the skiathlon in Tyumen at the Spartakiad of the Strongest, Anastasia Kuleshova finished behind her, and Maria Istomina came third. And that’s when Masha said: it’s realistic to fight with Veronica in distance races. "I think we're giving her a real fight."
And Nastya Kuleshova, before the finish of that race, thought this: just not to finish fourth! And as a result, I also snatched some moments from Istomina at the finish line in the fight for silver. But she was left not just dissatisfied with herself, but rather: “middle and half.” Because “you always want to win.”
And the full pleasure of victory, without any divisions into parts, came in the 10 km freestyle race. The top three winners are still the same, but gold and silver have changed owners: Kuleshova is first, Veronika Stepanova is second, Maria Istomina remains with bronze.
Anastasia Kuleshova is the same Nastya Sedova who, together with Natalya Nepryaeva (Terentyeva), Yulia Belorukova (Stupak), Anna Nechaevskaya (Surkova), brought Russia bronze in the relay at the Pyeongchang 2018 Olympic Games. The world was surprised then: what kind of arrogant girls are these? Who is they at the last stage? The finisher was Anna Nechaevskaya, having in her assets... But God forgive me, she didn’t really have anything in her. At one of the stages of this year’s Tour de Ski – 14th place, something like that.
Having learned that she would be finishing the relay, Anna only asked: “Or maybe it’s not necessary? Why are you throwing me under the knife?” The task seemed extremely difficult to her. And to be more precise, it was impossible to imagine doing it at all: “There are such monsters at the last stage!” But the coaches had their say: experienced ones or those who had already proven themselves at the Games - for the first stages to create a comfortable position for the last stage (Natalia Nepryaeva, Yulia Belorukova, Anastasia Sedova). Anya asked her teammates: don’t let the Finns get close (at the last stage they had Krista Parmakoski, a sprinter, it’s hard to fight). Sweden and Norway were, of course, outside the discussion zone: Stina Nilsson and Marit Bjorgen - the fight was not on equal terms.
Nastya Sedova, being the last to answer for “not allowing it,” then told what she did and how she did it. I saw how Natasha and Yulia walked the distance, I understood that there was an opportunity to win a medal. I encouraged myself and tried to warm up as best I could. “I have this peculiarity - I cannot start quickly right from the start. That’s why I accelerated a lot during the warm-up. It was necessary to approach the start in good shape. Under no circumstances should I let anyone go, I understood that Ebba Anderson would run the stage well, so I stood behind her and endured it.” Sedova also remembered how, before the race, the coaches explained the tactics, noted organizational issues and ... that was all. “The pumping was useless. Why the extra jitters? He can get in the way."
The fight for bronze in the Pyeongchang relay was a desperate series. They shouted to the finisher: “You are ours, fight to the end, grab this medal with your teeth!” Anya endured and grabbed this first Olympic medal in relay races in 12 years. It was then that Elena Vyalbe answered all questions: “I always believe in my athletes. And I tell the girls: “I won’t leave you until you become Olympic champions!”
Our skiers will become Olympic champions at the next Olympic Games - in Beijing 2022. But Nastya, already Kuleshova, will give up the fight to get into the Olympic team herself. I gave birth to my daughter Mia, and I could have rushed the preparations, but I didn’t. And Elena Vyalbe really wanted to see her then in the national team that was preparing for Beijing 2022. And it seems that they even agreed that Nastya would join Yuri Borodavko’s group. But then the skier still refused, despite convictions from all sides that she was making a fatal mistake in her career and would regret it. I wanted to see my daughter grow up.
And now Kuleshova has returned. And now she is “bursting with the pleasure you get during the race.” Breakaway from Veronica Stepanova in the 10 km race. – 8.1 seconds. Nastya said that she “finally managed” to win gold at the Spartakiad. And she is also very pleased to win specifically against Veronica Stepanova, since after all, her colleague has a series of victories behind her. But actually, I bet on Kuleshov to win the skiathlon, so this first place is “a relative surprise.”
The victory of one is the loss of the other. According to coach Egor Sorin, Veronica Stepanova failed to win her signature distance due to the fact that she did not have time to fully recover after the sprint and skiathlon. It was obvious that she was already losing to Kuleshova from the start, although she usually immediately gives her rivals more than seven seconds. But Veronica can fight for victory in every distance; she won’t miss a distance at the Spartakiad.
And Tatyana Sorina, who returned to the ski track after the birth of her second child, became fifth in this race, which she regretted. She called the race the most interesting: everything was close, no gaps, the leader was constantly changing, and it was not clear who would be in the top 3. But the athlete was one of the first to start in the strongest group, so she had almost no information. If there had been a different starting number, the tactics could have been changed a little. “If I had known that I had five to seven seconds left, I probably would have added that I had the strength to do it.”
Tatyana also admitted that the issues of recovery from the injury received at the beginning of the season have not yet been completely resolved. “So I still have some reserve, and that’s a little reassuring.”
How many? It's hard to hear
For men, a change of leader at the Spartakiad (and further in the season), no matter what race, will be akin to a sensation. And this one is the coolest. Not yet. And one can only guess: what percentage of his capabilities does he even run at? And you don’t even need to say who exactly. Twenty wins in a season out of twenty and the name will be called and epithets will be invented.
Bolshunov after the 10 km race. suddenly call it complex, albeit short. He will explain why: I had to keep a high pace from the very start to the finish, even constantly increasing it. And his colleagues showed solid results, and at the first cutoffs he even lost a little to them.
But then everything returned to normal and when I realized that I had 15 seconds left, which was enough to win, I simply kept the pace. Although I also encountered difficulties. Do you know which ones specifically? It was hard for him to hear the information on the climbs about how he was going: frost, snow creaking, either they were shouting for 5 seconds, or 15 - he couldn’t make out.
Yes, and one more thing: Alexander Bolshunov does not consider his running technique ideal. Therefore, he constantly works on it and tries to “become better, it’s good that it’s possible to move in this direction.” He says that there is always room for improvement in technology. To this, however, hundreds of skiers will tell him: yes, there is - to Bolshunov’s technique.
Savely Korostelev, a loser from previous races with broken poles, finally made it onto the podium. True, he lost second place to Denis Spitsov, whose long-awaited breakthrough to the podium also happened in the 10 km race.
Olympic champion Spitsov hopes that the uplift that he is now experiencing can be maintained until the end of the Spartakiad. Preparations for the season went awry due to a tick bite. He says that he treated the situation negligently - he did not take tests, did not treat anything. But the bite did not go away without a trace, he received a positive test for borreliosis: antibiotics, treatment, immunity - all that... Second place is his best result this season.
Savely Korostelev is not afraid not only to impose a fight, but also to admit that he can fight Bolshunov. “I feel that I can fight with Sasha, but it happened the way it happened.” Moreover, he says, he sometimes has the feeling that some skiers have come to terms with Alexander’s victories. And they adapt only to his pace. They are supposedly asked: was it possible to beat Bolshunov, they say no, even if they finish in second place with a small margin. Why not?
He also says: coach Yuri Borodavko admits that San Sanych does not give 100 percent, and why, if he is confident in the finish? And Korostelev makes the following conclusion: no one is trying to beat Alexander at a distance, but they need to try. How long to put up?
Oh, Savely is clearly trolling his colleagues. And maybe himself. But it also says what many people think about when watching the races from the side: if Bolshunov still does not run at full strength, then the level of our men's skiing has definitely dropped. But until we return to international competitions, we won’t be able to understand this.
Free style, 10 km. Women
1. Anastasia Kuleshova (Nizhny Novgorod region) – 26.11.9 seconds.
2. Veronika Stepanova (Arkhangelsk region) +8.1.
3. Maria Istomina (Arkhangelsk region) +13.4.
4. Lidiya Gorbunova (Republic of Tatarstan) +21.7.
5. Tatyana Sorina (Tyumen region) +24.1.
Free style, 10 km. Men
1. Alexander Bolshunov (Arkhangelsk region) – 04/22/0.
2. Denis Spitsov (Tyumen region) +16.2.
3. Savely Korostelev (Arkhangelsk region) +20.1.
4. Anton Timashov (Republic of Tatarstan) +38.4.
5. Artem Maltsev (Tyumen region) +50.9.
6. Ivan Yakimushkin (Tyumen region) +56.8.