HOLMENEKKEN (VG) After seven years in Russian cross-country service, Markus Kremer (59) reacts to Norwegian attitudes toward the Russians after the invasion of Ukraine.
He also talks about desperate practitioners who fear even being eliminated for much longer, and opens up about his relationship with the country’s outspoken, but also powerful ski boss, Jelena Valbe.
-When I started in 2015, I actually thought working with Yelena would be difficult for me, says Kramer and chuckles.
The working relationship was supposed to last seven years. Today he has only words of praise to say about his former boss.
Crying after Välbe SMS
The 59-year-old German is best known as the coach of Russia for the achievements of Sergei Ustyugov.
But over time also as a kind of spokesperson for the Western media as one of the very few English speakers in the united nation. Often in a kind of opposition to power across the country Norway’s views on many topics on and off the track.
Now he’s swapped out his red-and-white “loose” tracksuit for a green-and-blue jacket and shorts when he meets VG on a sofa at a hotel in Oslo.
He is far from the strict performance requirements of Valbe and took charge of the Italian national team until the Olympics at his stadiums in Milan and Cortina in 2026.
According to Kramer, he was wanted even more when he spoke with the Russian ski chief who started during the Beijing Olympics. But soon after the tournament, Vladimir Putin went to war against Ukraine.
– Jelena was sure it would be over in a few weeks. We talked to each other several times. But in early March-April, she said: “We don’t know what’s going on and how long it will take.”
In mid-April, they agreed to go their separate ways. Soon Kramer accepted Italy’s offer.
– Then I received a letter from Yelena. Thank you for the good work. I wrote that I came to the negotiating table with things they learned in Russia and that they are doing better. I sat alone at home and cried. It was very nice to read.
Välbe’s many explosions
He pulled the smiley face back when VG pointed out that he looked surprised.
Välbe has sometimes taken a tough stance against both athletes and coaches in public. Both for sporting achievements, but also get upset due to athletes using social media.
I recently gave birth to shooting star Veronika Stepanova and She accused her of “suffering from star fever”.
Kramer is no exception. it happened Ramsalt critiques the performance of their practitioners During the World Cup in Oberstdorf in 2021.
– With Jelena you get two sides. She is troubled. But she showed herself from a completely different side. Because she is a very good leader.
– She’s good at listening. At rallies and tournaments, her room is open 24 hours a day, Kramer says, and she believes the room is open to everyone to voice their problems.
Another strength is that it not only knows the practitioners inside and out, but also their families.
– What are you trying to say? Is it misunderstood?
– Yes, she was not only slightly misunderstood, but completely misunderstood. Yes, they can be tough, but with a team as big as the Russian, you have to be tough, tough and penetrative at something, says Kramer.
After the job change, he was nevertheless in regular contact with, among others, Sergey Ustyugov and Julia Stupak, two of his most prominent students from the Russian era.
They try to keep the chef in a very uncertain time.
It is not easy, according to the German. At the end of last season, the International Skating and Figure Skating Federation decided to exclude them from the remaining competitions. What will happen next winter is not yet clear.
According to the coach, many realized that it can be difficult to stand on the starting line for the winter.
– Some athletes do not understand that Russians are allowed to compete in tennis and cycling, but not in cross-country skiing. It is difficult for them. Then the motivation decreases as well.
– Easy for Johog to say
In Norway, Therese Johaug got rid of a very tough stance. In an interview with NRK She was interested in the photos of Alexander Bolshunov in Putin’s propaganda program.
We don’t need to see pictures like the ones we’ve seen, as Marcus Kramer admits today.
In addition, several Russian cross-country skiers were promoted after the war by the Russian Defense Minister.
– They have no other choice. Norwegian athletes are fortunate to be born where they were born. They can talk freely about what they want. It is different in Russia. It’s easy for Johog to say what you say.
Johaug manager Jørn Ernst declined VG’s request for comment on Cramer’s input.
Gohaug also spoke of the need to stop the war and that the Russians apologize before they can return to the competitions.
– I want them to be in the starting line. But I do not know what the FIS decides. But it doesn’t look good, says Kramer, who, like many Russian athletes, claims that politics and sports don’t go hand in hand.
– Doesn’t it matter that they appear as symbols of the Russian army?
– Yes, of course. But when you say that performers go to performances in Moscow, I know that some of them do not really want to go there. But this is the case of the authorities. what can they do?
Pressure does not exist here
Cramer is now looking to develop the Italian national team. He applied to Norway and Sweden for good summer training conditions.
He is strong in his belief that team superstar Federico Pellegrino will deliver the goods in the coming years, but in the long run and especially towards the Olympics, the goal is to win a medal in the men’s relay.
In other words, the level of ambition is completely different from what he used to be:
– In Russia, as in Norway, there has always been a battle to get to the World Cup. That pressure doesn’t exist here, Kramer says and continues:
– What I change first and foremost in Italy is what they do in training. We need to train more. It has become quite a bit in the past. Not only at the national level, but I have to try to change the whole Italian coaching system.
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