Natalia Nepryaeva: “In Pyeongchang Vyalbe was our mother”

Bronze medalist of the Olympic Games in the ski relay in an interview with the ROC Information Service  summed up the season’s result, shared her impressions of working with Yuri Borodavko in the Russian team. She spoke about Elena Vyalbe’s role in the success of the ski team in Pyeongchang and her childhood idols.

– How important are your two victories at the national championship in Syktyvkar?

– They are important both for sport, and psychologically. Before I have never won the Championship of Russia. Last year in Khanty-Mansiysk I was the second (after Anastasia Sedova) in marathon. Besides, these victories became the first for me in the completed season. It turned out to be a good final. This gives confidence in future, contributes to a kind of self-affirmation. Yes, indeed, I am one of the leaders of the national team.

–  During the season you won bronze in the relay at the Olympic Games and for the first time in your career climbed to the World Cup podium in the individuals, taking second place in the 10-km race in Lahti. Are these comparable achievements for you?

– Nothing compares to the Olympic Games, neither the World Championships, nor all the more the World Cup stages. The second place in Lahti is a very high result for me, which I did not expect after the Olympics. Since by the end of the Games I seemed to be greatly emasculated mentally and physically. But we spent a few days in Moscow, and, apparently, I had enough time to rest. Then came the second wave.

– The Championship of Russia showed that you, as well as Alexander Bolshunov and Yulia Belorukova, were able remain in good form for a long time. How do you  manage?

– Indeed, not everyone can show good results at the end of the season. This is an indicator of good summer training.

– What has changed for you?

– Everything. I changed the coach. I began to work with Yuri V. Borodavko, whom I trust completely.

– He’s coached your father, Michael Nepryaev?

– Yes, and they still communicate. Besides, Borodavko is a friend of with my coach from Tver, Alexander Vasilyevich Smirnov.

– However, let’s get back to your preparation. What adjustments were made to the training plans?

– We increased the amount of trainings, the average training speed and the number of strength exercises, just a little bit, but it had effect.

– Do you work with your former coach Marcus Kramer in the national team?

– No. It so happened that at the Olympic Games he was our only coach. But I don’t work with his team. I have my own personal coach. We  called each other almost every day. Yury Viktorovich gave instructions on tactics and trainings between the races, stroke me down. He is an expert in exerting positive influence on the athletes.

– Why did you leave  Kramer?

– I will not go into details. My only comment is that with him I had no result, and they did not leave me in his team. Fortunately, I got into the Borodavko’s group.

– In the relay at the Olympics you were placed to the first lap as a good Sprinter, able to compete for a spot on the track, and to ‘clander’ if necessary?

– Back in summer, Yury Viktorovich said that he planed me for the first lap, so this decision didn’t surprise me. Of course, each lap is important in the relay, but the first one sets the tone. If it is a failure, then usually the entire relay is a failure. The task was to create a good launching ground  and not to put all the work on Anna Nechayeva’s shoulders, who ran the last lap.

– You passed the baton to Belorukova first. Were you completely satisfied with yourself?

– Yes. I think I coped with my task.

– What do you think of the 8th place in skiathlon? You were even praised for it.

– Skiathlon was the first race at the Olympic Games. I took the highest place among the Russians, but I don’t think that 8th place is worth praise.

– After all, not much hopes have been laid on the women’s team. You reached the top ten, and that is already a good result!

– Maybe our heads and coaches did not expect much, but I can honestly say for myself and for the girls, that we were focused on the relay and believed that we could fight for a medal.

– Was it disappointing to finish in the 4th place in the sprint?

– I have mixed feelings. On the one hand, I understood that for me this was a high result, my maximum. All the more, that I have never stepped onto the podium then. But when you stop a step away from the medal, it is terribly insulting.

– When representatives of one country proceed into the final, a question occurs, whether there is a command plan as in Cycling, where ‘common soldiers’ work for the interests of the leader.

– Each of us ran for herself. It’s a personal race. There I could, I would not have given a medal to Julia. Even if there was a leader in the team, I would not have given away the medal.  I am not that kind of person.

– Alexander Bolshunov told to us that he plans to work on the finish in the next season. Do you need to improve it?

– I really have a lot to work on. But first of all, I will try to improve the skating. Now my classic is much better. And I would like to become a versatile athlete to successfully perform in mini-tours like Tour de Ski, where they have skating pursuit in the end. And the last race is crucial. You don’t want to lose in it.

– At the Olympic Games  you did not even run 10 km free style, while in Lahti and in Syktyvkar were successful in this classic race.

– It is a fact. Although in Pyeongchang, I myself refused to run it in order to prepare for the next race better.

– What was the role of the President of the Russian Ski Federation Elena Vyalbe at the Olympics? She could not always be with the team, but, as we were told, she arranged informal meetings with the skiers.

– Elena Valeryevna is great. In Pyeongchang, she was like  mother, buying sweets and pampering us when we met a couple of times outside the Olympic village. In addition, we constantly felt her support from the stands. There was an impression that Elena Valeryevna was our most emotional fan. Her energy was transmitted to us.

 – At those meetings she gave you practical advice or was it, rather, events for rallying the team?

– Perhaps the second. After all, every athlete has his own coach, with whom we discuss working issues. There was no pressure from Vialbe. On the contrary, only positive emotions.

– Who was your idol when you were a child?

– Julia Chepalova and Justina Kovalchik. And Vyalbe, one of the greatest skiers in the history of Russia. But she has performed a little earlier, while Chepalova and Kovalchik were when I was a child. I watched the broadcast from the ski races and admired them.

With Kovalchik we competed on the track and talked, she speaks Russian well. At first I could not believe that this meeting took place in reality. And as for Chepalova my mother trained with her. By the way, in 1995 my mom (before marriage Irina Krupysheva) was the champion of the Winter Universiade in the relay. At the Championship of Russia, in which I participated, Chepalova came up to me and said hi to mom. I was very pleased.