Natalia Nepryaeva: My Job Is To Force Myself To Do Things I Don’t Want To Do

” Natalia’s got quite a character”. That’s what you would hear a lot about the leader of the Russian ski team no matter who you talk to. Nepryaeva could be vocal, could be demanding on her teammates/staff, could be all too concentrated on her race to even smile back at the stranger’s greetings. What a few know is that under that tough appearance is actually a fascinating human being: smart, well read, articulate and very, very focused on her goals. You just have to find the right moment to approach her…

….First things first, in a preamble to the interview, a 23 year old Russian Olympic and world medalist and a runner-up for the title of the World Cup winner 2018/19 sets the limits: ” I don’t want to talk about two things: how much money I make and my private life. Everything else – go ahead, ask”

We did ask – and here it goes.

It’s my job to force myself to do things I don’t want to do. I had quite a character from childhood. Always wanted to win and was training a lot. And I know how to force myself to tolerate exhaustion and pain.

My coach, Yuri Borodavko is “maximalist”” – he wants his athletes to win, not merely “show the best results and be close to the podium “. In that way we are a good match.

The most important thing for me is to feel happy with my effort after the race – and that only comes with a podium.

My best race ever, the one feel happy about is this year’s Holmenkollen 30k Classic. I held behind Therese as much as I could but nobody could have beaten Therese in distance race last year. My job for the rest of the 30k was to keep that gap between myself and the very strong chasing group featuring Kalla, Andersson, Oestberg, Jacobsen.

What did I think about during those 30k? First half the thoughts were about what tactics should I use. The second part the only thought left pulsating in my head was Hold on! Hold on!

I really do not think I’ve reached my peak last season. There are reserves to be explored and I’m totally focused on getting stronger next season.
The truth is, I don’t like sprints.
My favorite race is a long distance mass start. But no, I don’t think I’d ever be able to pull everyone the way Therese did all last season.

What I’d like to learn & implement from competitors? First and foremost, team tactics. The Swedish girls are especially strong at it and especially strong at it in sprints.

I’d like to be able to learn to keep the top form along the whole season the way the best Norwegian girls do.
There is a marked difference in behavior that I can’t explain: all the Norwegian girls are very friendly, smiley and generally happy to see you again – and of course you quickly learn to behave in the same way. Not the Swedish ones – with a notable exception of Charlotte Kalla and Ebba Andersson. The Swedes barely say hello when we meet at the start of the race – if at all. Well, if you want to look past me as if I’m not there – I could do the same, no problem.
I do not consider myself to be a team leader and do not think of things like that.

Does training in the same group with strong boys help? Again, I don’t think about that – I train on my own and by myself most of the time. The important thing is that we have full understanding and mutual trust with a coach , Yuri Borodavko.
It’s give and take – I’m not blaming anyone, ever. When I race it’s me and my race – it’s all I think about and everyone is a competitor.

END of Part – stand by for Part II where Natalia talks about her relationship with sponsors, fans, social media – and what she would like to do like Therese Johaug does.

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