THE BIG PICTURE: Russia’s dour Lasitskene suddenly the new voice of Russian T&F

Two-time World High Jump Champion Mariya Lasitskene (RUS)

Russia’s superstar high jumper Mariya Lasitskene is the two-time defending World Champion in her event, is no 5 on the all-time performers list at 2.06 m (6-9) and won 45 meets in a row from 2016-18. She’s working on an 11-meet streak right now.

Watching her jump, you see very little emotion and a lot of concentration. She rarely smiles and appears almost bored with most of her jumps.

But on her Instagram account, she has suddenly become one of the voices of what is hoped to be a new kind of Russian athlete, who fiercely opposes doping and the old-school attitude and coaching there.

She caused shock waves in the track & field community with her post on 9 June; the English version here is a combination of two different computerized translations of Russian:

“Over the past three and a half years, I have heard two hundred times that everything has been done and [Russia] about to be restored [by the IAAF]. But this is only a beautiful wrapper, which they are trying to impose. It seems to all these people that sportsmen see nothing, do not understand, and in general, their business is to jump and be silent. They forgot that without athletes, the existence of any sports organization or federation does not make sense. They’re just waving us off, covering for each other. We can engage in self-deception as much as we like, talking about how the West is afraid of our athletes, about the millions of points on the road map that were made on paper.

“But what we have done with our own hands with our athletics in these few years, no paper will endure. I hope the people involved in this never-ending shame still have the courage to leave. And do not think that I am talking only about the leadership; it is about the current coaches who are still confident that without doping, it is impossible to win. They should be retired by now. A new generation of our athletes should grow up with a different philosophy, and it [applies to] any athlete or coach. Talk about the whole world being doped is inappropriate. It is not necessary to save the whole world, it is necessary to save what is left of Russian athletics.”

She was right back at it on the 14th, ripping Russian Athletics Federation president Dmitriy Shlyakhtin’s comment on Match TV that her post might threaten the IAAF’s authorization of Russian athletes to compete even under the status of “Authorized Neutral Athletes.”

Her reply on Instagram:

“Surprised (actually not) by Mr. Shlyakhtin’s attempts to intimidate me. Gorgeous fantasy on the fact that they can withdraw my neutral status, since I do not support the actions of the head of [the Russian Athletics Federation] (apparently, especially I should support the main business of his team – the “Lysenko case”) … What awaits the head of [Russian Anti-Doping Agency] Yuri Ganus for criticism [of the Russian Athletics Federation]; Shlyakhtin quite reasonably preferred to keep silent …. We’ll break through! Keep going!”

Known in Russia by the nickname of “Masha,” she appears ready to pound away at the bureaucracy in Russia. Is she the catalyst for change?