By Teemu Virtanen
Photo: Nikita Tamm with his wife
The owner of Russian Winter Team Nikita Tamm follows his family tradition of embracing sports and sciences. His grandfather was a Noble Prize winner, and his parents were scientists and adventurers. This background of his has paved the way for the only Russian Pro Team to become a force to be reckoned with in Visma Ski Classics.
Nikita Tamm is an entrepreneur who is passionate about skiing. He was born in Moscow in 1955, and his family was always into sports and science. His mother was a chemist and worked at the Moscow State University. His father was a physicist, but he was also a devoted mountaineer. In 1982, Nikita’s father led the first Soviet expedition to Mount Everest. Nikita followed his parents’ footsteps and decided to pursue a similar career path by working as a research assistant after graduating from the university where his mother worked at. In 1989, he formed a biochemical company together with his friends, which he has been running ever since.
Nikita’s grandfather Igor Tamm received a Nobel Prize in physics in the 50s, and he was a great inspiration to young Nikita. His grandfather laid down the family tradition of combining sports and scientific work, which has continued for generations.
“My grandfather was fond of mountaineering and skiing, and he loved to travel. Unfortunately, he died when I was still in school. I’m saddened that I didn’t have a chance to get to know him better when I grew up. Of course, I’m very grateful to him and my parents who taught me a lot and gave me many pieces of advice that I’ve been able to use later in life. To be like them has always been my goal,” Nikita says firmly.
The world of science was not Nikita’s only calling as he got into skiing at an early age. In elementary school, he fell in love with cross-country skiing that became his favorite hobby for the rest of his life. He took part in various ski races in school and university teams, but he never became a serious contender for a professional skiing career. But his passion for the sport remained, and in 2015, he became a Worldloppet Master, a title granted to a skier who completes 10 Worldloppet races in different countries, and at least one of the races needs to be on another continent.
Nikita’s love for long distance skiing led to the formation of Russian Winter Team, a Pro team that is currently ranked fourth in Visma Ski Classics. Being a successful businessman, he wanted to put together a team that shares his values and principles of excellence.
“When you have a respected and stable company, you want to do the same with your other pursuits in life. I wanted to have a serious team focusing on doing well in Visma Ski Classics, but by the same token to have fun while doing it. I hope that this season and in the coming years, we will be able to consistently fight for the top three in the team competition and
regularly get to be on the podium. However, we have a very serious problem in the spring because the Scandinavian part of the Pro Tour is overlapping our domestic competitions that our athletes are required to take part in. Unlike in many other countries, Russian athletes do not represent clubs but their regions, and therefore they are obliged to participate in those races.”
Nikita is very optimistic when it comes to his athletes and their potential this season. Naturally, Ermil Vokuev is one of his bets to be a regular face on the podium, but he also believes that Maxim Vylegzhanin, Alexei Shemyakin, Alexander Grebenko, Olga Tsareva
and Nastya Rygalina are quite capable of conquering some prestigious top-three places. Nikita points out that his team has managed to undergo a great dryland training period, and the athletes have now gained much more experience in long distance skiing and Visma Ski Classics.
“As I said earlier, we have a small problem, which is our domestic races. Since they are organized in both classic and skating, our skiers need to train these techniques as well and cannot fully focus on double-poling, which other Pro Team athletes can do. This is certainly a disadvantage for us, and it can also affect our chances in the Pro Tour,” Nikita says with a slightly concerned tone in his voice.
In Russia, Visma Ski Classics has gained a greater foothold due to the fact that the Pro Tour can now be seen on a publicly available TV channel. Nikita admits that this wider exposure has helped his team to become more popular, and more people are now following them. Generally speaking, long distance skiing is much appreciated in Russia, and the Russialoppet series has solidified the status of the sport in this cross-country skiing loving country. Nikita is very pleased with the development of Visma Ski Classics, and his view on the future is very positive.
“I really like how the image of the brand has evolved. There are new formats being introduced such as shorter distances and a 100 km challenge, new race locations and races back-to-back. It’s very cool that Tartu Maraton is now part of this as many Russians consider it a home race. I like the live broadcasts of the events showing beautiful landscapes, historical landmarks, and exciting places. People watching can really enjoy not just the fight on the tracks but the overall experience.”
Nikita hopes that the upcoming season will proceed as planned, and that the restrictions of the pandemic will not be preventing them from traveling and participating in the races. He has high hopes for his team, and he is very proud of his athletes. But success is only the icing on the cake for him since there are more important things in life.
“My family and friends are the most valuable things for me. The most important value that anyone of us can have is honesty, and decency in all matters,” Nikita concludes the interview and sums up his personal take on life.