Former top cross-country skier Kristina Šmigun-Vähi, who joined the Reform Party last night, says that she will participate in Riigikogu elections as an ordinary Estonian mother who wants to tackle child welfare and education issues.
Two parties negotiated with you and wanted you to run for parliament in their ranks. You have made your choice.
Yes, I will go into politics. There was no end to these recruiters back when I was an athlete. Another wave came when I retired. I told them I was not ready, I wanted to see life and study. I studied economics at the University of Tartu, and I’m very glad I did. It broadened my horizons. I complemented my practical skills with theory.
Children have been at the heart of several issues in recent years. Acquaintances have asked me: what are you waiting for, you are a good speaker, you have ideas. You would fit in well (in politics – ed.). You have thick skin, go and do the things that are on your mind. I believe that was a part of it.
It was a very difficult choice to make. I really took my time with it. I discussed it with loved ones, different people after I met with the chairmen of both parties. In the end, it came down to what I feel in my heart, and it was the Reform Party.
Are you not bothered by the Reform Party’s instability? You are joining the losers in some ways.
Life has its ups and downs. I believe Kaja Kallas is prepared to make great changes. I believe that walking down the beaten path day in and day out cannot bring about a better tomorrow. We must be able to find and realize new ideas.
Where will you be running?
Because I live in downtown Tallinn, I believe that is where I should run.
Why do you need politics? You have a successful and wealthy family, while you’ll only take a beating in politics; there is no mercy to be found there.
These are all very good arguments. But I live here, and when I see things go wrong or fail to work in a way I believe they should; when I see disappointed faces and things that are wrong in schools, even when I have proposed ideas and helped, and nothing happens…
I am a member of Tallinn youth department’s schools commission, parents’ associations, board of trustees. I see everyday problems and how long it really takes to solve them. Then you think that should you pull it off (get elected – ed.), you could represent these children and their mothers who have the same problems: children not sitting up straight, not getting enough exercise, constantly engaged by smart devices. These are small everyday matters, but there are things that can be done.
There have been two attempts to associate you with doping. You’re clean. Are you not afraid these things will be dug up?
Let me answer with a question: what more is there to be afraid of? I won both cases and never told fairy tales. That is how it went.
How painful was that time for you? You have not shared much about that period.
I would not wish what I went through and experienced on my enemies. It was a very painful time. But like I said, I have been grateful for everything that has happened in my life and it has given me thick skin and a taste for challenges. You need to fight for your ideas if they are the right ones. I have that chance now!
Do you believe the voter still remembers you well enough?
I’ve never been one to rest on laurels. Many people in Estonia know my name, but they don’t know my ideas. They do not know I have graduated from the University of Tartu, have a pretty good grasp on economics. The time [left until elections] I have is to reach people, show them who I am inside. For them to believe or trust me.
Former athletes who have gone into politics have not fared well. Why do you feel you are the exception?
My transition is not a direct one. I am an ordinary Estonian mom with two children of which I am very proud – I also have an education.