..They watched and listened in utter silence. Some wee fidgeting thier fingers. A rising star of international skiing, a 20 year old Alexander Bolshunov had his head buried in his hands almost entire time.
After the man in Lausanne had announced the decisions taken, they have started to get up and leave, one by one, without saying a word.
Thus the Russian cross country skiing team met the ruling of the Internatinal Olympic Committee under which their country is not allowed to have a national team, no anthem shall be played or flag displayed at the Winter Olympic Games in Korea.
The Russian skiing team is as strong as it probably ever was since the break-up of the Soviet Union. Just the last weekend Sergey Ustiugov and Alexander Bolshunov stood at the podium of the FIS World Cup in Lillehammer. Will the fans see them compete in Pyonchnang?
The IOC’s decision leaves the door open for participation of individual Russian sportsmen but only through a stringest and a rather complex procedure: essentially, the IOC and the WADA representatives will do invivudual picking of athletes they deem fit.
How would that selection committee works in practice in the remaning two months?
Would Russia as a country agree to these conditions?
Would individual Russian skiers, known to be fiercely patriotic and, putting it mildly, in disagrement with findings of the McLaren Commision ( basis of today’s IOC decision) agree to partake in the Games wearing some neutral race suits instead of the ones with RUS and double-headed eagle of the Russian coat-of-arms?
Those questions were left hanging in the freezing night air of the Swiss Davos where the Russian skiers currently are, preparing for the next stage of the FIS World Cup.
The irony of this fact did not go unnoticed: the Russians as a team are allowed to compete in the FIS races withour restrictions – except as of today, in the Olympic ones, that for all practical purposes are organized and conducted by the same FIS.
Nobody in the team wanted to talk to the press. Nobody except for a veteran Alexander Bessmertnykh – silver medallist of Lahti in 4 X 10r relay, who was just stripped of his silver Olympic medal through disqualification of teammates Alexander Legkov and Maxim Vylegzhanin.
His comment to media was that he feels deflated by the decision and deprived of his chance for the medal at the Olympics for which he and hi support staff was preparing so hard.
Indeed, in technical sports of which cross country skiing certainly is one, a lot is decided on the strenght of service team – waxers, ski testers Etc. Etc. Will Russia be allowed to send the servicemen to Korea? Or would the skiers was and glide out their own skis they way ot was done some fifty years ago – and still done by smaller xc skiing national teans?
While their Olympic future ( individual, not as a teeam) is still to be determined, the battles for supremacy at the slopes of Davos will be held the upcoming weekend, the Russians appear determined to win – if nothing else, to show the world what stars it is about to miss in Korea. Or not?
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