Russian Olympic champion cites ‘positive direction’ over Paris hopes
Olympic gymnastics champion Angelina Melnikova has pointed to “positive developments” in the debate surrounding Russian athletes’ participation at the Paris 2024 Games, expressing hope that she and her compatriots will be cleared to compete despite current bans.
Melnikova starred as the Russian Olympic Committee (ROC) won gold in the women’s team event in Tokyo last summer, and also scooped a pair of bronze medals in the individual all-around and floor exercise events.
But the 22-year-old’s hopes of repeating that success in Paris in two years’ time are under threat due to the sweeping bans imposed on Russian sport because of the conflict in Ukraine.
Some Olympic officials such as former World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) chief Craig Reedie have already suggested that Russian and Belarusian athletes could miss out in Paris as they are not cleared for qualifying events leading up the Games.
Elsewhere, however, US Olympic official Susanne Lyons claimed last week that the International Olympic Committee (IOC) was already sounding out members regarding a potential “pathway” back to competition for Russian athletes.
Tokyo gold medalist Melnikova said that even if Russian athletes were forced to compete under neutral status – as they were at the 2020 Summer Games and PyeongChang 2018 Winter Games because of WADA sanctions – it would be better than not featuring at all.
“We really hope for any kind of admission to the Olympics, because this isn’t the first time we’ve performed without a flag and an anthem,” said Melnikova, who is also her sport’s 2021 all-around world champion.
“We hope for some positive progress. We’re waiting until the end of the year. There are discussions, we seem to be moving in a positive direction.
“There is hope for Paris, we are not training now for nothing,” Melnikova told Metaratings.
Fellow Olympic champion Artur Dalaloyan – who helped Russia to gold in the men’s team event in Tokyo – described the current sanctions as “absurd,” but like Melnikova expressed hope that the situation would be resolved before the Paris Games.
“I’m an athlete, my job is to show my work at the highest level. With or without a flag, it doesn’t matter to me. Everyone knows perfectly well that I represent Russia,” said the 26-year-old.
“Some people think it isn’t necessary to go [to the Olympics] without a flag, but I think it’s necessary to go. I’ll go out and defend the honor of the country, fight for victories.
“We’re working tirelessly. This whole situation is absurd, but we have hope that we’ll go to the Olympics in Paris.
“We’re striving only for this. Of course, this situation won’t subside quickly, stories like this have never passed quickly,” added the three-time world champion.
After the International Gymnastics Federation (FIG) imposed a blanket ban on Russian athletes in March, Russian officials have moved to organize alternative domestic events to compensate – including the revival of the Soviet-era ‘Spartakiad’ games.
Dalaloyan praised officials for their efforts, saying: “I want to note the tremendous work of our Ministry of Sports, the Russian Gymnastics Federation – they hold tournaments, they brought back the Spartakiad. Russian athletes are motivated, despite the times that we’re living at the moment.”