Villainous Vilnius veto: Pentathlete won’t compete for Russia in London
Just a week after turning 24, and with multiple World Cup wins under her belt, Donata Rimsaite should be a shoo-in for the fast-approaching London Games.
Or so you would think, because for this modern pentathlete her second Olympics are now a huge doubt.
In Beijing, in 2008, she competed for Lithuania, but has since married a Russian, and was granted a Russian passport. Though Donata has been cleared to fly the Russian flag at other major events, she needed the formality of permission from the Lithuanian Olympic Committee to go to London. Her request was denied.
“I think the sports officials and some patriots are against me, but a lot of ordinary people still support me. You could say Lithuania is split in two over this. A lot of people have been leaving the country to earn money elsewhere. And some may think I've come to Russia to roll in cash, which is not the case,” she says.
Donata went on to say she was on the verge of tears, and her mother cried twice at last month's meeting, in Lithuania. The sport summit has threatened her entire career, and she described it as a “circus”, while a reporter at the time called her a traitor.
She knows the chances are slim that she will be given the go-ahead to compete in London. But she is focusing on other tournaments.
“An athlete should first of all think of quality training and preparing for events. If I don't make the Olympics after all, I'll have other important events to get ready for – the European and World Championships are no small matters,” says Donata.
This is potentially a massive blow for Russia, which had counted on Rimsaite to deliver in the British capital. They plan to appeal at both the Court of Arbitration for Sport and the International Olympic Committee, but no one is under any illusions.
However, medal hopes do remain, even without Rimsaite. While Russia also have a strong men's contingent, including Athens and Beijing champion Andrey Moiseev, to cheer on in London.