Russia will send 169 athletes to Pyeongchang Winter Olympics – but not the top ones, official says

 The Olympic Rings at the Olympic Village on January 25, 2018 in Gangneung.
The Olympic Rings at the Olympic Village on January 25, 2018 in Gangneung.PHOTO: AFP

MOSCOW (REUTERS) - Some 169 Russian athletes have been cleared to compete at the Pyeongchang Olympic Games next month, but not the top ones, a Russian Olympic Committee official said on Thursday (Jan 25).

“Unfortunately, our top athletes did not make it onto this list,” Stanislav Pozdnyakov, the vice president of the Russian Olympic Committee, told reporters without saying which athletes won’t compete.

“Those 169 people are those who will defend our country’s honour at the Pyeongchang Olympic Games.”

The announcement comes after Russian sports officials said several of the country’s top competitors, including short-track speed skater Viktor Ahn and biathlete Anton Shipulin, had not made it onto the International Olympic Committee (IOC) list of athletes eligible to compete in Pyeongchang.

Russia’s figure skating federation said this week that pairs skater Ksenia Stolbova, who won silver at the European championships with partner Fedor Klimov in Moscow last week, and ice dancer Ivan Bukin, who won bronze with Alexandra Stepanova, had not been included on the IOC’s list.

The IOC banned Russia last month from Pyeongchang over “systematic manipulation” of the anti-doping system at the 2014 Sochi Games. It left the door open to athletes with no history of doping to compete as “Olympic Athletes from Russia”.

The Olympic body earlier this week said that the exclusion of certain athletes from the list of eligible Russians did not necessarily mean they had doped.

Speaking alongside Pozdnyakov at the Russia’s Olympic Committee, Sports Minister Pavel Kolobkov said Russia would take legal measures to defend the athletes excluded from the Olympics.

“We will fight for every last athlete,” Kolobkov said. “We are really hoping for a fair decision by the Court of Arbitration for Sport.”

He added that Russia was planning to organise alternative competitions for the athletes excluded from the Olympics.