Russia back in the fray despite build-up distractions

Mon Aug 8, 2016 10:30pm EDT
Email This Article |
Share This Article
  • Facebook
  • LinkedIn
  • Twitter
| Print This Article | Single Page
[-] Text [+]

By Pritha Sarkar

RIO DE JANEIRO (Reuters) - Rather than being driven to distraction by uncertainty hanging over their participation in the Rio Games following the doping scandal that has engulfed their country, Russian gymnasts channeled their energy to upstage China on Monday.

A country that had not claimed a global team medal for a decade, or any Olympic team prize since 2000, made China eat humble pie as they upstaged the 2008 and 2012 Olympic champions by taking silver behind a triumphant Japanese team in the men's final.

"We were in a really difficult situation before the Games, we didn't know whether we would be able to compete or not," Nikolai Kuksenkov told reporters.

"This performance of our team showed that we're really strong, and we can fight for the medals even when the others don't want us to do that."

While the Russian athletics and weightlifting teams have been persona non grata in Rio following the revelation of state-sponsored systematic doping, gymnasts Kuksenkov, Denis Abliazin, David Belyavskiy, Ivan Stretovich and Nikita Nagornyy discovered that all their hours, days, months and years of training may come to nothing when they too were dragged into the saga.

With the World Anti-Doping Agency recommending a blanket Olympic ban on the country's entire contingent of athletes, they needed clearance from the International Olympic Committee to compete in Rio even though they had already taken up residence in the athletes' village.

Rather than worry about things that were outside their control, they chose to focus on what they knew best -- and that resulted in them claiming a surprise medal at the Olympics for the first time since they picked up a bronze in 2000.

Asked how they had overcome the criticism, Kuksenkov added: "By believing in positive and believing in fairness in the world."   Continued...

2016 Rio Olympics - Artistic Gymnastics - Preliminary - Women's Qualification - Subdivisions - Rio Olympic Arena - Rio de Janeiro, Brazil - 07/08/2016. The Russian gymnastics team is seen during the women's qualifications. REUTERS/Damir Sagolj