YUZHNO-SAKHALINSK, Russia (Reuters) - Russian freestyle skier Semen Denshchikov on Wednesday married a skeleton racer who was not invited to compete in Pyeongchang in a Valentine’s Day ceremony meant to lighten the mood around Russian sport.
Denshchikov, who finished 16th in ski cross at the world championships last year, was one of 169 Russians cleared by the International Olympic Committee to compete at the Pyeongchang Games as neutrals despite a ban on the country.
But his bride, Olga Potylitsina, did not get the call.
Potylitsina, who finished fifth in the women’s skeleton event at the 2014 Sochi Games, was not invited to Pyeongchang even though the IOC sanctions against her for an alleged anti-doping violation at Sochi were overturned in court.
“Maybe we will bring a little bit of good news and everyone will rejoice, and the spirits of the whole team will be lifted and everyone will be happy,” Potylitsina, 28, told reporters in the far eastern Russian city of Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk.
Potylitsina said she would watch her husband on television from their home in the Siberian city of Krasnoyarsk.
Denshchikov said his last-minute wedding between practice sessions before flying out to South Korea on Thursday would not affect his concentration on the slopes.
“All my thoughts are about the Olympic Games in any case because it will be very difficult Olympics for all the athletes involved,” the 24-year-old said, adding that the couple would hold another ceremony for family and friends when he returns from Pyeongchang.
The IOC last year banned Russia from Pyeongchang over what it called the “systematic manipulation” of doping tests at the Sochi Games.
But the Olympic body left the door open to some Russian athletes without a history of doping to compete at its invitation as neutral “Olympic Athletes from Russia”.
Russian athletes have won one silver and four bronze medals in Pyeongchang so far.
Writing by Gabrielle Tetrault-Farber,; Editing by Ed Osmond