GANGNEUNG, South Korea (Reuters) - Short track speed skater Semen Elistratov, an Olympic Athlete from Russia, dedicated his bronze medal in the 1500m on Saturday to the Russians who were barred from competing at the Pyeongchang Games.
Speaking at a news conference after the competition, the 27-year-old Russian said team mates who were not invited to Pyeongchang by the International Olympic Committee (IOC), including six-time Olympic gold medalist Viktor Ahn, were on his mind.
“I dedicate this bronze medal to all the guys who weren’t able to go to these Olympics,” said Elistratov, who won gold in the 5000m relay at the 2014 Sochi Games.
The IOC banned Russia from the Pyeongchang Games last year over what it called the “systematic manipulation” of the anti-doping testing system at the 2014 Sochi Games.
But the Olympic body left open the door to Russian athletes with no history of doping to compete in Pyeongchang at its invitation.
The Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) on Friday rejected the appeals of 47 Russian athletes and coaches against the IOC decision not to invite them.
Elistratov said he had suffered from the uncertainty surrounding the status of Russian athletes ahead of the Games.
“The situation around Russian sport today has also played a role because before going to the Olympic Games, you had to make a choice: to go the Olympics or not go to the Olympics,” he said. “That was quite difficult.”
In the aftermath of the ban, Russian officials said they would not hinder the athletes who decided to compete as neutrals, without Russian national colors or symbols.
They also said they would respect the choice of athletes who decided to stay behind.
All but one of the 169 Russians cleared by the IOC to compete in Pyeongchang are taking part in the Games.
“It was very important to win a medal on the first day,” Russian Olympic Committee President Alexander Zhukov was quoted as saying by RIA Novosti agency. “It always improves the team’s mood.”
Editing by Clare Fallon