Russians to compete as ‘neutral athletes’ at Paralympics
Russians and Belarusians at the Winter Paralympics in Beijing will compete as “neutral athletes” because of their countries’ roles in the war against Ukraine, the International Paralympic Committee said Wednesday.
Russian athletes had already been slated to compete as RPC, short for Russian Paralympic Committee, as punishment for the state-sponsored doping scandal at the 2014 Sochi Olympics and a subsequent cover-up.
The IPC added more restrictions when the Paralympics open on Friday, but stopped short of expulsion. Belarus was sanctioned for its part in aiding Russia with the invasion and war against Ukraine.
Both delegations will be excluded from the medal table, and the IPC said it would not hold events in either country “while the present situation continues.”
“What we have decided upon is the harshest possible punishment we can hand down within our constitution and the current IPC rules,” IPC President Andrew Parsons said in a statement. “In deciding what actions the IPC should take, it was fundamental that we worked within the framework of our new constitution to remain politically neutral and within the IPC Handbook, the rules and regulations that govern the Paralympic Movement.”
Athletes from Russia and Belarus will compete under the Paralympic flag and the Paralympic anthem. The RPC delegation must cover the “RPC” symbol on uniforms in all events and ceremonies. The Belarus delegation must cover its national flag on uniforms.
The IPC said it would also withdraw the “Paralympic Honor” given to Russian President Vladimir Putin.
It said “Paralympic Orders” were also withdrawn from: Dmitry Chernyshenko, president of the Sochi organizing committee (now Russia’s deputy prime minister); Dmitry Kozak, deputy prime minister of Russia (now deputy chief of staff of the presidential executive office); Oleg Syromolotov, chief of the Interagency Security Command Centre for the Sochi Games (now deputy foreign minister); Alexander Gorovoy, deputy chief of Interagency Security Command Centre (now first deputy interior minister).
The International Olympic Committee on Monday pushed sports bodies to exclude Russian athletes from international events, but it left the final decision to individual governing bodies. The IOC has been slow to crack down on Russia, allowing its athletes to compete in the last four Olympics following Sochi.
The IOC said the action was needed now to “protect the integrity of global sports competitions and for the safety of all the participants” but left sports bodies with a way around the exclusion by adding that Russians and Belarusians could compete as neutral athletes or teams if expulsion was not possible because of short notice.
The move by the IPC comes as Russia is being barred from competing in a long list of sports including ice skating, skiing, soccer, hockey, basketball, track and field, and some tennis events. Some sports like swimming haven’t followed the recommendation from the IOC to ban Russians, instead allowing them to compete as neutral athletes.
Parsons acknowledged the possibility that some Paralympic athletes might refuse to compete against their counterparts from Russia. He also had said the options for the IPC were “limited” because of the possibility of legal challenges from Russia or elsewhere.
IOC President Thomas Bach will not attend the Paralympics and has designated Parsons — an IOC member — to represent the body. IOC vice president Ser Miang Ng was to attend, but has tested positive for COVID-19. The IOC said Ng had only mild symptoms.
Paralympic officials say 648 athletes and 49 delegations will take part in the Winter Paralympics. There were 2,900 athletes at last month’s Winter Olympics with 91 delegations.
Officials say 71 Russian athletes are expected to compete in the Paralympics, joined by 20 from Ukraine. The entire Ukrainian delegation was expected to arrive in time for Friday’s opening ceremony. The Paralympics close March 13.
Valieva, the 15-year-old Russian figure skating phenom expected to score gold in the women's free skate final, faltered while in the midst of a drugs test scandal.
In December, the teen tested positive for trimetazidine, a heart medication used to treat angina and which can increase blood flow to the heart, experts say.
The results didn't come to light until Valieva was already in Beijing and had won gold in the figure skating team event as she became the first woman to land a quad -- a jump that involves four spins in the air.
Despite Valieva's positive test, she was allowed to compete in the individual figure skating event on the grounds that she was a minor.
During her final program this week, though, she fell several times on the ice and placed fourth behind fellow Russian Olympic Committee teammates Anna Shcherbakova and Alexandra Trusova, who came in first and second respectively. She finished her routine in tears.
Now, eyes are trained on Valieva's coach, a team doctor and the competitive figure skating community in Russia for their roles in what happened to Valieva.
A composed yet jubilant Nathan Chen gave the performance of his career in the men's single skating competition -- and claimed what was rightfully his after a shocking loss at the 2018 Winter Olympics.
Skating to a medley of songs including Elton John's "Rocket Man," Chen confidently executed a whopping five quad jumps and ended a nearly five-minute performance with a triumphant smile.
"I definitely wanted to be able to get past that," Chen told CNN of his 2018 performance, in which he fell and failed to medal.
"I wanted to be able to have two short programs that I felt very proud of and fulfilled by, and I'm really glad that I was able to have that experience here."
The 18-year-old freeski superstar won three medals at her first Winter Olympics, including two golds. And in her last program, after a near-perfect performance on the women's halfpipe, she even took a well-deserved victory lap.
Born in the US but competing for China, a decision that has been under its fair share of scrutiny, Gu had one of the splashiest Olympics debuts this year. And she made some history while she was at it -- she's the first freestyle skier to earn three medals at a single Games.
"It has been two straight weeks of the most intense highs and lows I've ever experienced in my life," she told reporters after her win. "It has changed my life forever."
Norway won 16 gold medals in Beijing, the most any country has won in a single Winter Games. The country's competitors have earned gold in cross-country skiing, speed skating and biathlon, among others.
CNN's Henry Enten says Norway has two big benefits powering its Olympics success: Ideal weather for winter sports and money -- the country is a wealthy country, with its GDP in the top 35 worldwide. Winter sports require a lot of gear, training and funds.
Mikaela Shiffrin endured multiple hardships at this year's Games. The American skier had earned gold medals in 2018 and 2014, and fans expected a threepeat from the star in Beijing.
However, things didn't quite work out that way for the 26-year-old Shiffrin who had three DNFs -- "did-not-finish" -- after crashing out in three individual events.
She's been inundated with criticism from viewers and shared screenshots of some of the negative comments she's received. She said in a video shared Friday that, as much as the comments hurt, she hopes that fans who've been in a similar situation can learn to tune out their "haters."
"That message was meant for you guys, to get up and to keep going," she said in a video shared to Twitter. "Get out of bed the next day even though you're getting these messages that make you feel awful."
In her final event at Beijing 2022 the 26-year-old Shiffrin -- along with River Radamus, Tommy Ford and Paula Moltzan -- finished fourth in the mixed team parallel event at the National Alpine Skiing Centre.
"I have had a lot of disappointing moments at these Games, today is not one of them," said Shiffrin. "Today is my favorite memory.
"This was the best possible way that I could imagine ending the Games, skiing with such strong teammates."
The unstoppable 21-year-old snowboarder struck gold yet again with a winning performance on the women's halfpipe -- the same category that earned her a gold medal in 2018, when she was just 17.
That Kim once again dominated was a surprise to no one except maybe Kim herself. She told reporters she'd had "the worst practice ever" before her gold-medal performance, failing to stick most of her landings.
That rough practice didn't show on the snow -- she attempted a trick that involved three-and-a-half spins in the air and earned a score of 94, propelling her to the gold once again.
The California-born 19-year-old, competing for Team China, was bombarded with negative comments online after falling on the ice during the women's figure skating short program earlier this month.
Zhu, who gave up her American citizenship to compete on China's team in 2018 and changed her name from Beverly Zhu, has been criticized by Chinese viewers for her lack of fluency in Chinese in addition to her disappointing performance at the Games.
Still, Zhu is finding the positives in her 2022 trip to the Games. In an Instagram post shared earlier this week, Zhu said she "persevered through years of adversity, and came out a stronger person."
The American speed skater almost didn't make it to the Olympics -- she slipped during qualifying trials -- until a teammate gave up her spot so Jackson could compete.
That swap proved to be well worth it -- Jackson, 29, became the first Black woman to medal in Olympic speed skating, according to Team USA, and the first American woman to win a gold medal in speed skating since 1994.
She clinched the victory by skating just 0.08 seconds ahead of Japan's silver medalist.
"I cried immediately, it was just a big release of emotion," she told reporters. "A lot of shock, a lot of relief and a lot of happiness."
Meyers Taylor became the most decorated Black athlete in Winter Olympics history after she won a bronze medal in the two-woman bobsleigh on Saturday.
The medal is the fifth for Meyers Taylor -- passing Shani Davis' four -- as the 37-year-old became the most decorated woman Olympic bobsledder of all-time.
"It's so crazy to hear that stat and to know that I'm part of a legacy that's bigger than me," said Meyers Taylor. "Hopefully it just encourages more and more black athletes to come out to winter sports and not just black athletes, winter sports for everybody."
Sunday's Closing Ceremony was likely emotional for Meyers Taylor -- she was Team USA's flagbearer -- who has hinted this would likely be her last Olympics.
"I'm going to take some time to really think about this. It's going to be really hard to top this Olympics. Two medals and now closing it out with flagbearer, it's going to be really, really hard to top that."
A helicopter flies past the Beijing Olympic Tower ahead of the 2022 Winter Paralympics in Beijing, China, Wednesday, March 2, 2022. Russian and Belarusian athletes at the Winter Paralympic Games in Beijing will compete as “neutrals,” but will not be expelled because of their countries' roles in the war against Ukraine, the International Paralympic Committee said Wednesday. (AP Photo/Andy Wong)