Alexander Karelin: ''We should go to the Olympics for sure''

Great Olympic сhampions tell about participation of Russian athletes in the Olympic Games in South Korea

Alexander Karelin: ''We should go to the Olympics for sure'' Photo:

The topic of Russia's athletes participation in the Olympics has not subsided either in the media or in the offices of officials since the announcement of the IOC's decision on December 5th. However, the question of the participation of athletes from Tatarstan was still covered with a veil of silence. Therefore, the correspondent of Realnoe Vremya went to the opening of the swimming cup named after Russian swimming Olympic champion Alexander Popov and asked the guests and the 'hero of the day' himself as well as another Olympic champion Alexander Karelin about their views on the terms on which 'Olympic athletes from Russia' are allowed to go to South Korea. And, of course, he found out from Deputy Minister of Youth Affairs and Sport Khalil Shaikhutdinov who is going to represent Tatarstan and on what conditions.

Nine athletes from Tatarstan are going to participate

Russian athletes will go to the Olympics, what about Tatarstan athletes — who is going to participate? – our correspondent asked the deputy minister of youth affairs and sport during a press conference devoted to the opening of the swimming tournament named after Alexander Popov, the four-time Olympic champion.

''Yes, nine athletes are going to participate from Tatarstan. All conditions have been created. Despite the requirements under which we are allowed, all the issues are being addressed. There is no delay. Especially that we have heard about the permission from the primary source — from the head of the state. Yesterday, the government stated it would support our athletes.

For now, it is skiers Andrey Larkov, Anna Nechaevskaya who are going to participate. It is the last stage taking place in Europe, and I think at the end Artem Nikolaev and Mary Davydenkova, skiing, will join. Also, in figure skating — it is Evgeniya Tarasova. She is the leader in pair skating today. Also, Vladislav Khadarin, Elena Bykova. Besides, I hope, two or three our hockey players will be included in the national team.

We are having no problems. Even here, at the tournament, there are a number of coaches that have received invitations there. And I think that a balanced and wise decision will be made on 12 December at the Olympic Committee. We will make the final decision by the results.''

Alexander Popov: ''In order to never have doubts in strength and success, we should give reason for doubt and speculation to no one.'' Photo:

Сontinuing on the topic, I have a question to you, Alexander (Popov, the four-time Olympic champion in swimming – editor's note), about the dispute around the topic to go or not to go.

The International Olympic Committee has clearly formulated under which motto and slogan the team 'Olympic Athletes from Russia' will participate. God grant that this will never happen again. But the question under what flag and on what conditions we will participate has been closed. It is necessary to go,'' the Russian medalist concluded.

Alexander Karelin: ''Did they love us before? But they have always known that competition without us is dishonest and victory is not so honourable''

Then another Olympic hero, triple Olympic champion in Greco-Roman wrestling Aleksandr Karelin gave a fairly long, but very balanced and competent speech.

''It is necessary to go for sure. And I it is no secret that we together with Alexander Vladimirovich (Popov – editor's note) was already under the Olympic flag in 1992. It was the team of the RSFSR when the Union collapsed. We should go for sure to stop all these conversations around à la non-patriotism for two reasons. First, the participants will bear not only Russian citizenship and it is understandable — Russian names, Russian Tatars, Russian representatives of the Russian Caucasus and all the peoples of Russia. So here we have to participate because the IOC has clearly formulated, though complicated, requirements but nevertheless we should go and support South Korea, which is interested in our participation in the Olympics. I am convinced that our decision, obviously, will be followed by the respect as to the sports power. We have not succumbed to these arguments.

And there's another story I want to tell you: we do not cease to protect those who are vulnerable in their rights, whose medals are being called into question. Now we have to disagree with biased judgments and to organize a sort of united force. We need to work on our reputation. We need to call the reasons why we underestimated, not considered the beginning of the planned campaign. So we need to go and traditionally to perform well.

Alexander Karelin: ''Now we need to work on our reputation. We need to call the reasons why we underestimated, not considered the beginning of the planned campaign. So we should go and traditionally to perform well.'' Photo:

And about the fact that our judges are not allowed and will be judged more strictly. We are a strong power. We have always been judged with bias. When I hear that now we are being in the most difficult times, I say: did they love us in the last century? They were just realizing that without us competition is dishonest and victory is not so honourable. Because we are part of complex, but correct condition. Now they are trying to tell us that it is so complicated. Believe me, that's not true. About this they just write different things. Because it used to be four newspapers, and today — 550. In all other respects, nothing has changed. We have the same claim to victory. We have the same sense that we are successors of the traditions,'' Karelin said.

Khalil Shaykhutdinov: ''What is important, Tatarstan Olympians and their physicians have never been implicated in doping scandals''

After the press conference, the correspondent of Realnoe Vremya had a private conversation with Khalil Shaykhutdinov and discussed in more details the situation with Tatarstan athletes.

Why do Tatarstan athletes deserve to participate in the Olympics?

For example, let's take Andrey Larkov — he is a silver medalist of the world championship. They took the fourth place. Evgeniya Tarasova — bronze medalist of the world championship and European champion, recently won the tournament. Vladislav Gagarin also won the world cup in snowboarding. Generally, we have top athletes. Also, hockey players — Andrey Markov and Vladimir Tkachev.

They are being at their peak, and they have never been implicated in doping scandals. Therefore, they have a great chance, and I think there have to be no problems with their admission. Neither their coaches nor doctors are not in the blacklists.

We all know that the Russian flag in South Korea will be banned for athletes. But tell me, maybe we can make flags of regions, for example, the flag of Tatarstan?

Such things are forbidden. No flags of regions. For this, they will withdraw from the Olympic Games. If you go with the flag of a region or present it — it is even a reason to strip of the medal.

And the question on financing. It is not clear yet who will pay for the transfer and accommodation of athletes. Are they ready in Tatarstan to cover the expenditures themselves?

The financing is already provided, no questions. And whether they will go, it will decided at the federal government level. There is the Olympic Fund. In any case, solutions will be found. What is more, Tatarstan athletes are few. If the decision is up to the regions, we will find a sponsor. No problem.

Khalil Shaykhutdinov: ''They are being at their peak, and they have never been implicated in doping scandals. Therefore, they have a great chance, and I think there have to be no problems with their admission.'' Photo: Maksim Platonov

Alexander Popov: ''The IOC's position turned out to be acceptable and softer than predicted by our 'experts''

The correspondent of Realnoe Vremya couldn't help but ask in a private conversation the point of view of 'the hero for the day' — Alexander Popov.

What is your position? To go to the Olympics under a neutral flag or to boycott?

You see, the decision — to go or not to go — was taken by the International Olympic Committee. Here we are absolutely powerless. We only hoped that the conditions, the position of the IOC wouldn't be 'murderous'. And they turned out to be very acceptable, and much softer than our experts (in quotation marks) had expected.

By the fact that we are going even under such a status, without a flag, we still acknowledge our guilt. Even Vladimir Putin said that we were partly to blame for the situation, including the fact that others took advantage of it.

You see, in order to have no doubt in power and success, we should give no reason for doubt and speculation. That is why we ourselves made errors and oversights. Respectively, we gave rise to the situation that has evolved. Therefore, you should always start with yourself.

What do you think, what are the prospects of our national team? After this 'humiliation' will the IOC weaken the grip? Will we be able to participate in future Olympics without pressure?

Here, you know, it is not exactly 'humiliation', but we ourselves are to blame for this result. After the Olympics, a line has to be drawn under this whole situation. Everything will continue as if nothing has happened, probably, it will be announced, after all, by the International Olympic Committee that after the ceremony of the Olympic Games for Russia all the hardships and vicissitudes end, at this we put an end and move on as a single unit. And belong to the Olympic movement as to the best friends and companions, with which we are. Everyone makes mistakes.

By Erik Dobrolyubov