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Russian speed skater Graf refuses to compete at Pyeongchang


AFP Moscow
Russian speed skater Olga Graf announced today she is refusing to compete in the upcoming Pyeongchang Olympics, because a ban on her country meant there wouldn't be enough athletes to form a team for the pursuit race.

Following a ban over alleged state-sponsored doping in the 2014 Sochi Olympics, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) last week decided to allow only 169 of Russia's athletes to take part in the Games under a neutral flag.

The move has excluded many high-profile athletes from the 2018 Winter Olympics. As only four of Russia's speed skaters have been allowed to compete -- including Graf -- Russia will be unable to form pursuit teams.

"I'm happy that the IOC commission considered me to be a clean athlete," Graf wrote on Instagram. "But it's deplorable that more than the half of the country's team, including my pursuit race teammates, have not been approved to compete.

"That makes it impossible for Russia's athletes to participate in the event."

Graf, who won two bronze medals in Sochi in the 3,000 metres and in the team event, said she was forced to decline the IOC invitation to Pyeongchang because she had hoped to win a medal in the pursuit.

Russia's Skaters Union (RSU) chief Alexei Kravtsov said that the federation will support any decision by athletes over participation in the 2018 Olympics.

"Olga (Graf) has expressed her position clearly, we understand it," he told R-Sport agency. "From the very beginning we've said that we will support any of our athletes' decisions. It's her choice."

Graf said that her decision did not mean she was retiring. "I want to continue training," she told RIA Novosti news agency. "If there are alternative competitions, I will take part in them.

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First Published: Jan 30 2018 | 4:25 PM IST

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