He­roes’ wel­come for neu­tral Rus­sian

New Straits Times - - Sport -

LON­DON

CHINA’S Gong Li­jiao ended her long wait for a global out­door ti­tle when she won the shot put gold medal at the World Cham­pi­onships on Wed­nes­day, ut­terly dom­i­nat­ing the com­pe­ti­tion.

The 28-old-year had won five sil­ver and bronze medals at the World Cham­pi­onships and Olympics but a gold had al­ways eluded her un­til a chilly, wet night at the Lon­don Olympic sta­dium.

Gong made of light of the con­di­tions as she broke 19 me­tres with five of her six at­tempts and won with a fifth throw of 19.94 me­tres. MOSCOW: Sergey Shubenkov ar­rived home in his na­tive Rus­sia on Wed­nes­day night to a noisy re­cep­tion from ju­bi­lant sup­port­ers af­ter be­com­ing the first Rus­sian neu­tral ath­lete to win a medal at the World Cham­pi­onships in Lon­don.

The 26-year-old failed to re­tain his 110 me­tres hur­dles world ti­tle, win­ning sil­ver be­hind Ja­maica’s Omar McLeod in Mon­day’s fi­nal.

Shubenkov’s sil­ver was the first ma­jor in­ter­na­tional medal won by any Rus­sian ath­lete since the coun­try’s ath­let­ics fed­er­a­tion was sus­pended over a 2015 World Anti-Dop­ing Agency (WADA) re­port ex­pos­ing sys­tem­atic dop­ing in the sport.

Al­though he was dis­ap­pointed with his sec­ond place, Shubenkov said the cir­cum­stances sur­round­ing his sta­tus as a neu­tral ath­lete gave the achieve­ment a dif­fer­ent mean­ing.

Reuters

“I feel like I am be­ing con­grat­u­lated more now than if I had won gold and if I had won it as part of the nor­mal Rus­sian team,” Shubenkov said at Moscow’s Shereme­tyevo air­port be­fore tak­ing a con­nect­ing flight to his Siberian home­town of Bar­naul.

Shubenkov has also been praised by Rus­sian of­fi­cials, who have largely sup­ported ath­letes’ ef­forts to com­pete as neu­trals.

“Af­ter such a long suspension from in­ter­na­tional com­pe­ti­tions, a sil­ver like this is equiv­a­lent to a gold,” TASS news agency quoted sports min­is­ter Pavel Kolobkov as say­ing.

Un­like at the last two world cham­pi­onships in Bei­jing and Moscow — where Shubenkov won gold and bronze re­spec­tively – he could not wear his coun­try’s colours in Lon­don.

“It was of course a lit­tle strange not to see the Rus­sian flag at the medals cer­e­mony,” he said.

Shubenkov is among the dozens of Rus­sians cleared in re­cent months to com­pete in­ter­na­tion­ally as neu­trals by the In­ter­na­tional As­so­ci­a­tion of Ath­let­ics Fed­er­a­tions (IAAF) af­ter demon­strat­ing that his train­ing pro­gramme met the proper an­tidop­ing re­quire­ments.

Like the 18 other Rus­sians com­pet­ing as neu­trals in Lon­don, Shubenkov could not wear his coun­try’s colours or any na­tional sym­bols.

When Shubenkov ar­rived in Moscow, a piece of grey tape was still cover­ing a Rus­sian ath­let­ics fed­er­a­tion logo on his black backpack.

But his coach Sergei Klevtsov was proudly wear­ing a pow­der blue T-shirt with a dou­ble-headed golden ea­gle, a Rus­sian na­tional sym­bol.

It re­mains un­clear when Shubenkov and other Rus­sians will be al­lowed to com­pete again un­der their coun­try’s flag. Reuters

REUTERS PIC

China’s Gong Li­jiao in ac­tion at the World Cham­pi­onships in Lon­don on Wed­nes­day.

EPA PIC

Sergey Shubenkov of Rus­sia with his 110m hur­dles sil­ver medal at the World Cham­pi­onships in Lon­don on Tues­day.

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