This is one of the consequences of the war in Ukraine, many Russian sportsmen have been excluded from international competitions. This is the case with figure skaters. The world championships are currently taking place in Montpellier until Sunday, without these Russian athletes who usually collect the podiums.
Around the South room of France Arena where the World Figure Skating Championships take place from March 23 to 27, Brigitte is a little disappointed. She, who comes from Haute-Savoie, has been following figure skating events since she was very young. She hoped to see the Russian skaters. “They are the best, they often take the first places,” she laments. The Russian invasion in Ukraine has its consequences: such as the exclusion of many Russian athletes from international competitions.
Without the Russians, is it a competition on the cheap?
“I was hoping to see them and I’m afraid it’s a bit of a discount competition since they’re not there,” continues Brigitte. “It will still spoil the competition a bit. It’s a shame, they have nothing to do with it.”
For several years, Russian skaters have multiplied the podiums at the World Championships as well as at the Olympic Games. This is particularly the case in the women’s individual event. Last year in Stockholm, Anna Chtcherbakova, Elizaveta Tuktamysheva and Alexandra Troussova, all three Russians, had monopolized the world podium and today, the fans regret their absence. “They are really the heroines of my daughters”, specifies Sarah, mother of two young skaters who came specially from Washington to attend these worlds.
“I have known for a few weeks that they will not be there”, regrets the young Katherine. “It made me sad to learn that,” she continues.
However, many understand the decision of the International Skating Union. “From a sporting point of view it’s frustrating, but politically it’s understandable,” says Richard, who arrives from Canada with his daughter. “Some regimes don’t separate sport from politics and it would have been an untenable situation to have Ukrainian and Russian skaters on the same ice. Frankly, it would even have been insulting.”
Sport will not unite these two peoples
However, some would have liked to see sport unite these two peoples. “In sport, there should be no politics and these Russian athletes have worked hard to be here”, regrets Jeanne. “It’s very moving to see all these skaters from all over the world. It feels good to see them all together and it could have been a beautiful symbol. A moment of brotherhood”, she says.
For the former French champion, Surya Bonaly, who now trains skaters in the United States, the absence of these Russian athletes should allow athletes of other nationalities to reveal themselves. “It’s true that we are always used to seeing Russians always on top,” she notes. “It can give other skaters an opportunity to finally find a place. ‘, and it’s hard because you’re not recognized in the skating world if you’re not in the top 3,” she said.
Other nationalities ‘deserve first place’
Surya Bonaly doesn’t think the overall level of the competition will drop because of their absence: “The Russians are good but it’s not just them either. So of course there won’t be any quadruples jumps, but even without that there are girls who deserve first place!”
Long uncertain, five Ukrainian athletes should however be present. The French Federation has planned to greet them with a minute of applause in support of the Ukrainian people and for peace.