Russian athletes banned from marching flag at Winter Olympics closing ceremony

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The Winter Olympics closing ceremony takes place on Sunday.

Russian athletes will not be able to march behind their flag at the Pyeongchang Winter Games closing ceremony after the IOC voted unanimously to keep the country’s ban for mass doping.

But the International Olympic Committee (IOC) said the suspension could be lifted later if no further positive drug tests come out of the Games, after two Russians tested positive for doping in Pyeongchang.

Russia was banned in December from taking part in the 2018 Olympics following revelations of widespread drug-cheating, but 168 athletes deemed “clean” were allowed to compete as neutrals.

They were representing “Olympic Athletes from Russia” under strict guidelines including a ban on Russia’s national flag, national colours and the Russian national anthem.

The vote to keep the ban followed a recommendation from the IOC’s executive board, which met Saturday and early Sunday to thrash out Russia’s fate.

The IOC “could have considered lifting the suspension given that the Olympic Athletes from Russia (OAR) had respected the IOC’s decision of December 5,” IOC president Thomas Bach said.

“However, two Russian athletes tested positive for doping here in Pyeongchang.

“This was hugely disappointing and does not permit the IOC to envisage lifting the suspension of Russia for the closing ceremony.”

The IOC vote means that Russia will never be recorded as having taken part in the Pyeongchang Games despite the fact that the 168 Russians represented the fourth biggest delegation at the Games.

Nicole Hoevertsz, the IOC member who led a group charged with monitoring the behaviour of the Russians at the Games, praised their conduct.

“They have followed the spirit of the executive board decision (of December) throughout the entire period of the Games,” she said.

However, taking into account the two doping violations at the Games, she recommended that the ban be kept because they represented a “violation” of the executive board guidelines for the OAR’s participation.

Russians Alexander Krushelnitsky, a bronze medallist in mixed doubles curling, and bobsledder Nadezhda Sergeyeva were kicked out of the Pyeongchang Olympics after testing positive for banned substances.

Stanislav Pozdnyakov, head of the Russian delegation, had earlier blamed “negligence rather than malicious intent” for the positive tests in a bid to have the suspension lifted for Sunday’s closing ceremony.

The Russian situation, stemming from systemic doping culminating at the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, overshadowed the build-up to Pyeongchang with dozens of Russian athletes filing legal challenges in a bid to take part in the games.

Just hours before the opening ceremony on February 9, 47 Russians implicated in doping lost a last-minute court bid to compete in South Korea.

Russia’s suspension in December follows the uncovering of a doping conspiracy that involved secret agents at Sochi, where host nation Russia topped the medals table.

Investigations revealed an elaborate ploy where tainted Russian urine samples were switched with clean ones overnight using a “mousehole” in the wall of the Sochi anti-doping laboratory.

Russia has denied any government links to the conspiracy. But the IOC has suspended its former sports minister, Deputy Prime Minister Vitaly Mutko, for life.

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Ester Ledecka: I'm too crazy to be Queen of the Snow after historic double gold

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Double up: Ester Ledecka.

Double Olympic champion Ester Ledecka said on Sunday that she was “too crazy” to be a role model after becoming the first woman to capture gold medals in different sports at the same Winter Games.

The Czech stunned the world of alpine skiing by winning the women’s super-G, in what was one of the biggest shocks in Winter Olympic history, and completed the double when she won snowboarding parallel giant slalom on Saturday.

Asked whether she was a role model, Ledecka replied: “No, better not, Really!

“I’m not a very good example, I’m too crazy!”

US stars Lindsey Vonn and Mikaela Shiffrin both called Ledecka an inspiration for the next generation of athletes after her unprecedented dual victory.

“As long as they have fun with what they’re doing and have the courage to stand by decisions and just go, then it’s possible for everyone,” Ledecka said.

“But not everyone wants to choose two sports.

“I had luck that I had a lot of people watching my back, my family supports me. Doing two sports is very expensive and it took some time for me to be able to pay my own team. I’m very grateful for how it is right now.”

The two-time world snowboarding champion also dismissed the notion that she had revolutionised the way women might now ski after her gung-ho approach to alpine racing that saw her beat out Austrian Anna Veith by a hundredth of a second in the super-G.

“I really don’t think about it this way to be honest. These two girls are very inspiring, I’ve been watching Lindsey since I was a little child and Mikaela since she started to race the World Cup,” Ledecka said.

“I love their style of riding and I hope to be as good as them.”

The use of the word “riding” made her ski coach Tomas Bank bristle.

“We don’t say riding, we say skiing!” Bank chided.

There has traditionally been little love lost in the age-old rivalry between skiing and snowboarding, the latter long seen as newcomers who have muscled in on the mountain scene.

“With the snowboarders on this side,” she said pointing to her snowboard coach Justin Reiter, “I say, ‘Damn skiers!’

“On this skiing side with Tomas I say, ‘Damn snowboarders!'” she added, suggesting she was not the conduit for remedying the apparent disconnect between the two sports.

That was reinforced by her tweet after winning the super-G, arguably contender for one of the best of the Games.

“Austria: We are the best in super-G! Swiss: No, we are the best! USA: Shut up, we are the best! Italia: Mamma mia! Ledecka: Hold my beer … and snowboard.”

Ledecka said her “biggest advantage” was that she was continuing to enjoy herself.

“As long as I have fun, as long as I do this for myself, I think it’s a good way and very special. Not all the girls have this all the time.

“As long as I’m on a hill, I feel like it’s home.”

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Winter Olympics: Record-breaking Norway run out of golden shoes

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Norway's victorious speed skating team.

Norway might have won the most medals of any country ever at a Winter Olympics but it has come at a cost – they have run out of commemorative, gold-coloured shoes.

The Scandinavians were sitting pretty at the top of the medals table on Saturday, the penultimate day of the Pyeongchang Games, with a record 38 medals, 13 of them gold.

That is more than the previous record of 37 won by the USA at Vancouver 2010.

But their gold rush has created a problem – albeit a nice one. Norway ran out of the eye-catching gold-coloured shoes that its triumphant athletes wear at medal ceremonies.

“After the men’s team event in ski jumping we ran out of stock,” said Nils Roine, chief communications officer of the Norwegian Olympic and Paralympic Committee.

“There alone another four pairs were handed out and with gold medals in both the men’s and the ladies’ cross-country relays, the shoes were ripped away.”

Roine said the Norwegian team in South Korea had surpassed all expectations.

“Our ambition was 30 medals in total, but no number was set for gold medals. We will anyhow do our best to provide our athletes with shoes if they win more,” Roine said.

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