Without flag or anthem: Top Russian athletes prepare to compete at IAAF World Championships under neutral status
The IAAF World Championships kick off this Friday in Doha, Qatar with Russian athletes again being denied the opportunity to perform under the national flag after the suspension of the country’s athletics federation was upheld.
There will be no Russian team in Doha, just as they missed out on the previous global meeting in London two years ago, and at the Rio Olympics in 2016.
However, unlike the Rio Games, at which the entire Russian athletics squad was banned from competing in the wake of a doping row, the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) has given the green light to 30 individual athletes who will perform as neutral participants.
Athletes required a clean doping history in order to receive special approval from the athletics governing body to travel to the major track and field event of the year.
IAAF Council announces that there has been no change in status of the Russian Athletics Federation (RusAF).
— IAAF (@iaaforg) September 23, 2019
Of the 30 athletes selected by the IAAF, just five are likely to compete for the top awards in Qatar. Russian fans will be pinning their hopes on high-jumper Maria Lasitskene, who will seek to defend the world title she won two years ago.
One of the most technically gifted jumpers, Lasitskene has won practically every top prize in athletics, including world and European trophies, except for an Olympic medal.
She was denied the opportunity to compete for the elusive prize as a result of the blanket ban on Russian athletes.
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With a new wave of criticism directed at Russian sports officials over alleged manipulation of lab data in Moscow, Lasitskene said that she is not going to miss a second consecutive Olympics, stating that she will leave Russia and train abroad if necessary.
The 26-year-old will be one of the main contenders to win gold in the women’s high jump event.
Sergey Shubenkov, another neutral athlete from Russia, is expected to shine in the men’s 110-meter hurdles event. He took silver at the previous world championships in London.
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Anzhelika Sidorova will fight for a medal in the women’s pole vault, in which she holds the world record of 4.68 meters.
Long jumper Daria Klishina, who showed signs of competitive form at the national championships in July, could also be among the medal winners in Doha.
In the event of their success, there will be no Russian flag or anthem at the award ceremony, as all national symbols affiliated with Russia are banned at the tournament.