Olympics: Top Russian figure skater unsure if she'll compete as a neutral athlete

Russian figure skater Evgenia Medvedeva, the gold medal favorite in women’s figure skating at the 2018 Winter Olympics in PyeongChang, has a tough decision ahead of her. With Russia banned from the upcoming Winter Olympics, Medvedeva has to decide if she wants to compete under a neutral flag. If she won, she would stand on the gold medal platform without her flag while the Olympic anthem, not the Russian anthem, plays.

It can’t be an easy decision, though earlier on Tuesday Medvedeva spoke passionately about her desire to compete under a Russian flag and on a Russian team. She spoke to the International Olympic Committee panel before the ruling was handed down, as part of a small group of Russian athletes who were allowed to be heard by the panel.

Medvedeva addressed the panel in Russian, and her translated speech is below, courtesy of IceNetwork.com.

Dear President, dear members of the Executive Committee!
I am honored to be here today. Thank you for the opportunity to address you on behalf of Russian athletes.
I have until the last moment tried not to pay attention to the negative news related to Russian sports. I thought that we, the “clean” Russian athletes, had nothing to worry about. If someone really committed anti-doping rule violations, we certainly do not have anything to do with this.
In 2014, I was 14 years old. I have not even entered the adult national team of my country. For me personally, Pyeongchang should be the first chance to plunge into the unique atmosphere of the Olympic Games. I do not understand why I and my Russian teammates can lose this chance.
I took part in many different tournaments and I’m terribly proud of my two world title titles. But the Olympics is a dream! Everyone has dreams, and you probably already had a chance to fulfill your own. Let me do the same! I do not know if there will be other Games in my sports life after Pyeongchang.
I always believed that the opportunity to compete at the Olympics should be fought on the ice. Unfortunately, now I understand that I can lose this chance because of circumstances that do not depend on me in any way.
I can not accept the option that I would compete in the Olympic Games without the Russian flag as a neutral athlete. I am proud of my country, it is a great honor for me to represent it at the Games. It gives strength and inspires me during the performances.
In addition, for me both personal and team tournaments are equally important at the Olympics. If I perform without a national flag, I will not be able to compete in the team. At the same time, my other rivals will have this opportunity. The Olympic Charter states that all athletes should have equal opportunities. And in this case there can be no question of equality.
Dear members of the executive committee! I promise you that if I play at the Olympics in Pyeongchang, I will do my best not to disappoint you and adequately represent your country and the Olympic movement as a whole. Thank you for attention!

Medvedeva was very firm about not wanting to compete under a neutral flag. And her speech really shows the unavoidable downside to the IOC’s unprecedented ban on Russia competing at the Winter Olympics. While so many Russian athletes were involved (the McLaren Report says the number was at least 1,000), it’s not all of them. Medvedeva was just 14 during the Sochi Olympics, and there has never been a question about her being clean. All she wants is the opportunity to represent her country.

Russia’s Evgenia Medvedeva may not compete at the 2018 Winter Olympics due to the IOC ban on Russia. (AP Photo)

After the IOC’s ban on Russia was announced, Medvedeva spoke to Russian reporters in her native tongue. According to NBC Sports, Medvedeva said that it’s too early for her to decide whether she would compete in PyeongChang under a neutral flag.

Despite her comments to the IOC earlier in the day, that response is completely understandable. Like many athletes, Medvedeva has been working toward the Olympics for years, but now she has to balance her desire to compete with her desire to represent her country, something she probably never thought she’d have to do.

Medvedeva didn’t give a timeline for when she would make her decision. She’s currently resting a broken foot bone so she’ll be able to skate at the Russia championships in late December, which are supposed to help decide the Russian figure staking team for PyeongChang. There’s really no doubt that she’ll make the Olympic team, but there is doubt about whether she’ll choose to compete at all.

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Liz Roscher is a writer for Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email her at lizroscher@yahoo.com or follow her on twitter! Follow @lizroscher

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