Russian sailors offer a limited opportunity to participate in the Paris Olympics

GENEVA (AP) – Russian and Belarusian sailors are set to clinch their only path to the 2024 Paris Olympics in a last-chance event in France next year that was described as “madness” by a top Russian sailing official on Wednesday.

Sailing’s world governing body said next April’s races, dubbed the last-chance Olympic qualification regatta in the French Riviera resort, were a “targeted opportunity” for sailors with Russian and Belarusian passports to return to international competition as neutral athletes.

The decision will exclude Russia and Belarus from five European qualifiers and three global tournaments scheduled until March as part of a wider ban on countries from international sport during the war against Ukraine.

World Sailing’s decision, announced on Tuesday, means the Russians will not go to The Hague for the 2023 world championships, the main Olympic qualifier scheduled for the Dutch city in August.

Final decisions on whether and how Russians and Belarusians can return to sport have been left to individual governing bodies, after the International Olympic Committee issued guidelines in March to allow neutral athletes to compete again since the Paris Games. are approaching.

The IOC and its president Thomas Bach suggested that it would be discriminatory to exclude Russians and Belarusians based on their passports.

World Sailing’s current stance of offering just one possible, but not guaranteed, qualification for the Paris regatta has been criticized by Russian Sailing Federation president Sergey Dzhenbaev.

Commenting on the Russian news agency Tass, Dzienbaev said of the last-chance option, “it’s also crazy to show up without competitive practice and qualify for the Olympics.”

Russian sailors won no medals at the Tokyo Olympics, where six athletes competed in five of the 10 medal classes. Russia has won just one bronze medal in Olympic sailing in the last 20 years, at the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Games.

In a statement, World Sailing said it “remains fully committed to supporting the Ukrainian sailing community, which continues to be an incredibly difficult time”.

World qualifying events in 2024 could also be the only way for Russian boxers in their July 26-August 26 tournament. 11 Paris Games. They are barred from entering Poland for next month’s European Games and are unlikely to qualify for the Asian Games hosted by China in September.

In the Olympic Taekwondo sport, two Olympic champions of Tokyo were excluded from Russia from the World Championship starting next week in Azerbaijan.

Maxim Khramtsov and Vladislav Larin were not on the list of 23 Russian and Belarusian athletes approved by World Taekwondo to compete as neutrals. Both athletes expressed support for the war, which violates the neutrality clause proposed by the IOC.

World Taekwondo said of the approved list that its eligibility review committee had “verified that no athletes were actively involved in the military, and those who were deployed have since been discharged.”

The status of Russia and Belarus will be discussed at a May 31 meeting of the umbrella group of Olympic sports federations, known as ASOIF, in Lausanne, Switzerland.


AP sports writer James Ellingworth in Dusseldorf, Germany contributed to this report


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