arrow arrow arrow Russia set to remain neutral, but not because of the anthem
21.10.2019 . 07:08
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Russia set to remain neutral, but not because of the anthem
29.03.2018 . 12:19
What Next for Russia?

As their best Olympics finish ever draws to a close, the Russian program is loaded with some serious potential. The question is, how can they build on the momentum they are currently enjoying?

The Semi-Finals Were a Dream

Before now, getting to the Olympic semi-finals was a far-off dream for Russia’s women’s hockey team.

They did not manage to qualify for the Olympics in 1998, failed to get out of their group in 2002, in 2006, and once again in 2010, and they lost to the Swiss in the quarter-finals in 2014.

And, after a group stage showing that saw them score just 1 goal and concede 15, you would be forgiven for taking some time to look at NRL betting tips instead of those for this team!

But, after their win of 6 – 2 against Switzerland in the Pyeongchang quarter-finals, they managed to get through to the medal round, before finally falling to Finland in the game for the Bronze. They showed very well, however, against teams from the United States of America and Canada.

Where to From Here?

For starters, the majority of this team is not going anywhere: the only players who won’t at least in the running for the games in Beijing in 2022 are Nadezhda Alexandrova, the goaltender who will be 36-years old by then, and Svetlana Tkachyova, the defender who will be 37-years old.

Both these players were used relatively sparingly, anyway, with Alexandrova coming on in relief twice and Tkachyova averaging only around six and a half minutes on the ice for each game.

It would also come as no surprise to see Alexandra Vafina and Iya Gavrilova, who did not play at the Olympics, out of the pool by then as well.

Looking at who would be in line to replace them, the most obvious place to start would be the Under-18 pool, who managed to beat the Canadians and have gone on to play for Bronze for five years in a row.

Players Who Would Make a Good Addition

Up front, Ilona Markova, at 16-years old, was on the tournament All-Star team, while Oxan Bratisheva and Maria Alexandrova both made good showings as well, and none of these players are in any way set for early retirement.

But the player most widely considered to be the one to watch from the Under-18 group is Yelena Mezentseva.

Although Mezentseva has not pointed in either of the Under-18 tournaments she has played in, last year she posted a total of 24 points in 36 games for Biryusa Krasnoyarsk in the domestic league, at just 15-years old.

Mezentseva’s teammate, Yekaterina Dobrodoeyeva, has been at more than a point-per-game over the course of this season after posting 25 last year, and should also be looked at.

Both these players had to take things up a notch last season, when Valeriya Pavlova, the best player of the Biryusa group, was out on maternity leave.

When Beijing rolls around, many of the players from this year’s team will be in their mid-20s, and it will be interesting to see how they develop over the next few years.

Hockey Players' Singing Didn’t Affect Russia's Return

The International Olympic Committee has stated that the Men’s Ice Hockey team singing the Russian national anthem despite their neutral status did not negatively impact that country’s return.

A Defiance of IOC Rules

The winning team belted out the anthem as their medal ceremony was taking place after they took the Gold medal thanks to their win on Sunday against Germany.

Russian fans that were at the game sang right along with them, celebrating their performance.

Extraordinary Circumstances Apply

The IOC emailed a statement regarding the incident to The Associated Press, and it stated that they understood that it was because of the athletes’ excitement after winning a Gold medal in rather remarkable circumstances, seeing that their triumph was only secured in overtime.

Players for the Russian team did, however, say that they had decided before the game began that they would sing the anthem if they won.

The IOC decided to suspend Russia’s Olympic membership in December 2017 over a doping scandal which swept the 2014 Olympics, something which even punters more focused on AFL betting odds than ice hockey will remember.

It did, however, allow a total of 168 Russian athletes to take part in the Olympics at Pyeongchang this year, as Olympic Athletes from Russia, OARs, in neutral uniforms.

The OARs had to sign a document which stated that they agreed not to display any national symbols or protest the restrictions, and it was the Olympic anthem that was heard when they won Gold -albeit with the Russians singing boisterously beneath it.

No Reinstatement for the Closing Ceremony

The IOC voted against reinstating the Russians in time for the winning athletes to take part in the closing ceremony, which would have allowed them to march underneath their national flag.

The delegation from the disgraced country had stored up uniforms bearing the Russian flag in hopeful preparation, but it was not to be. Between this and match fixing, it is hard to say which scandal is worse.

The IOC determined that the Russians would be reinstated if no more of its athletes failed drug tests for the Pyeongchang Games this year, but they produced two of the four cases that have thus far been announced.

As testing of samples taken from Russian athletes neared its end, Shamil Tarpischev, Russian IOC member, told RIA Novosti, the state news agency, that their reinstatement was imminent.

IOC Criticised for Considering Waiving Ban

The IOC possibly releasing Russia from its neutral participation status drew sharp criticism from the international member body for National Anti-Doping Organisations, iNADO.

The alliance released a statement saying that it took two athletes from Russia testing positive to force the IOC’s hand when it seemed that the committee had clear intentions to re-admit Russia before the Games at Pyeongchang closed.

The statement went on to say that the banning was obviously a short-lived, negotiated deal that could simply be lifted, and deplored how the issue had been managed.

Curler Alexander Krushelnitsky and Nadezhda Sergeeva are the two OARs who tested positive this year, and the former was stripped of his bronze medal as a result. Both athletes accepted a disqualification.