Russian Olympians can expect warm welcome at Beijing Winter Olympics
Aiming high
Published: Jan 18, 2022 09:24 PM
Russian figure skater Kamila Valieva competes at the ISU European Figure Skating Championships on January 16, 2022 in Tallinn, Estonia. Photo: VCG

Russian figure skater Kamila Valieva competes at the ISU European Figure Skating Championships on January 16, 2022 in Tallinn, Estonia. Photo: VCG

Russia might not be at the Beijing Winter Olympics but Russian Olympians are expected to be at the top of the medal table when the Games close on February 20. 

"We are ready to fight for 30 medals. We have a very good national team. We are ready to fight for a spot in the top three [in the medal table]," said Russian Olympic Committee President Stanislav Pozdnyakov. "We have a method to determine the number of medals we might win. Unfortunately there is large margin of error because of the COVID-19." 

The impact of the pandemic will be felt beyond the snow and ice, where Russian athletes will once again compete for the Russian Olympic Committee rather than the country as it serves a World Anti-Doping Agency ban.

COVID-19 has limited who can attend the Beijing Games, which like the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games last summer, will play out in front of much smaller crowds.

Russia has missed out more than most. Even with overseas fans prevented from buying tickets to the Winter Games because of China's COVID-19 pandemic prevention measures, the large Russian community in Beijing and North China would have offered strong support to their athletes. 

The Beijing 2022 organizers unveiled the final version of spectator policy on Monday. "Given the current grave and complicated situation of the COVID-19 pandemic and to ensure the safety of all participants and spectators, it was decided that tickets should not be sold anymore but be part of an adapted program that will invite groups of spectators to be present on site during the Games," read a statement the organizers released.

That might not be a problem for the Russian athletes given that China and Russia enjoy a special relationship. Russian President Vladimir Putin will be in Beijing to cheer his athletes on at the opening ceremony.

The Russian athletes can expect support from other Games attendees considering they can count some of the biggest stars at the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympic among their number. 

They are chasing a possible 1-2-3 on the podium in the women's individual figure skating after Kamila ­Valieva, Anna Shcherbakova and Alexandra Trusova did just that at the recent European Championships.

Other gold medal hopes include speed skater Natalia ­Voronina and cross-country skier Alexander Bolshunov. 

Elsewhere, their men's ice hockey team are among the favorites for gold, with their claim strengthened after the NHL prevented its players from traveling to Beijing thereby damaging the US and Canada teams.

If Team China cannot get ­toward the top of the medal ­table then there is a strong chance that the Russian athletes will be cheered on as the host's second team.