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Russia's sporting freeze grows over Ukraine invasion

(AFP)

Russia continued to pay a heavy sporting price for its invasion of Ukraine on Tuesday, frozen out by a snowballing list of sports with perhaps the most painful blow coming in ice skating.

Russia, traditionally a powerhouse in the sport in which they won six medals at the Beijing Olympics including two gold, on Tuesday had their skaters barred from all competitions.

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This rules them out of March’s world championships to be hosted in Montpellier, France. 

It is another significant blow to a country who under President Vladimir Putin had used sport as a powerful force for its image both globally and internally.

Under his presidency they have hosted the Winter Olympics in 2014 in Sochi — though that was overshadowed by the state-sponsored doping scandal — and the 2018 football World Cup.

On Monday, the governing bodies who oversee those sporting showpieces hit Russia hard.

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) urged sports federations and organisers to exclude Russian and Belarusian athletes and officials from international events.

Hours later world football’s governing body FIFA kicked Russia out of the 2022 World Cup as football’s global governing body and UEFA joined forces to expel Russian national teams and clubs from all international competitions. 

On Tuesday they lost the right to host the men’s Volleyball World Championships — which the old Soviet Union won twice — in August and September.

“The FIVB Board of Administration has come to the conclusion that it would be impossible to prepare and stage the World Championships in Russia due to the war in Ukraine,” said the International Volleyball Federation in a statement.

“It has accordingly decided to remove from Russia the organisation of the FIVB Volleyball Men’s World Championship scheduled to be held in August and September 2022.”

– ‘Give birth to life’ –

This follows UEFA stripping Saint Petersburg of hosting the Champions League final — European football’s premier club competition — and Formula One cancelling the Russian Grand Prix last Friday.

The Ice Skating Union (ISU) said they had decided to bar the skaters — this also includes short track and speed skating — after they “carefully evaluated” the IOC’s statement on Monday.  

“The ISU Council… agreed that with immediate effect and until further notice, no skaters belonging to the ISU Members in Russia and Belarus shall be invited or allowed to participate in international ice skating competitions,” the body said in a statement.

Badminton World Federation (BWF) followed suit with a blanket ban on the athletes declaring it had “strengthened its measures”. Only hours before it initially just cancelled BWF-sanctioned tournaments in Russia and Belarus.

Swimming was a rare bird to offer some sanctuary for Russian and Ukrainian swimmers as governing body FINA stopped short of banning them.

“Russian or Belarusian nationals, be it as individuals or teams, should be accepted only as neutral athletes or neutral teams,” FINA said in a statement.

Tennis stars such as newly anointed men’s world number one Daniil Medvedev will be nervously awaiting what the men’s tour ATP and women’s tour WTA decide.

Russia are also the Davis Cup holders though they are not involved in this weekend’s play-offs — the International Tennis Federation (ITF) that runs the tournament is yet to comment.

The International Cycling Union (UCI) too is yet to make a call on individual riders or teams — though Pavel Sivakov who rides for the Ineos outfit made clear his opposition to the war last week.

Amidst all the gloom for Ukrainian sporting stars there was a bit of bright news for Ukraine international midfielder Yevhen Shakhov — who plays in Greece — whose wife gave birth to a baby girl in Kyiv.

“The real heroes of our time. Heroes are not those who fight, but those who give birth to life. I love you very much,” the 31-year-old AEK Athens star posted on Instagram.

Pirate IRWIN

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