Russian World Record Holder Evgeniia Chikunova Will Skip Paris Olympics as Boycott Brews

Russian world record holder Evgeniia Chikunova told Russia’s Match TV on Wednesday that she will not seek neutral status for the Paris Olympics this summer because of the International Olympic Committee’s restrictions on Russian and Belarusian athletes.

“Will I got to the Olympics? No. And I will not receive neutral status,” said Chikunova, who broke the world record in the 200-meter breaststroke (2:17.55) last April at the 2023 Russia Championships in Kazan.

“I don’t see myself as a neutral athlete,” she explained. “In principle, I do not understand the position of the IOC. They set such conditions and think that everyone will immediately run to perform in a neutral status?”

In December, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) approved Russian and Belarusian participation at the Paris Olympics as neutral athletes without a national flag or anthem as long as they do not actively support the ongoing war in Ukraine. What bothers Chikunova the most about the IOC’s policy was her inability to represent any team in Paris as she did in Tokyo a few years ago.

“I think that the conditions when we won’t even be in the medal standings are extreme,” she said. “In Tokyo, I competed for the team of the Russian Olympic Committee, there was affiliation, but now there will be nothing at all. It is a shame for the IOC to impose such conditions. Choice without choice. I think they understand that a small number of people will do this.”

Chikunova made clear that she will support other Russian athletes if they decide to attend the Olympics as neutrals. But in an interview with Match TV on Wednesday, All-Russian Swimming president Vladimir Salnikov said he would be surprised if any Russian swimmers make the trip to Paris as neutrals, claiming that the only one who has approved so far — Ivan Girev — withdrew his status.

“(Girev) wrote a statement to World Aquatics, in which he indicated that he could not imagine performing without his team,” Salnikov said. “I do not know about the desire of others to obtain neutral status.”

Girev told SwimSwam in January that he was celebrated — not shunned — for being approved as a neutral athlete in his circles.

Last year, Salnikov said he thought the chances of Russian swimmers competing at the Paris Olympics were close to zero. Russian president Vladimir Putin questioned the conditions for Olympic participation in December, saying no decision has been made yet about the country’s involvement in Paris this summer.

But just last month, Russian deputy prime minister Dmitry Chernyshenko said that athletes “probably should go” to the Paris Olympics if they have the opportunity as neutrals. It sure sounds like a boycott is now brewing, at least among Russian swimmers.

According to Russian state news agency TASS, only 12 Russian athletes and seven Belarusians have been approved as neutral athletes for the Paris Olympics so far.

As for Chikunova, she said she’ll still tune in to the Olympics this year as a viewer while remarking that her records will still count in Russia.

“I’m 20 years old this year,” Chikunova said. “I don’t plan to finish. I hope that I will still have the Olympics. I will perform in Russia, my records will count.”

Last September, two-time Olympic champion swimmer Evgeny Rylov told Russian media that he’d refuse to sign a political declaration in exchange for a return to international competition. Notably, neutral athletes will not have to sign a declaration condemning last year’s invasion of Ukraine. Instead, like all other athletes, they must reaffirm their commitment to respect the Olympic charter, including “the peace mission of the Olympic Movement.”

World Aquatics decided to allow Russian and Belarusian athletes to return to the international stage in September. A few Belarusian swimmers competed at the final stop of the World Cup Series in Budapest in October. Russia opted to skip last month’s 2024 World Championships in Doha, Qatar, where neutral athletes were barred from speaking with media among other restrictions.

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Angello J Malefakis
3 months ago

We do not 🚫🚫🚫 need Russian or Belarus or Palestinians competing in the Olympics. The Olympics are of peace, love and the acceptance of all people and all races. I am a true Olympian where the Olympic flame comes from in the city state of Pyrgos, Ilias, Greece. I don’t want the Olympics or the Olympic flame 🔥🔥🔥 used by these nations of hatred. Say NO to terrorists. Say NO to kidnapping children. Say NO to kidnapping mothers, grandparents. Say NO to targetting children and mothers. Say yes to peace, love and the acceptance of all people.

I miss the ISL (Go dawgs)
3 months ago

A comparison I saw on twitter that may lack some accuracy but in an argumentative sense has some merit is that an American shouldn’t pile onto a Russian athlete for wanting to represent their country because of the assumption that they might be loyal to the Russian government and are fully supporting of the war in Ukraine. By that logic, we should pile onto American swimmers by the assumption that they are loyal to the American government and are fully supporting of Israel’s advances in Palestine, since the American government supports that as well. This girl is not her government. Give her a break, imagine the difficult situation she is in. She has given us absolutely no reason to believe… Read more »

3 months ago

bye bye, do not let the door hit you.

Ted Molloy
3 months ago

I feel bad for this woman and the position she and other tip athletes are in, it’s unfortunate for fans of sport. But I am unsure that if she is competing in Russia and not having independent drug tests (outside of Russia) that any of her records can be verified and will stand.

Stewart Fenwick
Reply to  Ted Molloy
3 months ago

Her 200 breast WR is already verified since last year.

Last edited 3 months ago by Stewart Fenwick
Reply to  Ted Molloy
3 months ago

Excellent point. How could FINA award her a WR without testing? What a farce!

Reply to  LUIGI
3 months ago

They couldn’t. The ratification implies she was tested.

Reply to  Braden Keith
3 months ago

Who tested her?

Reply to  LUIGI
3 months ago

a ratified record (such as this) indicates she was tested under approved conditions FYI.

Stewart Fenwick
3 months ago

*sad noises*

Christine Breedy
3 months ago

At my age-cant help saying and thinking that she will regret this decision later in life-because when you are older, worries fall away and being an Olympian stays-
(Perspective of a non Olympian)

3 months ago

Sad for her as she was very likely pressured to say such things (Like Girev). Right after Doha it was clear that Russia would not let neutral athletes participate. Terrible regime, and they are certainly not welcome.

3 months ago

Let’s not forget they weren’t event competing as “Russia” before because of previous indiscretions so they should be used to this by now even without the Ukraine situation

About Riley Overend

Riley is an associate editor interested in the stories taking place outside of the pool just as much as the drama between the lane lines. A 2019 graduate of Boston College, he arrived at SwimSwam in April of 2022 after three years as a sports reporter and sports editor at newspapers …

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