Ukrainian artistic swimmers Maryna and Vladyslava Aleksiiva have been outspoken against Russian participation at the Paris 2024 Olympics since fleeing Kharkiv last year, but the Olympic bronze medalists seem to be having second thoughts about Ukraine’s policy of boycotting qualifying events where Russians are allowed to compete.
In a recent interview with French media AFP published on Monday, the twin sisters said it wouldn’t be fair if Ukrainian athletes were forced to sit out Paris 2024 while Russians competed under a neutral flag, as is the proposed plan by the International Olympic Committee (IOC).
“Maybe from our side we must do something with our (policy), to change it,” Vladyslava told AFP. “So that we can go to championships where there will be Russians. Because it’s stupid that they can go — but they kill people — and we didn’t do anything and we can’t go.”
Earlier this month, the Aleksiiva sisters won gold in the women’s duet free event at the World Cup stop in Montpellier, France. Later this summer, they’ll travel to Fukuoka for the World Championships in July with World Aquatics extending its ban on Russian and Belarusians into 2023. An update on their status for international competitions isn’t due until July, meaning Russians and Belarusians will miss Worlds again this year.
After spending the first six months of the war in Italy, Maryna and Vladyslava have been able to make quick trips back to Ukraine recently to visit relatives. The sports complex where they trained in Kharkiv was struck by a missile in September, but the sisters still maintain a strict seven-hour-a-day training regimen in Kyiv when home.
“We’ve been training every day for seven hours and we have a goal, to show our braveness,” said Maryna.
“And show our country to the whole world,” said Vladyslava.
Last month, Vladyslava took a slightly different tone while talking about the issue.
“If (Russian athletes) go, we won’t go,” Vladyslava told Reuters. “We don’t want to meet them, and we cannot meet them. In general, all the federations … should do everything they can to not let them (take part).”
“If the IOC allows Russia to take part in the Olympic Games, then these Games are not about peace anymore,” she added. “They were under the neutral flag in the last Olympic Games and it didn’t change anything, they started a war.”
IOC president Thomas Bach has repeatedly insisted that any Olympic boycott would only hurt their own athletes.
Earlier this month, sports ministers from 36 countries raised concerns with the IOC’s proposed plan to allow Russian and Belarusian athletes to compete as neutrals at Paris 2024. Specifically, they noted military connections of athletes and argued that Russian athletes who receive state funding are “de facto representatives of those states.”