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Russian fencing champion won’t compete at Olympics without flag, anthem

Sofia Velikaya

Russia’s Sofya Velikaya celebrates after winning the Women’s Sabre team final at the 2019 Fencing World Championships in Budapest, Hungary on July 23, 2019. (Photo by Peter Kohalmi / AFP) (Photo credit should read PETER KOHALMI/AFP via Getty Images)

AFP via Getty Images

Sofya Velikaya, a Russian Olympic fencing champion and Opening Ceremony flagbearer last year, reportedly said she will not compete at the Games without Russia’s flag and anthem.

“Everyone should be on an equal footing -- to perform under their own flag and with their own anthem,” Velikaya said, according to an Inside the Games translation of a Russian news agency TASS report. “Now the Olympic Movement is a big question. Until equal conditions are created, I would not go to the Games.”

Russian athletes’ ban from competing with the national flag and anthem at major international competitions due to the nation’s doping violations ends in December.

They were able to compete as neutral athletes or under the names of the Russian Olympic Committee or their national federations until the invasion of Ukraine, after which most Olympic sports federations banned Russia and Belarus athletes indefinitely. That included the International Fencing Federation (FIE).

Velikaya, 36, won team sabre gold at the last two Olympics and individual sabre silver at the last three Olympics. In Tokyo, Russian athletes competed under the Russian Olympic Committee name and without the Russian flag and anthem.

Velikaya carried a white flag with the Russian Olympic Committee logo into the Opening Ceremony, leading the delegation.

Velikaya took breaks from competition after the 2012 and 2016 Olympics to have a child.

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