Water slalomer Jiří Prskavec is very disappointed that the International Canoe Federation (ICF) approved the return of Russian and Belarusian competitors to international competitions.
The decision surprised him all the more because he co-created a questionnaire with the British representative Eilidh Gibson for the competitors, the overwhelming majority of whom opposed the start of the countries that are leading a military invasion of Ukraine.
“I am very angry. The answers were not few and the result was unequivocal. Let’s say that 80 percent voted for the complete exclusion of Russia and Belarus and another 15 would let them in after condemning the war,” said Prskavec.
“In this spirit, we sent a letter to the International Canoeing Federation saying that this is the will of the slalom competitors. And they did it their way,” said the Olympic champion from Tokyo.
The ICF has said that competitors who do not support the invasion of Ukraine can return to international competition. In that case, they could start under a neutral flag.
On the basis of what initiatives the ICF decided, Prskavec had no idea. The two-time world champion should speak with the president of the federation Konietzko this week.
“I assume that he will want to explain their decision to me. They always told us that the competitors matter, but at this moment the decision was not based on the will of the competitors,” repeated Prskavec.
“It was based on some political fights within the federation. I regret it. At such a moment, sport lost a little,” he added.
The ICF has not yet specified the date for the return of Russian and Belarusian athletes to competitions. However, she said all launch requests will go through a rigorous approval process.
“However, when (Russian competitors) have a photo with Lavrov on social networks, they have nothing to do there. Sergei Lavrov (Foreign Minister) is the honorary chairman of the Russian Canoe Federation, so practically everyone who is good has a photo with him.” stated Prskavec.
The connection between sports and the state sector is also a problem. “Our sport is not strong in terms of sponsorship and people are dependent on the country they ride for, because it pays them and finances their training. So the Russians shouldn’t be there, because the same government also pays for the war. It seems absurd to me,” the Czech representative did not understand.
“However, I will wait for the final opinion that the ICF will come up with. If, for example, they say that they are not allowed to be in the army, they will not go there anyway, because I think everyone is there,” said the native of Mělník.
According to the twenty-nine-year-old representative, Ukrainians also spoke against the start of the Russians and Belarusians in the questionnaires. “Eilidh and I went through it and it was very sad. To think that they are locked up, they can’t train and each of them has had someone close to them die, it’s hard to say that the Russians spent three months training in the Emirates. It was very sad and I don’t understand the decision that was made,” pointed out Prskavec.
He also did not like the ICF’s move to leave it up to the organizers to decide whether to allow approved neutral participants into their competitions. For example, the organizers of the World Cup in Prague’s Troja continue to support the sanctions imposed on Russia and Belarus.
“I think they passed the decision on to the organizers, which I think is completely wrong. Paradoxical situations can occur when the Russians will run three races and not four,” Prskavec added.
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