September 30 (AP) – Three medalists on the victory lap. Only two with flags.
That’s the reality for Russian pole vaulter Anzhelika Sidorova after winning gold at the world championships on Sunday, officially as a neutral athlete.
But pole vaulting’s a sisterhood and Sidorova’s defeated rival, Sandi Morris of the United States, was her strongest advocate despite the doping sanctions on the Russian team.
“Sidorova is a friend of mine and she can’t help what’s going on politically,” Morris said.
“If I were her, I would have done the same thing. Go out there and fight to compete, regardless of what’s going on in my country. I don’t necessarily think it’s a bad thing because the athletes are most important. If she’s clean, she’s clean, and I honestly believe she is.”
Morris’ show of affection came despite what she called a “bittersweet” day big jumps but another silver to go with her second places at the 2016 Olympics and 2017 worlds.
Sidorova competed in a muted blue uniform. Her neutral status, awarded by track’s governing body after vetting of her drug-test record, allows her to compete internationally unlike most Russians but bans her from displaying any national symbols. Track has taken the strongest line of any major federation against Russian doping, though Russia’s harshest critics would favor a ban against all Russian athletes.
At Monday’s medal ceremony the stirring Russian anthem will be replaced by music composed for the IAAF.
“Of course I’m not really comfortable with it all, but I’m so happy. I was just so happy, I didn’t really think about it,” Sidorova said of her flag-free victory lap. “Gold is gold.”