Stolbova, Bukin, and Majorov All Denied the Olympics by Officials
Russian Olympic Committee claims that Ksenia Stolbova and Ivan Bukin will not be cleared to compete in PyeongChang; Swedish Olympic Committee refuses to send Alexander Majorov after he fails to achieve their demanded results.
The week after the European Championships is usually when the finalization of the Olympic roster takes place. In theory, non-European countries could have skate-offs for spots at the Four Continents Championships, the way plenty of European countries do at Europeans. But in practice, that’s rare.
The biggest country announcing their Olympic skating team this week was Russia, although the only berth really left for the results of Europeans to determine was the second men’s berth. France and Italy had named part of their teams, but likewise had decisions to make based on last week’s results. Hungary and Finland each have a singles Olympic ladies berth, and we are waiting to hear the final disposition of those too. And Sweden came in with two berths. For one of them, two ladies in the competition were pitted against each other for it.
But for the other, the question wasn’t who’d go, but if they’d send him. Sweden is one of those countries that demands certain standards of their athletes to go to the Olympics even beyond them qualifying berths for themselves and/or their countries according to their sports’ rules. And after the results, it was looking like they weren’t going to send a skater they could’ve sent.
Indeed, they will not. But that, the most dreaded news of the week at its beginning, was eclipsed by far worse news that broke a day after it did, and blindsided the figure skating community completely.
Stolbova and Bukin Not Invited to the Olympics
After Europeans, as is typical, the Russian federation named their Olympic team, which was exactly what we thought it would be after that competition ended. The remaining question, of course, would be whether the International Olympic Committee would clear them all for invites. The official list of all the Olympic Athletes from Russia is expected this weekend. They had already advised the world they’d rejected over a hundred Russian athletes. But at that point in time there was no reason to believe the rejects included any figure skaters, except possibly ice dancer Ekaterina Bobrova, and even that didn’t seem too likely.
But some of the names of those not invited are coming out early. So far the biggest name banned is Viktor Ahn, the originally Korean speed skater who competed for Russia in Sochi. But one of the biggest shocks came Tuesday, when the Russian Olympic Committee, claimed a number of athletes had been left out, including two skaters. And neither of them were even Bobrova. Instead, they’re pairs skater Ksenia Stolbova and ice dancer Ivan Bukin. The Russian figure skating federation was quick to issue a statement, accusing them of being discriminatory and arbitrary. With absolutely no explanation for many of these athletes being rejected, they looked like they might be right to be angry for once.
Sadly, the IOC did not help matters much with their own statement on the matter. They indicated they’re essentially presuming all Russian athletes guilty until proven innocent. They also currently are confirming or denying nothing related to specific athletes. It is possible, of course, that we’ll get a little more information this weekend, when they start naming the names. But probably the most we can hope for more general details about the process they engaged in. Stolbova and Bukin may even never know just why they were denied, which is kind of outrageous.
In the place of proper explanations, all we have is leaks and speculation. There is a claim that Stolbova is the “female skater” who won silver and gold referred to in the McLaren report as having her urine sample tampered with. But there’s never been so much as a whisper against Bukin. Another Russian source is claiming the IOC is basing their decisions off records from Moscow’s main anti-doping laboratory, though it doesn’t say much about what they found there.
Meanwhile, all the Russians who were convinced all the allegations of state-sponsored doping were fabrications from the evil West have a whole new reason to believe that. Alexandra Stepanova & Bukin weren’t medal contenders, but Stolbova & Fedor Klimov were. Of course, if they were trying to take out the top Russian skaters, one would’ve expected them to go after Bobrova, since she & Dmitri Soloviev are the Russian medal contenders in ice dance. As it is, if the IOC doesn’t have a good reason for this, it’s more likely a case of incompetence than malice. But that doesn’t make much of a difference for Stolbova or Bukin. Either way, they are still being punished for the sins of others, and Stepanova and Klimov even more so.
Hopefully Russian officials submitted extra names to the IOC just in case this happened. If nobody else gets banned, the third pairs spot would go to Kristina Astakhova & Alexei Rogonov, and the third dance spot to Tiffani Zagorski & Jonathan Guerreiro. They will certainly not be medal contenders.
Swedish Olympic Committee Not Sending Majorov
Fans might have not been too anxious about the Russian skaters at the beginning of the week, but they were worried about Alexander Majorov. Even back when he earned Sweden an Olympic berth at Nebelhorn, he noted they wouldn’t send him if he didn’t get a “top eight” score by breaking 260. He has never broken 230, and when he failed to yet again at Europeans, fans still held out hope the officials would change their minds. Quite simply, this was not a reasonable demand to make of Majorov. Very few men can get that kind of score. Seventh at Europeans would be enough for most countries. But on Monday, Majorov himself confirmed it wasn’t good enough for the Swedish Olympic Committee.
Sure enough, the next day Sweden named their entire Olympic team, and only ladies skater Anita Ostlund is on it. By then, that at least they’re sending her was a relief. She earned the spot at Europeans when she had a strong sixth-place short program at Europeans, while Matilda Algotsson, who obtained the berth at Nebelhorn, failed to even make the free skate. Ostlund had a bad free which dropped her to seventeenth, and likely would’ve cost her the Olympics had she been older and to them already. But Swedish officials are more lenient with young skaters who have never been to the Games. That was probably a large part of why they sent Majorov in 2014.
This decision, too, is one that has been disparaged. That’s for good reason. Refusing to send Majorov for failure to meet such a standard isn’t only harsh to him. It also passes up a chance to encourage the sport further in Sweden, especially when he’s been the best skater they’ve had since losing the Helgesson sisters. Fans have even started a petition to try to reverse the ruling. But it may be too late, since once Sweden formally gives the berth up, it’ll be handed over to the Philippines. Yet as of Monday, the Philippines hadn’t heard anything.
At least this should mean a return trip to the Olympics for Michael Christian Martinez. Four years ago he marched into Sochi alone, the first athlete from the Philippines to ever compete at the Winter Games. This time around he’ll be joined by a skier who up until now was also looking like a one-man team. Figure skating has become popular in the country in recent years, and there may well eventually be other skaters who will follow in his wake. Some of them might have been inspired by seeing someone from their country on Olympic ice.
Majorov perhaps has never received so much support in his career as he did when he broke the news. He has since expressed his gratitude for it:
Thank you all for the support and love you gave me the last 24 hours! ❤️ I could never imagine how many people and fans that really supported me as an athlete! Love to you all! #figureskating #majorov #alexandermajorov #skatesweden #konståkning #eurofigure #nordicskaters #figureskating #figureskaters #фигурноекатание #спорт #europeanchampionship #taitoluistelu #patinage