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Russian athletes need to compete internationally, says Olympic Champ Bolshunov

"We long to be competing against the strongest and if it does happen all sports would only benefit from it," Bolshunov stressed

MOSCOW, August 12. /TASS/. Russian athletes wish to be competing against opponents flying national flags of other countries, Russian cross-country skier Alexander Bolshunov, who won three gold medals at the 2022 Winter Olympics in China, said on Friday.

"Today, as never before, we need to be a part of organized sports tournaments in Russia and abroad with the participation of athletes from other countries," Bolshunov said.

"We long to be competing against the strongest and if it does happen all sports would only benefit from it," the merited Russian cross-country skier added.

At the 2022 Winter Olympic Games, Bolshunov won three gold, one silver and one bronze medals. Bolshunov, 25, is the first Russian cross-country skier to win the Olympic Games (2022), the World Championship (2021) and the World Cup series.

During the closing ceremony of the 2022 Winter Olympic Games in Beijing Bolshunov was the flagbearer at the Parade of Athletes representing Team ROC (the Russian Olympic Committee). The ROC national team finished the 2022 Winter Olympic Games in China, held on February 4-20, in the 9th place of the medal standings having won six gold, 12 silver and 14 bronze medals (32 in total).

On February 28, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) issued recommendations to international sports federations to bar athletes from Russia and Belarus from taking part in international tournaments, citing Moscow’s special military operation in Ukraine as the reason.

Following the IOC’s recommendations in late February, the majority of global sports federations decided to bar athletes from Russia and Belarus from all international sports tournaments.

IOC President Thomas Bach said in an interview with Germany’s Sport Bild earlier this week that it was still early to alter IOC’s February recommendations regarding Russia and Belarus. He said in particular "We still do not recommend inviting athletes from Russia and Belarus to tournaments. They still have no anthems, no flags, no national colors".