(Saint Petersburg) Becoming an Olympic champion was the lifelong dream of Russian Kliment Kolesnikov, but not at all costs. At 23, this rising swimming star will not go to the 2024 Olympic Games in Paris, due to the “unacceptable” conditions of the IOC.
“No, I’m not sad,” says this tall brunette with a shy smile, bronze and silver medalist at the Tokyo Games.
“To date, under current conditions, for me, it is unacceptable” to participate in the 2024 Olympics, assures Kliment Kolesnikov, in an interview given to AFP on the sidelines of the recent swimming competitions in Saint Petersburg, the former imperial capital.
“The dream of an Olympic gold medal remains, but I’m not sad because I can’t go,” says the swimmer, who was crowned European 100m champion at the age of 20 in 2021 in Budapest.
At the beginning of December, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) authorized Russian and Belarusian athletes to participate in the Paris Games (July 26-August 11) on the condition that they compete under a neutral banner, excluding team events, and that they do not have not actively supported the Russian offensive in Ukraine and that they have cleared the qualification hurdle.
To date, there are only 11 in this case, eight Russians and three Belarusians, against around sixty Ukrainians, according to the IOC.
If Russia, which denounced “discriminatory” criteria, has not yet decided whether or not it recommends its athletes to go to Paris, Kliment Kolesnikov has already made its choice.
“I decided that for me personally, it would not be possible to participate in the Olympic Games under these conditions,” he said, explaining that he did not want to be a “black sheep” among the other athletes who would come in the summer. next in the French capital.
“The other guys are participating, competing as if nothing had happened, and we will not have the right to have a delegation […], nor a flag or anthem,” adds the record holder of the 50m backstroke world, as young athletes gather around him to ask for an autograph.
“I always prepared for the Olympics,” the “coolest” competitions for every athlete, says the 1.95m swimmer.
“Sure, I’d love to go. Of course, I would like to win an Olympic gold medal. But given the current situation, I would risk returning to my country with this medal and then seeing it withdrawn” by the IOC, he explains.
Until the situation changes, Kliment Kolesnikov says he wants to focus on “new world records”.
The number of competitions organized in Russia has increased significantly since Russian athletes were banned from international competitions following the launch of the Russian assault on Ukraine in February 2022.
“All this time that we are competing inside the country, the guys are improving and breaking records […], I too manage to break world records,” emphasizes Kliment Kolesnikov, who notably established in July world best mark in 50m backstroke (2355) in long course during a competition in Russia.
“We swim, and we remain in competition with athletes from other countries by our results,” he says.
And added: “but if ever the conditions (of the IOC) change” and the Russian authorities decide that “in the name of the Fatherland, we must go and win medals for our country” at the 2024 Olympic Games in Paris, “well obviously I’m going to go.”