With just six days into the XXIII Olympic Winter Games underway in Pyeongchang, South Korea, athletes from the Caspian region have already won three medals.
As of Monday morning, athletes from Russia and Kazakhstan grabbed silver and bronze medals in events like Figure Skating, Short Track Speed Skating, and Freestyle Skiing.
Due to restrictions imposed on Russia by the International Olympic Committee over a now-famous doping scandal, all Russian athletes competing are technically “Olympic Athletes from Russia” (OARs).
Despite the difference in representation from all other countries competing in the games, the Russians are proving successful: They won silver in the team Figure Skating event, and Semen Elistratov, age 27, clinched bronze in men’s 1,500 meter Short Track Speed Skating on Saturday. Gold went to South Korea’s Lim Hyo-jun, who came in first place and outpacing the second-place finisher, Sjinkie Knegt from the Netherlands.
“I dedicate this bronze medal to all the guys who weren’t able to go to these Olympics,” Elistratov said after the event, referring to 42 Russian athletes who were barred from competing in this year’s games.
While OARs are not allowed to compete bearing the Russian flag and have to wear neutral uniforms at all times due to the ban, Russia fans are not prohibited from displaying national symbols. Wearing red-colored ponchos and hockey jerseys, they have been seen waving the white and blue colors present in the Russian tricolor flag, emblazoned with a motto that reads “Russia in my heart.”
“We felt like at home – we felt that every person sitting in each corner of the stadium was yelling the name of Russia,” said Dmitri Soloviev who, skating in pairs with Ekaterina Bobrova, ranked third in the team Figure Skating event on Monday. Thanks in part to the performance by Soloviev and Bobrova, OARs have won a silver medal in team Figure Skating, with Canada taking gold and the U.S. taking bronze.
Russian female figure skater Alina Zagitova scored her team ten points, as she ranked first performing in the women’s free skate event. At just 15 years old, she set a personal best with a score of 158.08, outpacing American Mirai Nagasu, who gave a near-perfect performance that included an extremely difficult and rare triple axel.
Kazakhstan clinched its first medal on Sunday with Yulia Galysheva ranking third in the women’s mogul skiing event, having performed with a broken arm. The gold was grabbed by French skier Perrine Laffont, while Canada’s Justine Dufour-Lapointe took sliver.
“This is the merit of all of Kazakhstan, not only of my family, coaches. This is a medal of our country,” she said after the performance.
This is the eighth medal for Kazakhstan at the Winter Games since the country began to perform separately from the Soviet Union and the very first in the mogul events.
Along with Kazakhstan and athletes from Russia, Caspian region’s Azerbaijan and Iran are officially represented, while Turkmenistan is the region’s only state to not send any of its athletes to Pyeongchang.
Although the games officially opened on Friday, February 9, competitions began on February 7, and will run through February 25 before the 2018 Paralympic Games open on March 9.