By Gabrielle Tétrault-Farber
DOHA (Reuters) – Russian pole vaulter Anzhelika Sidorova said her victory at the world championships on Sunday had not been overshadowed by the absence of her country’s flag and the scandal surrounding its athletics federation.
The 28-year-old Russian, who cleared 4.95 meters on her third and final attempt, said she felt slightly uncomfortable seeing the silver and bronze medalists celebrate with their flags but was too caught up in her own emotions to be bothered.
“All that is not too comfortable but I was so happy,” she said. “I was just so happy that I didn’t really think about it… Gold is gold.”
Russia’s athletics federation has been suspended since a 2015 report commissioned by the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) found evidence of mass doping in the sport.
Since then some Russian athletes have been cleared by the IAAF, athletics’ global body, to compete internationally as neutrals after demonstrating that they were training in a doping-free environment.
Barred from wearing their national colors or celebrating with their flag, Russia’s neutral athletes are serenaded by the IAAF anthem if they win gold.
Sidorova’s all-time best result left American rival Sandi Morris with silver in her third successive major championship. Greek Ekaterini Stefanidi, the title-holder and Olympic champion, took bronze.
Morris, the 2016 Olympic silver medalist, said she had no hard feelings about Sidorova’s status as a neutral athlete.
“Sidorova is a friend of mine,” Morris said. “She can’t help what is going on politically.”
Drained by her showdown with Morris, Sidorova said she knew her final jump was her last chance to claim the title.
“I thought this is a chance that needed to be taken,” she said. “If not, I would have had to jump again and I didn’t really have the strength at that point.”
When she returns to Russia, Sidorova plans to celebrate her gold medal with whipped cream she bought before traveling to Doha.
“I’ll come home and just eat it all,” she said, chuckling.
(Reporting by Gabrielle Tétrault-Farber; Editing by Clare Fallon)