Gangneung (South Korea) (AFP) – Russian figure skater Ekaterina Bobrova said Sunday the passionate support of her compatriots in the crowd at the Pyeongchang Olympics made her “feel at home”, even though the country is formally banned.
The 27-year-old is part of a contingent of 168 Russians competing under a neutral flag and known as Olympic Athletes from Russia (OAR) as punishment for state-sponsored doping.
After competing in the team event at the Gangneung Ice Arena she said: “The support was inspiring.”
Bobrova, a former European champion now at her third Olympics, added of the IOC ban: “When we had this decision on December 5 we were denied doing something we normally do.
“We had the impression when we arrived at the Olympic Games that the support would be more than normal as people understand our very difficult situation in a human way.
“(But) today the backing was absolutely huge, we could see our citizens with flags and singing songs in Russian.
“It was crucial, it feels as if we are home.”
Russian athletes are not allowed to brandish or even carry the Russian tricolour as part of the ban and must tread carefully in what they say.
Any criticism of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) would likely see the ban extended beyond Pyeongchang.
The Russian skaters will need every inch of that support on Monday because they have a fight on their hands to overhaul Canada if they are to retain the team title they claimed at Sochi four years ago.