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Olympic Village welcoming Russians despite abuse claim

12 Feb 2018, 21:37 IST
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Gangneung, Feb 12 (AFP) Olympic Village residents are behaving well towards athletes from Russia despite a verbal abuse complaint, says a top Russian women ice hockey player.

"Everything is good. People are pretty friendly," said Olympic Athlete from Russia (OAR) standout Valeria Pavlova after the team lost their first match of the 5-0 to Canada.

"It seems like everyone is one family in the village. We go around like normal people."

Russia were banned from the Pyeongchang Olympics over doping but 168 'clean' athletes were allowed to take part under a neutral flag and using the OAR name.

Six Russian women's hockey players were barred because of the sanctions.

Earlier this month a Russian hockey coach said he had been verbally abused in the Village over the doping scandal.

While it was unclear who made the offending remark, the Canadian Olympic Committee issued an apology.

After the OAR squad lost their opener to four-time defending Olympic champion Canada, the Canadian coach Laura Schuler said the verbal abuse and apology issue wasn't on the radar screen.

"We've been focused on ourselves and what we're here to do," she said.

Schuler said ensuring a level playing field without doping was a matter for the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) and the International Olympic Committee (IOC).

"Our focus is on us and progressing," she said. "We put our trust in the IOC and WADA on making sure it's an equal playing ground for everybody."

As for the OAR having to play without some of their top players, Schuler noted, "It was great they were able to field a team."

Russian coach Alexei Chistyakov said through a translator that he did not think lacking the six players hurt the spirit of his team.

"We always come out with determination to win," OAR's Maria Batalova said. "We never give up. We will always fight."

They face reigning world champions the United States on Tuesday.

In addition to a fistful of support groups waving flags and chanting "Russ-i-a," the OAR women were cheered on by their male counterparts, who begin Olympic competition on Wednesday.

"Support from each individual is very important to us and I want to thank our men's players, our countrymen, who came to support us. It's very pleasant," said the OAR's Olga Sosina

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