22:49 GMT +310 December 2018
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    Russian Biathlon Team's Coach Optimistic About 2018 Olympics

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    While some Western media outlets claim that the Russian national team may be banned from the 2018 Winter Olympics in South Korea amid the doping scandal, former German biathlete and head coach of the Russian national biathlon team Ricco Gross commented on the sporting event and Russia's chances for success in an exclusive interview with Sputnik.

    Ricco Gross is confident that the Russian national team will take part in the 2018 Winter Olympics despite the alarming security situation in South Korea's Pyeongchang, the doping-related accusations against Russian athletes and the recent penalties from the International Olympic Committee (IOC).

    "We will go to South Korea," the Russian team's coach said optimistically.

    Gross stated that since 2015, when he started his work as a coach in Russia, there has been consistent improvement in the achievements of his team, and he hopes that this trend will continue in the upcoming Olympic season.

    "Our highlight was the competition in Hochfilzen (Austria) last year, where we became world champions. It was a tremendous pleasure to defeat all other participants at that moment," Gross stated.

    According to the coach, the training process in Russia is very similar to that in Germany. However, there are also a few differences that have to be mentioned.

    "Basically, we train running and shooting — just like in Germany. What really differs is that in Germany there is very good training at the sport bases, whereas in Russia the preference is given to the system of training camps and workshops. We [in Germany] definitely have more training courses. The advantage is that athletes are always together, and can, accordingly, be trained better," Cross noted.

    Gross believes that each of the six athletes who are part of the Russian men's biathlon team that is set to compete in the upcoming World Cup in Sweden are capable of demonstrating outstanding results. However, he named French athlete Martin Fourcade and all the German biathletes as Russia's main rivals, adding that the Russian team might have a hard time with them.

    Security Problems

    As tensions on the Korean Peninsula over Pyongyang's drive to continue nuclear tests show no sign of abating, a number of German sporting associations have been debating whether German athletes should participate in the Olympic Games at all, arguing that Pyeongchang — the spot where the competition is set to take place — is located in a dangerous proximity to North Korea.

    "Of course, we have already discussed this. But this is rather the competence of the IOC. The IOC decided that the Olympic Games will be held there and of course it took into account the security aspect. But, naturally: if it's not safe, it would be illogical to go there for the sake of the competition."

    Moreover, Gross noted that each athlete has the right to decide for himself whether to participate in the Olympics or not, especially if he personally feels insecure.

    Doping Issue

    Commenting on the doping scandal involving Russian athletes, Gross stated that those who violated the rules should be punished.

    "If the athletes opted for deception, they should not be allowed into sports," he said.

    At the same time, the coach stressed that there is currently no evidence that the Russian athletes who will participate in the World Cup, set to take place in about three weeks, take any kind of illegal medical substances.

    "And I, accordingly, also have no reason to ban anyone from participating in the competition," Gross said.

    According to him, existing suspicions psychologically oppress the athletes.

    "They have a feeling that everyone points at them with a finger, and this is unfair," Gross concluded.

    The decision of the IOC, whether Russian athletes will be able to participate in the 2018 Winter Olympics, has not yet been accepted.

    However, Gross is quite optimistic in this respect: "I proceed from the fact that we will go to the Olympics and show good results."

    Earlier, the German TV channel ARD said that the Russian Anti-Doping Agency (RUSADA) hasn't fully complied with the requirements set by the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA), which could stand in the way of the nation's participation in the upcoming games.

    The media source reported that WADA was considering the reinstatement of RUSADA's status. The decision will be announced during the upcoming Executive Committee meeting on Thursday in Seoul, the German TV channel said, citing sources.

    However, if the Executive Committee fails to restore RUSADA's authority in accordance with WADA's Code Compliance, the Russian athletes run the risk of missing the next winter games in South Korea, ARD said.


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    biathlon, sport, 2018 Winter Olympic Games, Russia
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