The Associated Press GANGNEUNG (AP) — Semen Elistratov hopped up and down on the Olympic podium, pumping his fists toward a group of fans waving Russian flags.
He claimed a bronze medal for his disgraced nation. It felt more like platinum.
Elistratov became the first Russian to earn a medal at the Pyeongchang Olympics with a third-place finish in men’s 1,500-meter short-track speed skating on Saturday.
He wasn’t able to compete under his country’s banner, of course. Russia was banned from the Games after revelations of a massive doping operation.
But the International Olympic Committee cleared 168 competitors to take part under the rather bland moniker “Olympic Athletes from Russia.” When Elistratov zipped around the rink, he was wearing a blue-and-white skinsuit with the letters “OAR” emblazoned across his chest and back.
Afterward, he made it clear this was a triumph for his homeland.
“I dedicate this medal to all guys that have been excluded from these games in such a hard and unfair way,” Elistratov said. “This medal is for you.”
He wasn’t sure he wanted to compete at the Olympics, despite being cleared of his own doping offense in 2016. His wife, parents and coach persuaded him to take the spot offered up by the IOC.
“It was not an easy decision at all,” Elistratov said.