Olympic Solidarity athletes win medals in Sochi
Nine athletes supported by the International Olympic Committee’s Olympic Solidarity programme have won medals in the first ten days of competition at the Olympic Winter Games in Sochi.
19 year-old Japanese figure skater Yuzuru Hanyu has become the first Japanese to win a men's figure skating gold at the Olympic Games and the youngest man to win the title in 66 years.
Hanyu went into the free skating programme on Friday evening with a clear lead following the short programme the day before, and despite two tumbles in his programme, a clean quadruple toeloop and seven triples secured him the gold medal.
“The Olympics is so wild and unpredictable,” he said after his performance at the Iceberg skating palace. “I’ve never been this nervous for a competition in my entire life. I’m upset with the performance I had but I left everything I had out there.”
In the ladies snowboard cross, Eva Samkova of the Czech Republic also took gold having led in each round and avoided the crashes that took out some of the other competitors. The 20 year-old Samkova took the lead early in the final and never looked back.
"I just wanted to be confident with myself," she said about her race plan, adding that she just tried to run the final run as she had all the others on Sunday. "I couldn't imagine this - it was very fortunate for me."
“This Olympic journey has been about sharing the sport of snowboarding with the world,” she said. “I am so happy.”
In biathlon, Vita Semerenko of Ukraine won bronze in the women’s 7.5 km sprint, the first of her many events in Sochi. Twin sister Valya, also an Olympic Solidarity scholarship recipient who finished 12th in the same race, jokingly asked her sister “how dare you?” about her medal.
Other medallists in Sochi include Lydia Lassila from Australia who took bronze in the aerials and is the first woman to perform a full-double-full-full. "I really feel like I have reached my potential,” she said after the final. “I set out to do this trick 15 years ago!”
Eliza Tiruma from Latvia also won bronze in the mixed team relay in luge. Teja Gregorin from Slovenia won bronze in the biathlon women’s 10km pursuit whilst fellow countrywoman Vesna Fabjan also takes home a bronze medal in the women’s cross-country sprint freestyle.
For the 2014 Games in Sochi, 382 athletes from 65 National Olympic Committees (NOCs) benefitted from individual scholarships. Of those, 244 individual scholarship holders qualified to participate in the Sochi Games. In addition 11 NOCs that have traditionally sent large delegations to the winter Games, benefited from tailor-made assistance to prepare their athletes for Sochi.
Olympic Solidarity is the body that administers and manages the NOC’s share of the revenue from the sale of broadcasting rights to the Olympic Games. It aims to ensure that athletes with talent, from around the world, have an even chance of succeeding in their Olympic dream and works in particular with the most needy NOCs and their Continental Associations. The funds are used to develop assistance programmes in various areas.
This is the second time that Winter Games athletes have received individual Olympic Scholarships following the successful debut of the programme in the build-up to Vancouver in 2010, when 325 athletes (193 men and 132 women) from 60 NOCs benefited from Solidarity funding. Of these, 227 athletes successfully qualified for the Games, winning 13 medals between them.