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Meeting with Russia’s summer sports Paralympic team

September 19, 2016, The Kremlin, Moscow

Vladimir Putin met at the Kremlin with members of Russia’s summer sports Paralympic team.

President of Russia Vladimir Putin: Friends,

As we all know, our Paralympic team did not take part in the Paralympics. I will say a few words about this. But I wanted all the same to meet with you here at the Kremlin, welcome you here, and talk with you about how to develop Paralympic sport further.

I remember well how we honoured the heroes of the London Paralympics in 2012. Many of them are here today too.

Our team was preparing to tackle new summits. Together with your coaches, with those close to you, you were working hard, putting your all into your training, in order to strive for victory in a fair and open fight. I am sure that you were one hundred percent ready.

But you did not meet with sporting and honest treatment. By this, I mean the unjustified and unfair decision to ban our team from taking part in the Paralympics.

As you know, we do not welcome hackers and their actions, but it was thanks to them that we learned that people who took part in the Olympic Games and were outwardly perfectly healthy were actually taking prohibited substances that gave them and give them clear advantages in sports competition.

Why were our Paralympic athletes the only ones banned from taking part in the Paralympics on the sole basis of some incomprehensible suspicion of taking who knows what substances? This was clearly a dishonest, hypocritical and cowardly decision.

But let me say that you have shown that Russia’s Paralympic athletes are people with strong will and an iron character, and our athletes were and will remain among the leaders in global Paralympic sport.

This is evident from the results of Russia’s National Open Sports Competitions, in which you succeeded in setting more than 20 new world records, and in a number of disciplines surpassed the results obtained at the Paralympics in Rio. We have decided to reward the athletes, coaches and specialists who distinguished themselves at our National Open Sports Competition and at the international competitions that were part of the selection process for the Paralympics. Let me stress that Russia remains committed to the Paralympic movement’s ideals and will continue to support the athletes and provide them with the conditions they need.

A substantial amount has been accomplished over these last years for those involved in Paralympic sports. You know this yourselves. This is reflected too in the growing number of people who are taking up sport despite the various circumstances they face. We see it in the development of new sports disciplines in Russia and in the active part the regions and public organisations are playing in supporting Paralympic sport.

I think that events such as our national open Paralympic sports competition should become regular features. We will organise them on a regular basis.

We all want to put this current difficult period in global sport behind us as quickly as possible. Russia is working in close cooperation with international organisations and the Independent Public Anti-Doping Commission is working actively.

We support the establishment of a clear, equal, and completely transparent oversight system in sports, including in doping prevention. Politics, hypocrisy and double standards should have absolutely no place here.

I said when I met at the Kremlin with our Olympic team members that anti-doping activity at the international level should be completely open and transparent. This is not some kind of espionage activity. What is there to hide here?

All checks should be public, transparent and open. The global sports community must know who is being tested, when, how, what results were obtained, and what decisions resulted.

This is particularly important with regard to the Paralympic family of dedicated athletes who embody the triumph of strength of spirit, perseverance, and belief in oneself, and who provide an example for millions of people in dedication to one’s goal and determination to reach victory. You make a tremendous contribution to developing sport and developing society, and you offer a vivid example of a positive, honest and courageous approach to life.

Friends, I sincerely wish you and all who help our Paralympic athletes new successes, health, energy, and new, memorable victories. I am sure that you will cope with any difficulties you encounter, and Russia will always stand with you.

Thank you very much.

Andrei Vdovin: Mr President.

Fellow athletes, coaches and experts,

Just like you, I am very glad and proud to be here at the Kremlin today.

I would like to say a big thank you to you, Mr President, the Ministry of Sport and the Russian Paralympic Committee for giving us so much support in this difficult time, when the entire team was banned from the Games and accused of doping.

Thank you very much for the competitions that you initiated. They gave us a chance to release all the emotions that have built up over the four years, and to show our results. The records that we set – around twenty – demonstrate that we are a rather strong country and definitely would not have messed up in Rio.

Speaking for myself, I admit I was planning to become a Paralympic champion. And these are not just empty words. They are backed up by my success at world and European championships, and by my records.

However, I am not giving up. I am only 22 and I think I can fight for a spot on the team that will go to Tokyo in 2020.

I would like to end my speech by saying that Rio needed us but we didn’t need Rio. (Applause)

Anna Krivshina: Hello, Mr President,

Hello to my team mates, coaches and everybody here in this hall today.

It is a great honour for me to be here. This is an exciting and remarkable day for all of us.

The Paralympic Games in Rio de Janeiro closed yesterday. Of course, we all wanted to be at the closing ceremony but, unfortunately, we were not allowed. This was a big blow to us all. But we did not give up and continued to train.

Mr President, you are our example. We see how much effort you invest into making this country strong and prosperous. We will do whatever we can and even the impossible to help you in this.

Naturally, each of us wanted and still wants to become a Paralympic champion. I think it is the biggest dream of every person here because these competitions show that the four years of exhausting training were not in vain.

For me personally, this would have been my first Paralympics. I had been training tirelessly and it was painful and very upsetting to find out about the unfair decision of the International Paralympic Committee to ban us from the Games.

But we managed. Thanks to you, the Ministry of Sport and the Russian Paralympic Committee, we could demonstrate our athletic skill and respectable results at alternative competitions.

My personal motto is: pursue your goal despite everything, believe in yourself, and you will be able to realise your dreams even if they seem unattainable. I am only 20 years old and I believe that I will eventually become a Paralympic champion.

I would like to conclude my speech with some lines that I was inspired to write: “To stand under your flag and hear your anthem. what joy it is to know you’ve won. My country, I’ll do anything for you. My victory is yours, I love you.”

Thank you. (Applause)

Yevgeny Shvetsov: Mr President, on behalf of all the coaches of the Russian team who are here today, I would like to say: even though we are in a difficult situation, we are not getting weaker, only stronger.

We must stick together. Together, we are strong. Strength is the only thing that will make our enemies back down. We will show everyone what we are made of.

Thank you for making our country so powerful.

Vladimir Putin: Friends, I once again welcome you and thank you for your achievements and the example you set for us all. Anya said just before that I am an example for you.

You are examples for millions of people with your determination to win and live and achieve success no matter what the difficulties. It is perfectly clear that you are people with tremendous strength of spirit. We see this in your sports results and in your approach to life.

I wish you new successes and I am sure that they will come. I want to wish you an excellent evening here in this magnificent Kremlin hall. I note that this is the Hall of Military Glory.

In this respect, you are without any doubt defenders of our country if we think of your past achievements and the achievements you will yet show us in the future.

I wish you a pleasant evening. Thank you very much. Good luck.

September 19, 2016, The Kremlin, Moscow