Anastasiia Demurchian on Saturday became the first Russian athlete to win a medal while competing under that country's flag since Russia's invasion of Ukraine. Demurchian won gold in the 70kg category at the IBA World Boxing Championships in New Delhi, beating Australia's Kaye Frances Scott.
Demurchian's participation at the World Championships came about after the International Boxing Association (IBA), which is headed by Russia's Umar Kremlev, decided to allow Russian and Belarusian boxers to compete under their respective flags. In this, the IBA went against the International Olympic Committee's (IOC) recommendations, which included a ban on national flags, symbols and anthems, against the athletes from the two countries since the conflict began 13 months ago. The IOC had suggested that athletes from these two nations could compete in events as neutral athletes.
The IBA's decision led to over 10 countries, including USA, Britain, Ireland and Netherlands, boycotting the event in protest.
There was more controversy after the bout when the finalists and the two semifinalists were handed their medals on the podium. The Russian national anthem was to be played but the wrong tune was played instead. This was acknowledged by the stadium announcer, who then called back Demurchian and she stood alone on the podium as the correct anthem was played.
Apart from Demurchian's gold, Russia has won two more medals at the Worlds: Nataliya Sychugova won silver in the 63kg category, while Diana Pyatak bagged bronze in the 81+kg category. Twelve Russians and six Belarusian boxers competed at the event.
Confusion over Olympic qualification
The stand-off between the IBA And IOC has also left the boxers confused. The IOC had stated it would handle all affairs regarding the qualifiers for the 2024 Paris Olympics qualifiers and that the IBA would have no role in that, considering it was suspended in 2019.
However, the IBA announced that the men's and women's World Championships this year would act as the main qualifying events for the 2024 Olympics.
Russian energy company Gazprom is the biggest sponsor of the IBA, which has been suspended by the IOC since 2019 due to governance concerns. The prize pool of Rs. 20 crore (2.42 million USD) at the World Championships has been sponsored by Gazprom. The gold medalists receive a prize money of Rs. 82.7 lakhs (100,000 USD), silver winners get Rs. 41.4 lakhs (50,000 USD) and the bronze medalists get Rs. 20.7 lakhs (25,000 USD).