Athletistic/Swimming. Three-time Olympic medalist and six-time world champion Yulia Efimova, after unsuccessfully qualifying for the 2024 Olympics in Paris, said in an interview with Match TV that she did not apply for neutral status in the spring, but that she did it this summer thanks to the support of people who believed in her.

In June, Efimova received neutral status from the International Swimming Federation (World Aquatics), which allowed her to participate in international competitions under the auspices of the organization, including Olympic qualifications. At the Bahamas Championships, she failed to qualify for the Paris Games, posting a time of 1:07.98 in the 100m breaststroke and taking first place, but failing to meet the standard.

— Why did you only request neutral status in June and not in March? It’s too late?

— We can talk a lot about it. Remember the spring, when athletes with neutral status were called “homeless” or “foreign agents”. There was strong pressure from all sides. How can you say, “I’ll still go to the Olympics” when everyone hates you?

When there is no support. I’m lucky: I have a name, I can find sponsors or pay for it myself. But how can others do this?

There are federations which supported their athletes, and they will go to the Paris Olympics in neutral status. So few people will dare to oppose everyone. Young athletes are afraid: what if, what would happen? They told us not to go, so we’re not going. It’s better to be like everyone else. And then we don’t know what will happen, you will find yourself without money.

It was hard for me. Maybe it was possible to organize everything alone. But I had a feeling I might not qualify. It was necessary to arrive at the tournament in advance, acclimatize and solve many organizational problems.

Three or four weeks ago, I had a different plan. I thought about getting neutral status and playing in Italy, but the Italians refused. I thought Paris had flown by. I hadn’t prepared for the Bahamas, I had just planned to participate in the Moscow Cup. And then the decision is made within 24 hours: you must fly to the Bahamas and seize the opportunity. What changes!

Coming back to your question: I’m against blaming swimmers for not going against the tide for the Olympics. If public opinion in the spring had been the same as it is now, maybe someone would have tried.

I did not request neutral status in the spring. Now I have done it, thanks to the support of the people around me, who believed in me and pushed me forward. It would be scary alone. Public opinion has changed: in a neutral status, everyone understands that we are from Russia and defend our fans. “Many people want our athletes to succeed at the Olympics,” Efimova told Match TV.

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