Presentation of state decorations to winners of 23rd Olympic Games in PyeongChang 2018-02-28 18:10:00 The Kremlin, Moscow Vladimir Putin met in the Kremlin with the medallists of the 23rd Olympic Winter Games in PyeongChang and presented them with state decorations. President of Russia Vladimir Putin: Good afternoon, friends. First of all, I would like to congratulate and thank all our Olympic athletes. You have honourably withstood both sports and extra-sports pressure, emotional tests, and showed your best qualities, both as athletes and as individuals, and your fighting spirit. We know how difficult it was for each of you, how complicated this marathon was. Of course, special words of gratitude go to those who, in the most difficult battles for medals, managed to make it to the winners’ podium. Above all, I am referring to our magnificent female figure skaters; here they are. I congratulate you both, Alina and Yevgeniya. Without exaggeration, you not only made your fans happy, but also stunned the world with your fine technique and inspiring performance and skill. You not only won, but you reached a level that was unattainable for your competitors. Our victory in hockey came as a big gift to millions of Russian fans. True, our national ice hockey team made us, to put it mildly, a little concerned for a while, but then managed to regain composure and wrest the long-awaited Olympic gold. The success of our skiers is also special. The medals were won by very young athletes, which is direct evidence of the fact that the legendary school of Russian skiing has regained its status in the world. We managed to create a significant margin of safety and a system of talent selection, about which we have spoken so much. In general, with all the complexities and problems, the Games gave us pleasant surprises and new heroes in other sports, such as the short track, speed skating, skeleton, and freestyle, where Russia took a medal in the ski cross for the first time. To reiterate, the entire team deserves praise, including the athletes and those who trained you for these important competitions. We will celebrate mentors and coaches separately. All of them will receive state decorations. They invested their knowledge, work, and experience in their trainees, supported them not only at the Olympic arenas, but also on the way to these achievements. Let me emphasise that this situation prompted sports officials to reach many serious conclusions in international sports, and most importantly, the sports management system in the country. Naturally, we will give our athletes the broadest legal support while cooperating with international sports organisations and the IOC to promote the Olympic movement, and to help sports and the Olympic movement enhance their independence. We must make sure the principles of equality and justice are strictly observed and the anti-doping system has universal rules and finally becomes understandable and transparent. We have already done a lot here in Russia. An independent commission headed by Vitaly Smirnov is proceeding in a responsible and productive way, strictly abiding by the concept that the struggle against doping or the doping evil must be uncompromising. I am convinced that all members of the Olympic family are interested in making this the overriding principle. I would like to thank all those that are helping Russian sport in this difficult period, primarily the Russian Olympians Foundation that launched the House of Sport and established cooperation with our Korean friends. As you have seen, we have many Korean friends, and we are sincerely grateful for their help. Later, the Foundation will present awards to the winners of Russia’s National Winter Olympic Sport Competitions. I would like to especially thank our sports officials for their support of our athletes and our country during the competitions and in dialogue with the IOC. I will say that an honest and respectful attitude to sport, to the team, and to our rivals have always been typical of Russian athletes. Millions of fans around the world know and feel this. I am sure that you will continue to do a great job representing the new generation of Russian athletes and in setting an example for the active lifestyle for millions of our people, mostly young people. I sincerely wish you further success and all the best. Thank you very much for these results. Olympic figure skating silver medallist Yevgenia Medvedeva: Good afternoon. On behalf of my fellow athletes on the Olympic team, I would like to thank you for the opportunity to participate in the Olympics, because this is the competition that we had been getting ready for all our lives. We gave our performance everything we had. We won these medals for our Motherland. Thank you for the support that we feel each day. Russia is in our hearts. Thank you. Olympic ice hockey champion Pavel Datsuk: You will not believe it, but I like speaking. The Olympics are now over, and these Games were historic for our great country. We defended the honour of our country thanks to our Russian character, and the fact that our big great Russia believed in us and supported us. Thank you for your assistance and for showing to the world that our Russian character is not broken and will never be broken. Olympic ice hockey champion Ilya Kovalchuk: Good afternoon, everyone. It feels super here today. The first time we came to you, we felt nervous. I want to thank you very much for being the person to give us your blessing to go along this path to Pyeongchang. I think we have accomplished a lot. One of our principal goals was to get back our flag and national anthem, and a few hours ago we were told the Russian Olympic Committee had been reinstated and that our future Olympic athletes, both in summer and winter sports, would be able to participate under the Russian flag, and to stand on the podium hearing the sound of the Russian national anthem. Thank you very much all. Vladimir Putin: Incidentally, today is Ivan Telegin’s birthday. Let us wish him all the best. I would like to present you with a very good book by legendary Soviet ice hockey coach Anatoly Tarasov. You can further improve your skills. Olympic ice hockey champion Ivan Telegin: Thank you very much. Olympic cross-country skiing bronze medallist Yulia Belorukova: Good afternoon, everyone. On behalf of our cross-country skiing team, I want to thank you, Mr President, for this opportunity. Cross-country skiing had suffered an especially hard blow, but in spite of this and thanks to your help, we made it. Even though our team was very young, we proved to the world that Russia is dope-free and can compete for medals in any situation. Olympic skeleton silver medallist Nikita Tregubov: Mr President, first of all let me thank for you believing in us, supporting us and giving us the good guidance that you did before the Olympics. We successfully proved, I hope, that nothing can break us even though we had been stripped of so many things. We did not even have coaches with us. Few people internationally believed we could win. Yet we proved that we are strong and that nothing can break us. To crown everything, here comes this great news that we have been given back our flag and national anthem. Thank you. Olympic short-track bronze medallist Semyon Yelistratov: Good afternoon to all. Everyone is looking beautiful and all dressed up. There was a huge argument before the Olympics on whether to go, but you, Mr President, were the first to say that we were going. Thank you for supporting us and for believing in us. We also have a lot of backers that we would have failed without. These are our parents, our great wives, husbands, our families, friends and fans. And, most importantly, there are the people who were instrumental in our achievements and who made sure that today we are here with you. These are our coaches, our mentors. We made it, we succeeded, we did not back down. I think we represented our country honourably. Thank you all, and let us meet here again in four years. Thank you. Vladimir Putin: Dear friends, I would like to congratulate you all once again. Pavel spoke about the Russian character, while other athletes said that we had been stripped of so much. Yes, they can take all they want, any symbols, but the character is inalienable. You have proved it with your performance, your attitude to your work and your country. Yours were spectacular and beautiful performances, and we felt proud watching you. Yes, it has been announced that our national Olympic committee has been reinstated. But I think we need to turn over a new leaf. We must learn from this lesson, but I hope that international bodies will understand, too, that sports should be kept away from topics that have nothing to do with it. I have said this repeatedly, but that is not what I want to focus on at this moment. Now I want to talk about people like you who can summon up your strength despite difficulties and imposed limitations. That is what we talked about before you went to the Olympics. As you will recall, I told you that you needed to forget all that and focus on your performance together with your results. This is exactly what you did. You have said that our anthem will be reinstated. You know, we all heard our ice hockey players sing it. Thank you for taking this attitude towards your country, and to the work you have dedicated your entire lives to. Millions of people celebrate your victories as enthusiastically as you do. I congratulate you on this. I wish you all the best. Good luck!