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Russia, Kyrgyzstan Among Notable Medal Winners Despite Doping Clouds


Judoka Khasan Khalmurzaev of Russia poses with his gold medal at a victory ceremony for the men's 81-kilogram judo event at the Rio 2016 Summer Olympic Games at Carioca Arena, Rio de Janeiro, on August 9.
Judoka Khasan Khalmurzaev of Russia poses with his gold medal at a victory ceremony for the men's 81-kilogram judo event at the Rio 2016 Summer Olympic Games at Carioca Arena, Rio de Janeiro, on August 9.

A raft of countries from Russia to Kyrgyzstan won medals on the fourth day of the Rio Olympics on August 9, but doping offenses continued to shadow the games.

The International Olympic Committee announced mid-competition that it was stripping a silver medal given to Ukrainian javelin thrower Oleksandr Pyatnytsya at the London Olympics in 2012 because a retest found banned substances in his urine sample.

And the absence of banned weightlifters from Russia, Kazakhstan, Belarus, Bulgaria and other countries left a much-depleted field in that sport and marred the bronze medal wins for athletes from Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan.

Russia, the hardest hit by doping suspensions with more than 100 athletes banned from the games, still managed to eke out notable gold and silver medal wins.

Russia's Khasan Khalmurzaev earned a second judo gold medal for Russia, beating Travis Stevens of the United States in the men's 81-kilogram category.

Khalmurzaev, 22, credited his upbringing in Ingushetia's Caucasus mountains for giving him the gift to fight.

"It's true. Many people born there are physically strong and well prepared," he said. "Not just people in sports but also those on the streets. Maybe it helps being born in those mountains...Wrestling is popular there."

Russia's women's gymnastics team also brought home a prestigious silver medal, squeaking out a win over China in a competition that has been dominated for years by China and the United States, which won the gold.

Kyrgyzstan won its first medal of the games and only its fourth medal in any Olympics when Izzat Artykov won a bronze medal in the men's 69-kilogram weightlifting event.

Artykov sported a traditional Kyrgyz kalpak hat at the press conference afterward and proclaimed the "great news for me and everyone in Kyrgyzstan."

Kazakhstan, a weightlifting power, was able to boast of another bronze medal when Karina Goricheva took third place in a women's competition.

But Goricheva conceded that she was under pressure and the field was much depleted because of doping bans imposed on the entire Russian and Bulgarian teams, as well as the absence of several Kazakh teammates who got caught doping.

Perhaps the most poignant events of the day didn't involve medals or doping, however.

In one, Ukrainian tennis player Elina Svitolina pulled off a shocking upset in a preliminary match with world champion and four-time Olympic gold medalist Serena Williams, knocking Williams out of a competition where the American had hoped to earn a fifth gold medal.

"It's unreal. It's just the perfect moment," 20th-ranked Svitolina said afterward.

And Iran's disabled trailblazer Zahra Nemati drew warm applause as she exited the archery competition after being quickly eliminated by Russia's Inna Stepanova in an early round.

Nemati nevertheless said she hoped her example will inspire other disabled people -- not to mention women from Islamic countries -- to dream of competing in the Olympics.

"I hope it is going to be motivation for all the people with disabilities, happy to see me here competing," she said. "Don't let your disability defeat you. Sport is the best means to defeat disability."

With reporting by AP, AFP, Reuters, dpa, and TASS
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