Lizzy Yarnold claims she can’t look Russian rival Elena Nikitina in the eye after allegations of doping - and admitted relief she’s finally been excluded from the Winter Games.
Nikitina was a bronze medallist behind Yarnold in Sochi but was stripped of that medal by the International Olympic Committee after she was implicated in the Russian doping scandal.
She was banned and then reinstated by her sport’s world governing body and found out today - just hours before the Games - that the IOC’s decision to exclude her is enforceable.
Lizzy Yarnold. Picture: Chris Davey
“I enjoyed speaking with her in the past but if I see Elena now I look at the floor and carry on,” said Yarnold, who will carry the British flag in today’s opening ceremony.
“I’ve worked too hard to be here to allow someone else to draw me into a situation that I don’t want to be in. My emotional state with certain Russian athletes is to have no emotion.
“It has been really challenging over the last few years knowing that there are doping issues in our sport. I absolutely believe in fair and clean competition and we will just have to see what the authorities decide.
“I believe the IOC were correct in not inviting them to compete in PyeongChang. But essentially it is me, my sled and the track so that is my focus.”
Former Maidstone Grammar School for Girls pupil Yarnold has been an outspoken critic of Russian athletes, refusing to compete in last year’s World Championship unless it was switched from Sochi.
Meanwhile, Team GB officials have welcomed the ruling to uphold the International Olympic Committee’s decision not to invite 32 Russians linked to doping in Sochi four years ago.
“It is disappointing we are talking about this on the eve of the games,” said British Olympic Association chairman Sir Hugh Robertson.
“But the decision is reassuring. We want our athletes to compete against the best in the world and we want them to do that against clean athletes. We just want to get on and concentrate on the sport and not worry about doping.”
However, she insists she has no worries about the temperatures for the opening showpiece of the Games, which are expected to plummet to -23C.
PyeongChang is well known for its bitter winters and pounding winds that blow in from the Manchurian plains and Siberia.
When a test event was held in the Olympic Stadium - which has no roof - earlier this year, seven people were treated for hypothermia.
Heaters have now been installed and special packs will be distributed to spectators including blankets and coats. But a plan to offer hot drinks was overruled by sponsors Coca-Cola.
“I’m a winter sports athlete, I love the cold,” insisted Yarnold.
“We’re really good at wearing layers and the team have given us a big coat.”
Watch Lizzy Yarnold at 11.20am on Friday, February 16, on Eurosport 1 and Eurosport Player. Don't miss a moment of the Olympic Winter Games on Eurosport and Eurosport Player. Go to www.eurosport.co.uk