‘I Was Branded Traitor By My Own People’

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Long jumper Darya Klishina is one of 19 Russian athletes competing as a ‘neutral’ at the World Championships.

She was Russia’s only track and field athlete at Rio 2016, and at the World Championships in London the 26-year-old, and her compatriots, are taking part under the IAAF flag because her country remains suspended over evidence of state-sponsored doping.

Klishina – who features in the women’s long jump qualifying on Wednesday – told BBC Sport about her emotional experiences at Rio, her opinion on Russia doping whistleblowers and thoughts about competing at London 2017 as a neutral athlete.

“I’m in a good place now – but it was a very different situation this time last year. My Olympic dream almost turned into a nightmare.

“I was calm and confident and in good shape going into the Olympics. Then this bomb. Why?
“Eventually, one day before qualification, they called my coach at 4am to tell him the verdict. He then came to my room and told me we had won.

“It was 5am and I couldn’t sleep any more. I was shaking and I felt sick in the stomach. I spent all my emotions a week before the Games. This had stressed me out.

“I couldn’t train, I couldn’t focus. I couldn’t practice in the week before the competition.
“Then came more stress. After the verdict, there were reports suggesting I would be competing under the International Olympic Committee flag as a neutral athlete.

“I received abuse, I was branded a ‘traitor’ by my own people because they believed the news.
“I tried not to read the comments under my Instagram photos, but it was impossible. Then, I had friends sending me texts to tell me what they’d written about me.