BiathlonGeneralNewsOlympicsRacingCzech Women Receive News of Olympic Medal, Then Online Abuse and Threats

Avatar Chelsea LittleNovember 29, 2017
Biathletes Veronika Vítková, Jitka Landová, Gabriela Koukalová, and Eva Puskarčíková after a 2015 relay in Oslo, Norway. The Czech women learned that they would receive an Olympic bronze medal after the Russian team has been disqualified for doping. (Photo: Fischer/NordicFocus)

(Editor’s note: This article contains explicit language.)

On Monday, the International Olympic Committee posted decisions disqualifying Russian biathletes Olga Vilukhina and Yana Romanova from the 2014 Olympics.

The Impact on the U.S. Women

The U.S. women finished seventh in the Sochi relay, and some athletes spoke out about how much it would have meant to be sixth not three years later, but the day they competed.

“It only took us 4 years, but now our historic 7th place is actually 6th…tying the best ever Olympic relay result for US Biathlon – men or women!” team member Sara Studebaker wrote on Facebook. “It’s unfortunate it took 4 years for this to happen. Because we were 7th instead of 6th, some teammates missed out on being pre-qualified for events and getting monetary support… Doping affects all athletes at some level. There is no excuse.”

Teammate Annelies Cook posted on Instagram.

“The ripple effect from athletes doping feels even more personal now,” she wrote. “It’s wild to think about what would have been different for us with a 6th place relay at the Olympics instead of 7th. Thanks Russia for the flower ceremony at the Olympics that we didn’t get to have, A-team status and funding for 2015, and pre-qualification for the World Cup.”

Canada finished eighth in the relay and will now move up to seventh.

Vilukhina earned a silver medal in the 7.5-kilometer sprint; that means that Vita Semerenko of Ukraine will be upgraded from bronze to silver, and Karin Oberhofer of Italy will earn bronze, the first individual Olympic medal of her career.

Then there is the relay, where both Vilukhina and Romanova represented Russia. They took silver with teammates Olga Zaitseva and Ekaterina Shumilova. The Norwegian team will now move from bronze to silver, and the Czech team will now earn bronze.

The Czech women, who had known for a long time that this might be a possibility because the names of four Russian biathletes were puzzlingly not redacted from an evidence document in the McLaren report, reacted.

Gabriela Koukalová posted on her Facebook page about how frustrated she was with the scandal. A translated version reads,

“I know that you all know… I mean about our Olympic medal from Sochi for the women’s relay, which we are going to receive with almost four years of delay. On one side it’s great that justice was achieved, but on the other side I am truly sorry for Eva Puskarčíková and mostly for my lifelong friend Jitka Landová, who had to end her biathlon career due to medical reasons. She spent almost her entire career with hard work and without any memories of success. I am not sure about you, but I want to turn doping into a crime and not allow Russian Federation to start at the Winter Olympics, like it already happened at the Summer Games! I also would like to stress one more goal, and that is more important than victories. Their names are HONESTY AND FAIRNESS, not only in sport but overall in the life! Too bad that they [Russians] hadn’t figured that one yet! And now I would like to move on from this topic…”

Meanwhile, Landová isn’t sure that a medal would have changed the trajectory of her career, saying that she doesn’t look back. But she does wish she’d had the medal earlier, she said in a Czech radio interview.

“Last night I received a message from Eva Puskarčíková that we really had the Sochi medal,” Landová said, according to a translation. “I looked at it first with disbelief, because as long as I have no tangible evidence, I just don’t believe it. From the very beginning, we knew the Russians were not clean.”

“I do not know whether to be glad or cry,” Puskarčíková told the same radio broadcaster.

The pushback against the women on social media has been swift and severe.

The number of comments below Koukalová’s Facebook post calling her stupid and a disgrace are too many to count, as are those telling her to stick to sport and “worry about your performance,” a comment that sometimes had a foreboding connotation. Other comments call her a “b*tch” or a “f*cking b*tch.” Still others compare her to Nazis or fascists.

Then there are the threats.

“Russia will be wait you on World Cup in Tyumen 2017… you want to get negative before the Olympic Games? ok, you will get it!,” wrote one poster, following this with an emoji of a punching fist.

“you have found enemies in the face of 300 million people… be careful,” one commenter wrote.

“Can be you sure that your test-tube Ok or someone scratch it and you will be deprived of all medals,” another threatened.

Instagram was, if anything, worse – even though that’s not the platform where the athletes had made any of their comments.

On the account “jitka_official_landova”, which it is not clear is actually maintained by Landová, received hate on nearly all of the posts, even though the last post was only from 2015 and the account has no recent activity. Under a picture of Landová posted in February, 2015, one comment reads, “prostitutky,” which translates from to “prostitutes”.

There are several Instagram pages attributed to Koukalová, some of which are clearly fan pages and two which are verified by Instagram (calling into question the efficacy of the verification system, but that’s another story.) It’s unclear if either of the two verified accounts are operated by Koukalová; there is no link to Instagram from her website.

But regardless of whether comments left there are actually reaching her, a lot are being posted regardless. Many are filled with emojis of livestock like pigs and sheep, and feces. The pigs and excrement were often accompanied by a lipstick emoji; Koukalová has a contract to appear in makeup ads.

On a page seeming to really belong to Koukalová, she was repeatedly called “scum.”

“you’re a lying b*tch!” one commenter wrote in English. “You are fascist,” wrote another. “You are one disgraceful sh*tty slut,” another commenter added.

Then there were those written in Russian, which translated to, if anything, worse comments:

“Go in a hole and don’t come back”

“prostitute”

“burn in hell”

“F*ck you, f*cking b*tch, no one will remember you and the medal”

“You b*tch”

“you don’t take medals, you only take it in the mouth”

“piece of sh*t”

“The end”

After one Russian fan writes a supportive message, another replies, “burn at the stake with her, sheep.”

Comments also riddled posts on an account which appeared to be maintained by fans.

“Such animals must be hung!” one comment translated from Russian read. Some others:

“Better not come to Tyumen!”

“Whore”

“Her brains are only enough to paint her face”

“Wash it, it’s a man”

“Lose weight, you’re so fat”

Many mention the phrase “life is a boomerang”. “Remember everything comes back, it’s the rule of life and your joy for getting not yours medal will turn into tears soon,” one comment written in English says.

Koukalová is not competing in the opening World Cup weekend in Östersund, Sweden, as she is still recovering from a calf injury. Many comments stated that they hoped she would never return to competition, or if she did, that she would lose every race.

In the 15 k individual today, the first individual race of the World Cup season, Puskarčíková finished seventh with perfect 20-for-20 shooting; Vítková finished 12th with two penalties.

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Chelsea Little

Chelsea Little is FasterSkier's Editor-At-Large. A former racer at Ford Sayre, Dartmouth College and the Craftsbury Green Racing Project, she is a PhD candidate in aquatic ecology in the @Altermatt_lab at Eawag, the Swiss Federal Institute of Aquatic Science and Technology in Zurich, Switzerland. You can follow her on twitter @ChelskiLittle.

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