Team GB flag-bearer Lizzy Yarnold would shun Russian skeleton rivals

PYEONGCHANG, South Korea -- Lizzy Yarnold will avoid eye contact and give her Russian skeleton rivals the cold shoulder if they are successful in overturning the decision preventing them from competing in the Pyeongchang Games.

Amid the outside noise, reigning Olympic champion Yarnold, who will be Great Britain's flag-bearer in Friday's opening ceremony, is doing her utmost to focus solely on the track but she and her teammate Laura Deas have been paying close attention to whether they will be up against Russian duo Elena Nikitina and Maria Orlova when the competition starts on Feb. 16.

The Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) is currently hearing appeals from 51 Russian athletes and nine support staff who are still hopeful of featuring in the Games just days before the competition starts.

It has been a long-running saga and while 169 athletes have been permitted by the International Olympics Commission to compete in Pyeongchang, under the team name of "Olympic Athletes from Russia," others were not invited. They have since appealed the IOC's decision to exclude them from the Games.

The judgement is expected late Wednesday or early Thursday in Pyeongchang, and those awaiting CAS's decision include skeleton slider Nikitina, who won bronze in Sochi, and Orlova, ranked 26th in this season's standings.

Yarnold has been vociferous in her criticism of doping protocols in the past and will be keeping a close eye on the CAS outcome.

"My emotional state with certain Russian athletes is to have no emotion," Yarnold said. "I've been through a roller coaster these last few years. I enjoyed having conversations with Elena [Nikitina] and Maria [Orlova] but now whenever I see them I will look at the floor and carry on. 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.

"I think it has been quite an emotional situation and it has been challenging over the last few years knowing that there are doping issues in our sport. And yes I do absolutely believe in fair and clean competition.

"Yes, it is difficult if the Russians will be here competing. I believe the IOC were correct in not inviting them, or re-inviting, to compete in Pyeongchang. But essentially it is me, my sled and the track so that is my focus."

Her concerns and sentiments were echoed by American skeleton slider Katie Uhlaender, who said she feels clean athletes are "holding to an Olympic spirit that feels like it's dying."