Darya Klishina: Russian long jumper on being branded a traitor and competing at London 2017

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Darya Klishina describes 'really stressful' time in Rio
World Athletics Championships on the BBC
Venue: London Stadium Dates: 4-13 August
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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 final on Friday - 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.

Darya Klishina
Darya Klishina came ninth at the Rio Olympics with a jump of 6.63m

'I was branded a traitor'

Klishina was the only Russian track and field athlete allowed to compete for her country at Rio 2016 because she had been living in the United States and was subject to "compliant drug testing" outside of Russia.

But this was only finally decided hours before her event after it went all the way up to the Court of Arbitration for Sport, with rumours in her native country that she may compete as a neutral.

"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.

"I spent one-and-half hours in the mixed zone after my qualification because I couldn't walk through without the media saying, 'Darya, Darya please stop'. I felt like I was being pulled left, right and centre. Everybody wanted to ask me about the situation with the Russia doping ban.

"I felt alone at the Games, anyway, and this made matters worse. I couldn't concentrate fully on the competition and that's why I maybe didn't do as well as I hoped [Klishina came ninth in the final]."

'I was angry at Stepanova'

Yuliya Stepanova, an 800m runner, and husband Vitaly, a former Russian Anti-Doping Agency official, played a key role in the chain of events that led to the country's athletics ban.

The pair gave evidence to a German documentary maker in 2014 that led to an independent report being commissioned by the World Anti-Doping Agency, which uncovered the scale of doping by athletes in the country.

"It all started with what Yuliya Stepanova said in that German documentary in 2014.

"She made a mess and that mess involved lots of people.

"We had lots of athletes who never had problems with doping, but she suggested everybody was involved. If you want to speak out about something, then target those who have been and are guilty. Don't include those who are clean.

"Why do we have to tarnish everybody? I was angry.

"Those who dope - that's their own choice. I won't talk badly about any person. If you want to compete having doped, that's your life. I can sleep tight knowing I haven't taken anything."

'I thought about doping'

Darya Klishina
Darya Klishina won gold at the European Indoor Championships in 2011

"I did think about it once when I was 15. My personal best was 6.30m and I was looking at the older girls who were jumping seven metres. I thought it was impossible without drugs.

"I kept practising and practising. I didn't make huge improvements, but managed a Russia youth record of 6.52m. I was so happy. And then I leapt to 7.03m - the first time in my life over 7m!

"I thought: Life is perfect. You can train and compete without taking illegal substances.

"I think I've become mentally stronger during the past year - I feel older than the 26 years I am. The experience was bad, but it's made me tougher."

'I won't be able to accept a Russia flag'

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The flag doesn't matter - 'neutral' Russian long jumper Klishina

"I'm excited about competing in London. I don't like the fact I won't be wearing Russia colours, but this is the situation and we all know that we are from Russia.

"If I win and do a lap of honour, I won't be able to accept a Russia flag if someone hands it to me. I don't want another problem.

"But how will it look to the Russian public if I refuse the flag? What will they think? Maybe I won't do a victory lap and just stay in the competition area!

"It'll be a tough competition with Americans Brittney Reese and Tianna Bartoletta, but you just think about yourself and not about anybody else. If you feel you've done the hard work beforehand, then you're ready. Anything can happen."

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