Authoritarian Belarus celebrates best-ever Winter Games

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Belarus’ Alla Tsuper competes in the Women’s Freestyle Skiing Aerials finals at the Rosa Khutor Extreme Park during the Sochi Winter Olympics. AFP PHOTO

Belarus’ Alla Tsuper competes in the Women’s Freestyle Skiing Aerials finals at the Rosa Khutor Extreme Park during the Sochi Winter Olympics. AFP PHOTO

SOCHI, Russia: The ex-Soviet state of Belarus, once described as Europe’s last dictatorship, is celebrating the best Olympic Games in its history at Sochi 2014 in a gold rush led by a sharp-shooting and glamorous female biathlete.

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Belarus, which until these Games had only won a single medal at a Winter Olympics, has now won five gold me- dals in Sochi with three from the skiing and shooting prowess of its star biathlete Darya Domracheva.

It also scored an unprecedented double in the freestyle aerials at Sochi, with Alla Tsuper taking the women’s event and Anton Kushnir the men’s. As of Tuesday night, it had more golds than Canada or China.

“These Olympics can be called the Belarussian Games. We have left many world giants on our wake,” Belarus’ state First Channel television said.

The reasons for the success lie partly in the aggressive athlete selection policy of the Belarussian federations—every single one of its me-dallists were either born in, or initially performed for, Russia or Ukraine.

The performance is also likely the result of the hands-on support from sports- mad strongman President Alexander Lukashenko, who has ruled the ex-Soviet state for almost two decades and was once accused by Washington of running Europe’s last dictatorship.

AFP

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