Marcel Hug says Winter Paralympics decision is right but feels for athletes

Marcel Hug says Winter Paralympics decision is right but feels for athletes

Paralympic star Marcel Hug backed the decision to ban Russian and Belarusian athletes from the Winter Games in Beijing but feels for the sporting stars caught up in the situation.

The International Paralympic Committee made a dramatic U-turn on Thursday to counter threats of a widespread boycott having announced less than 24 hours earlier that athletes from the two countries would be allowed to compete under a neutral flag.

Swiss racer Hug, a five-time Paralympian who won four gold medals in Tokyo last summer, told the PA news agency: “It’s a very, very difficult situation. I’m in the happy position that I don’t have to decide.

“On the one hand I understand everyone who says that athletes should be banned, on the other side I also understood the situation from the IPC that it’s very difficult, and I also see the situation for the athletes, Russian athletes for example, who are against the war but they would like to compete in these Paralympics.

“You can make any decision, it’s very hard for everyone. But now I think it’s a good decision because it follow the decisions of other associations and the IOC (International Olympic Committee).”

Hug was speaking after being nominated for the Laureus World Sportsperson of the Year with a Disability Award.

He is bidding to win the award for a second time having lifted it in 2018 and faces competition from British cyclist Dame Sarah Storey, tennis stars Diede De Groot and Shingo Kunieda, triathlete Susana Rodrigues and Jetze Plat, who became Paralympic champion in both cycling and triathlon in Tokyo.

Marcel Hug celebrates winning the 5,000 metres at the Tokyo Paralympics
Marcel Hug celebrates winning the 5,000 metres at the Tokyo Paralympics (John Walton/PA)

“It means really a lot to me,” said Hug. “I was really happy when I got this message. The Laureus award is a very important award, I have followed the awards since I was a young athlete because it was always like the Oscars for sports.

“It was a dream come true when I was nominated for the first time, and when I won for the first time. To have this disabled category, it’s great for us. It’s something that we cannot take for granted.”

Hug, 36, had the best year of his career in 2021, winning Paralympic gold over 800 metres, 1,500m, 5,000m and marathon, while he also smashed a 22-year-old world record at the Oita Marathon in November.

Hug is one of six athletes nominated in Laureus' disabled category
Hug is one of six athletes nominated in Laureus’ disability category (Laureus handout)

He admits trying to exceed that in 2022 will be impossible but he is targeting another world record in the 5,000m and victory in the World Marathon Majors series.

“I think it’s not possible to top it,” he said. “But I’ll try to make it as close as possible. After the season last year, I needed some time, have some rest, a holiday. To reflect about last year but also my whole career.

“I really had to think about what are my goals in my sport but also in life. After this break, I found out that I have still a lot of passion, there is still a flame inside burning for my sport and I’m pretty sure that I still can achieve many things.”

:: Marcel Hug has been nominated for the Laureus World Sportsperson of the Year with a Disability Award, at the Laureus World Sports Awards. To find out more visit www.laureus.com