Yulia Ushakova, a presenter on Russian ice hockey team Spartak Moscow’s website, has defended the club after a revealing photo of her shared on their official Twitter account sparked a ‘sexism’ row.
Ushakova, who hosts the ‘Silovoy Priyom’ show on the Spartak website, claims the situation was “totally misinterpreted” and insists it was her who first posted the image of herself wearing nothing but her underwear to her Instagram account.
The picture of the presenter lying scantily-clad on a treatment table was later shared by the Spartak team official Twitter account, sparking a hot debate online as to whether the image was discriminatory.
Talking exclusively to RT Sport the 28-year-old former bodybuilder, who describes herself as the "face of HC Spartak", stressed that she never expected her innocuous post of her to trigger such an uproar.
“Honestly, this picture was taken not at a hospital, but at a studio where I undergo cosmetic procedures,” the former Miss Olympia said.
“I was really surprised that a simple picture of my bottom could cause such a massive public outcry, because Instagram is full of similar photos.”
“I don’t know who decided to share this photo [on Twitter], I just think Spartak were simply charmed by my well-rounded behind and they posted the picture with no intention of hyping things up,” she added.
Ushakova said that her Instagram account was flooded with flattering comments after the cheeky picture was shared by Spartak.
“After my post was shared on social media I received numerous private messages from unknown people, including foreigners who offered me large sums of money for photo sessions.
“’Yulia I’m your biggest fan,’ ‘Yulia marry me’ and so on.”
On the accusations of sexism voiced on social media and in some western press, Ushakova emphasized that the situation was misinterpreted, and that she doesn’t feel complicit in any of the alleged prejudice, adding narcissism is the only thing of which she is guilty.
“Spartak didn’t hire me to promote sexuality. It’s me who promotes my own sexuality,” she said.
“The situation was misinterpreted. Someone called me a hockey player, in some articles I was presented as a footballer. The US press even detailed my return to the team saying that I’m on the roster again.”
“The first accusation of sexism I saw in the Daily Mirror. They didn’t explain anything, and I didn’t understand quite well what my fault was. The only blame that I can accept is my self-admiration which probably is a sin. And people who like how they look like are often subjected to public condemnation,” Ushakova said.
However, there was a silver lining to the cloud created by the row, as Ushakova announced her social media popularity and following has seen a sharp increase. With that in mind, and also as a show of defiance, Ushakova also said she has no intention of changing her approach to presenting herself.
“The whole situation has attracted attention to sport, ice-hockey and fitness. Because my Instagram page is full of my training videos,” she explained.
“I have spent 10 years in a gym working on my body, so why should I hide it? No, I cannot accept this. Of course, I’m not a porn model as I was called by some media."
“I’m a representative of the fitness industry and my entire career is built on promoting sexuality and a beautiful body. Of course it was partly joking when making this post where I demonstrated my bottom, but wrote about an injured ankle which could be hardly seen on the picture.
“I did it on purpose to see whether people will pay attention to the fact that my ankle was twisted!”