Russian swimming champ ‘fired from job’ after airport mask row
Russian swimming champ Vitalina Simonova says she has lost her job and has appealed to the public to help her "defend her rights" amid an expensive legal battle after her coach was detained following a mask row at an airport.
Three-time world finswimming queen Simonova, who is also a European bronze medalist, was heading back from the Russian Short Course Championships in St. Petersburg with her coach Alexander Ilyin when a disagreement ensued at Pulkovo Airport.
According to reports, Ilyin refused to put on a mask when requested near the check-in desk and asked for a respirator instead.
As a result, he was not checked on to their intended flight which meant that security staff had to be called, and footage apparently filmed and then shared by the swimmer shows the 62-year-old being manhandled on the terminal floor before he is handcuffed.
WARNING: STRONG LANGUAGE IN RUSSIAN
Mask-wearing has been a regular point of contention during the pandemic. Dr Anthony Fauci, US president Joe Biden's chief health official, appeared to suggest this week that travelers would always be required to don mouth coverings as a vital part of the battle to beat Covid.
Simonova has now portrayed herself with Ilyin next to a pool and said she carries "pain in my soul from the realization that not everything is fair in our life, especially now".
"Many people know that my coach and I are defending our rights to 'breathe freely', and it's turned out to be quite expensive," she said.
"Court sessions, legal assistance, living in St. Petersburg, linguistic expertise. I was even fired from my job.
"We have never been in such a situation and for us it is an invaluable, albeit difficult, experience. But everything that does not kill us makes us stronger.
"And this time we have become stronger again, not without your help. We felt incredible support from the people. This is where Russia's real strength lies, in supporting each other.
"Now we [are] in [Siberian city] Novosibirsk and will continue to defend our rights, because we understand that this situation concerns all of us.
"I want to thank the caring people who supported and support us. At this stage, I ask you for financial assistance for such a personal and at the same time common cause. We will be very grateful to everyone," she finished.
Simonova previously claimed that she received a travel ban and was being investigated for insulting airport security staff.
“What are you doing? What are you playing at, you f*ckers? That’s an honored trainer of Russia, for f*ck’s sake. Let him go,” she is heard saying in the clip.
Simonova also told sports.ru that her phone was confiscated, although it was later returned.
According to the 29-year-old, Ilyin was detained for seven hours in what she described as "some kind of nightmare".