Olympic champion stripped of Speedo deal after Moscow concert appearance
Swimwear company Speedo has terminated its sponsorship deal with double Olympic champion Evgeny Rylov after the star attended a Moscow concert marking the reunification of Crimea with Russia.
Rylov, who won gold in the 100m and 200m backstroke events at the Tokyo Games, appeared at the mass meeting at Luzhniki Stadium on Friday which was held under the banner ‘For a World without Nazism’.
Officials estimated that more than 100,000 people gathered inside the stadium and the surrounding area, as Russian President Vladimir Putin addressed the crowd while a host of music stars performed.
The concert was similar to events which have been held in recent years to mark the reunification with Crimea, including at Luzhniki, although sections of the Western media described this year’s meeting as a “pro-war rally” as it comes amid Russia’s military operation in Ukraine.
Rylov, 25, was among the prominent Russian athletes in attendance and appeared in national team gear emblazoned with the letter ‘Z’ – a symbol which has been attached to Russian military hardware during the Ukraine conflict, and which has come to be used as a show of support for Russian forces.
In light of his appearance at the event, swimwear company Speedo said that it would no longer be sponsoring Rylov.
“Following his attendance at the Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow at the weekend, Speedo can confirm that it has terminated the sponsorship of Evgeny Rylov with immediate effect,” the company said in a statement to Inside The Games.
Elsewhere, world swimming governing body FINA said it was “investigating” Rylov’s appearance at Luzhniki.
“FINA is deeply disappointed to note the reports regarding Evgeny Rylov’s appearance at the Luzhniki Stadium during Friday’s rally,” a spokesman said.
Unlike some federations, FINA has not issued a blanket ban on Russian and Belarusian athletes and is allowing them to compete as neutrals.
Other notable Russian sporting figures to attend the Luzhniki concert included rhythmic gymnastics stars Dina and Arina Averina, ice dancers Nikita Katsalapov and Victoria Sinitsina, and cross-country skier Alexander Bolshunov, who won three gold medals at the Beijing Winter Games last month.
In a statement to Russia’s Match TV, skiing federation the FIS said it was not currently planning personal sanctions against Bolshunov.
Swim star Rylov emerged as one of Russia’s biggest heroes at last summer’s Tokyo Summer Olympics, winning three medals in total.
He made broader headlines when US rival and defending Olympic champion Ryan Murphy – whom Rylov beat to gold in both the 100m and 200m events – suggested that the race was “probably not clean” due to the participation of Russians and past allegations of doping.
Murphy subsequently clarified that he was not directing the claims at anyone in particular.
“He wrote me a private message on Instagram, said sorry for the misunderstanding that happened at the press conference... It’s okay, no problems, don’t worry,” Rylov later said.