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13 Apr, 2022 10:03

Gymnastics icon explains how Russia will benefit from sports bans

There are positives to take from the sporting sanctions imposed on Russia, according to Irina Viner-Usmanova
Gymnastics icon explains how Russia will benefit from sports bans

Russia can still benefit despite the widespread sanctions imposed on the country by sports federations, legendary gymnastics coach Irina Viner-Usmanova has said.

The International Gymnastics Federation (FIG) is among the sporting bodies to sanction Russia in the wake of the military operation in Ukraine, announcing on March 4 that all Russian and Belarusian athletes and officials would be banned from its competitions until further notice.

But according to Viner-Usmanova, who is head of the Russian Rhythmic Gymnastics Federation, that decision is not entirely be to the detriment of Russian athletes.

“We are very pleased to some extent that we were deprived of competitions, because our sport always develops higher, faster, and stronger,” said the 73-year-old, according to RBC.

“That has always been the case. In football without any foreign players, and in gymnastics.

“And many began to place obstacles for us at international competitions, which it’s very difficult to pass through, and sport suffers because of this.

“This type of sport loses its relevance and will lose it completely if this continues.”

Russia has long been a dominant force in rhythmic gymnastics but the nation’s biggest star in the sport, Dina Averina, found herself at the center of a judging scandal when she missed out on gold in the all-around event at the Tokyo Olympics last summer.

Averina, 23, was forced to settle for silver behind Linoy Ashram despite the Israeli gymnast dropping her apparatus during the ribbon routine.

“It's a blatant [judging] mistake and a flagrant injustice... which was planned in advance,” said Viner-Usmanova at the time of the incident.

“A mistake that has nothing to do with clean sport. It’s the same thing as doping or bribing the judges.”

The FIG’s decision to suspend Russian athletes means that 18-time world champion Averina – whose twin sister Arina is also a multiple world and European title winner – is barred from this year’s World Cup series and is set to miss the World Championship in Sofia, Bulgaria, in September.

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