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17 Jun, 2022 14:11

Banned Russia can help China win titles, says gymnastics icon

Coaching legend Irina Viner-Usmanova talked up ties between the two countries
Banned Russia can help China win titles, says gymnastics icon

Russia will step up its sporting cooperation with China and can even help its ally achieve success in events where Russian athletes find themselves banned, according to Russian Rhythmic Gymnastics Federation president Irina Viner-Usmanova.

Like their compatriots across a wide range of sports, Russia’s formidable array of rhythmic gymnastics stars are currently sidelined from global competition following a suspension imposed by the International Gymnastics Federation (FIG) in March.

That means the likes of 18-time world champion Dina Averina and twin sister Arina have been barred from World Cup stages and will be absent from the 2022 World Championship held in Bulgaria in September.

Moving forward, Russian rhythmic gymnastics boss and coaching icon Viner-Usmanova has talked up the opportunity of tighter ties with China in the face of Western sanctions.

“We have 600 competitive events planned between Russia and China this year. Our task is to connect with China as closely as possible, because it is a strong power. And not only in sports,” Viner-Usmanova told journalists at the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum (SPIEF) on Friday.

“They are very strong in rhythmic gymnastics… We will definitely work together and learn from each other.

“They are like us, and we are like them. A very promising country for us, especially now. We will compete and move forward.”

That cooperation could extend to helping Chinese gymnasts prepare for the World Championship, said Viner-Usmanova.

“We invited the Chinese team to train for the World Championship, and we will try very hard for them to win,” noted the gymnastics icon, who is a member of the Russian-Chinese Committee for Friendship, Peace and Development.

Viner-Usmanova added that despite being banned from FIG events, Russian stars such as the Averina twins had not been fully shunned by their international rivals.

That included Israeli gymnast Linoy Ashram, who was involved in a Tokyo Olympic row after she beat Dina Averina to gold in contentious circumstances last summer.  

“We do not have unfriendly countries in sports – these are the words of Vladimir Putin. We cannot have unfriendly athletes," said Viner-Usmanova. 

“Someday athletes will understand this. Even those who are outraged and make some attacks [on us]. I am sure that these are children who were simply misguided.

“Dina and Arina Averina communicate with Linoy Ashram, who won the Olympics. Ashram supported them and received unflattering reviews in her own country. Bulgarian athletes also write very friendly messages.” 

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