Russian ‘Z’ gymnast hit with fresh blow
Russian gymnast Ivan Kuliak will not be able to compete at domestic events while his appeal against a one-year suspension is heard by the Gymnastics Ethics Foundation (GEF), officials in Russia have said. Kuliak had been hoping to appear at competitions in his homeland even though he has been banned from international tournaments.
Kuliak, 20, was banned by the International Gymnastics Federation (FIG) in May after he appeared on the podium at a Word Cup event in Doha earlier in the year with a ‘Z’ attached to his leotard. The symbol is used by Russian forces in Ukraine and has been adopted by some of the Russian population as a show of support.
Kuliak later said that he was responding to provocations from Ukrainian rivals at the tournament and “did not wish anything bad on anyone.”
Despite the 12-month international ban, figures in Russian gymnastics officials had initially said Kuliak would still compete domestically, including at the Russian Cup held in Kaluga from July 4 to 10.
On the eve of the tournament, however, the Russian Artistic Gymnastics Federation (FSGR) announced that Kuliak would be forced to miss out.
“Russian lawyers defending Ivan Kuliak applied to the Disciplinary Commission for clarification regarding the participation of a gymnast in competitions organized by an affiliated federation, and received an answer that, in accordance with this decision, a member of the Russian national team has no right to participate, including in competitions held by FSGR,” read a statement.
“The Russian Artistic Gymnastics Federation, of course, does not agree with the decision of the Disciplinary Commission, and on June 7, 2022, on behalf of Ivan Kuliak, lawyers filed a corresponding appeal to the Appeal Tribunal of the Gymnastic Ethics Foundation. The hearing is to be scheduled for August 15, 2022.
“We confirm that Ivan Kulyak will not participate in the upcoming Russian Cup, as well as other international and Russian competitions held by the Gymnastics Ethics Foundation, at least until a decision is made by the Appeal Tribunal of the Gymnastic Ethics Foundation,” it added.
Kuliak was punished by the FIG for his gesture after earning a World Cup bronze medal in the parallel bars in Doha back in March, in an event won by Ukrainian athlete Illia Kovtun.
Kuliak was also stripped of his medal and fined 500 Swiss francs (around $500), but justified his actions after describing what he said was “unacceptable” behavior from Ukrainian competitors.
“During performances they would shout ‘Glory to Ukraine!’ or go out on the podium wrapped in the national flag while we were considered neutral athletes, and because of this we felt uncomfortable,” Kuliak told RT.
“If there was a second chance and I would again have to choose whether to go out with the letter ‘Z’ on my chest or not, I would do exactly the same.”
Russian trainer Valentina Rodionenko, who was in Doha at the time of the incident but was not sanctioned by FIG, said in the wake of Kuliak’s ban that “the year will pass quickly” for him.
“Our task now is to prepare a new program, to train. Ivan is a brave guy, he understands this situation,” said Rodionenko.
“Everything will be fine, this situation will not break him, he will return.”