‘We are normal Russians’: Pole vaulter, Yelena Isinbayeva, defends anti-gay laws

Athlete criticises shows of support of gay rights at World Championships

Moscow

Russian pole vaulter Yelena Isinbayeva has defended her country’s anti-gay law and criticised athletes for showing solidarity for gays and lesbians.

Russia’s anti-gay law has been a contentious global issue since parliament passed the ruling in June, which leads to heavy fines for anyone deemed to promote homosexuality to people under the age of 18. Earlier this month, Russia’s Sports Minister warned that gay competitors in next year’s Winter Olympics risk arrest if they engage in homosexual “propaganda”.

Now, Isinbayeva, the face of this year’s World Athletics Championships who on Tuesday won the third world title of her career and is idolised by the Russian public, has further stoked the row by insisting she supports the law.

“If we allow to promote and do all this stuff on the street, we are afraid about our nation because we consider ourselves like normal, standard people,” she said. “We just live with boys with woman, woman with boys. Everything must be fine. It comes from history. We never had any problems, these problems in Russia, and we don’t want to have any in the future.”

American 800m runner Nick Symmonds, who won silver in his event on the same night as Isinbayeva leapt to her gold, had already weighed into the row by saying he would dedicate his medal “to my gay and lesbian friends back home”.

Responding to Isinbayeva’s comments, Symmonds said: “It blows my mind that a young, well-travelled, well-educated woman would be so behind the times. She said ‘normal, standard people’ in Russia? Guess what – a lot of these people with Russian citizenship are normal, standard homosexuals. They deserve rights too.”

Today, two Swedish athletes, Emma Green Tregaro, a high jumper and former World Championship bronze medallist, and 200m and 400m runner Moa Hjelmer, both painted their nails in rainbow colours in a nod to the rainbow flag often used as a symbol of gay rights and gay pride. Green Tregaro said in a video on the website of Swedish newspaper Expressen: “The first thing that happened when I came to Moscow and pulled my curtains aside was that I saw the rainbow and that felt a little ironic. Then I had a suggestion from a friend on Instagram that maybe I could paint my nails in the colours of the rainbow and that felt like a simple, small thing that maybe could trigger some thoughts.”

Hjelmer followed suit, while team spokesman Fredrik Trahn said other teammates had also done so. Mr Trahn said: “The federation has not discussed it. It is all up to the athletes.”

Tregaro painted her nails in rainbow colours to show solidarity Tregaro painted her nails in rainbow colours to show solidarity

 

The Swedish athletes’ stance led to a sharp rebuke from Isinbayeva. “It’s unrespectful [sic] to our country,” said the Russian, who is also a two-time Olympic champion and the world record holder in the pole vault. “It’s unrespectful to our citizens because we are Russians. Maybe we are different from European people and other people from different lands. We have our home and everyone has to respect [it]. When we arrive to different countries, we try to follow their rules.”

The row looks unlikely to go away with the sporting spotlight on Russia as it prepares to host next year’s Winter Olympics in Sochi from 7-23 February, where Isinbayeva is set to be mayor of the Olympic village.

The international athletics federation, the IAAF, which runs the World Championships, has refused to join the row, insisting both parties have the right to air their views.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Voices
voices
News
general electionThis quiz matches undecided voters with the best party for them
Arts and Entertainment
Keira Knightley and Matthew Macfadyen starred in the big screen adaptation of Austen's novel in 2005
tvStar says studios are forcing actors to get buff for period roles
News
Prince William and his wife Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge show their newly-born daughter, their second child, to the media outside the Lindo Wing at St Mary's Hospital in central London, on 2 May 2015.
news
ebooks
ebooksA celebration of British elections
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Trainee Consultant - Surrey/ South West London

£22000 per annum + pension,bonus,career progression: Ashdown Group: An establi...

Ashdown Group: Trainee Consultant - Surrey / South West London

£22000 per annum + pension,bonus,career progression: Ashdown Group: An establi...

Ashdown Group: Recruitment Consultant / Account Manager - Surrey / SW London

£40000 per annum + realistic targets: Ashdown Group: A thriving recruitment co...

Ashdown Group: Part-time Payroll Officer - Yorkshire - Professional Services

£25000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A successful professional services firm is lo...

Day In a Page

Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

China's influence on fashion

At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

Rainbow shades

It's all bright on the night
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
Welcome to the world of Megagames

Welcome to the world of Megagames

300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

Vince Cable exclusive interview

Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

It's time for my close-up

Meet the man who films great whites for a living
Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

Homeless people keep mobile phones

A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before