Sat, Aug 17, 2013 - Page 20 News List

Isinbayeva’s tirade sparks furor

RAINBOW RANT:The pole vault gold medalist, who will serve as ‘mayor’ of one of the Sochi Winter Olympic villages next year, spoke in favor of her nation’s anti-gay stance

AP, MOSCOW

The IOC declined to comment.

“You will understand that at this stage we cannot comment on reported opinions/comments,” IOC spokeswoman Emmanuelle Moreau said.

US middle-distance runner Nick Symmonds was shocked by Isinbayeva’s comments.

Symmonds won a silver medal in the 800m at about the same time that Isinbayeva won her pole vault title.

“Oh, my god. I can’t believe she said that. It’s bad,” Symmonds said. “For Yelena to come out and say we are normal, standard Russian citizens — I’m paraphrasing here — and we don’t stand for that. I want to say to Yelena: ‘You understand a very large portion of your citizens here are gay and lesbian people. They are standard people, too. They were created this way. For you to tell them that they’re not normal and standard, that’s what we’re taking an issue with.’ That’s why we have to continue to demonstrate and to speak out against the ignorance that she’s showing.”

Symmonds said he dedicated his silver medal to his gay and lesbian friends, as he said he would in a blog entry for Runner’s World before the championships began.

“While I was here, I wanted to focus on athletics. I wanted to win a medal. That was my job,” Symmonds said. “Now that I’m done doing that job, if there’s something I can do, if this gives me a platform to voice my opinion and speak out about the atrocities that I’ve seen here, that’s what I’d like to do.”

Isinbayeva has set 28 world records and won seven major titles, including gold medals at the 2004 and 2008 Olympics, but she said this week that she plans to take a break from the sport to have a baby. She was part of the team that helped Russia win the right to host the 2018 FIFA World Cup.

Asked by Russian TV if she had any intentions of becoming a politician, Isinbayeva said: “I have blabbed so much today and, as usual, everything was turned upside down.”

Fans cheered when Isinbayeva entered the stadium to receive her gold medal and roared their approval when she stood on the top step of the podium, thrusting her arms in the air and jumping with glee.

IAAF treasurer Valentin Balakhnichev of Russia put the gold medal around her neck and kissed her cheeks, and when the Russian anthem began, Isinbayeva started singing, but soon broke down, burying her face in her hands. She quickly regained her composure and kissed her medal while the anthem played on.

Before posing with silver medalist Jenn Suhr of the US and Cuban bronze medalist Yarisley Silva, Isinbayeva dried her eyes and checked her fingertips for smeared makeup. She was all smiles in the ensuing photos and then addressed the adoring crowd, speaking into a microphone as her image flashed on giant screens.

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