Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Russian pole vault champ defends nation's anti-gay law

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MOSCOW -- Pole vault great Yelena Isinbayeva condemned homosexuality Thursday after criticizing competitors who painted their fingernails in rainbow colours to support gays and lesbians in the face of a new anti-gay law in Russia.

The Russian, who won her third world title Tuesday in front of a boisterous home crowd, came out in favour of the law that has drawn sharp criticism and led Western activists to call for a boycott of next year's Winter Olympics in the Russian resort of Sochi.

"If we allow to promote and do all this stuff on the street, we are very afraid about our nation because we consider ourselves like normal, standard people," Isinbayeva, a two-time Olympic champion, said in English. "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."

At least two Swedish athletes competed Thursday with their fingernails painted in rainbow colours at Luzhniki Stadium, the venue that also hosted the 1980 Moscow Olympics.

Isinbayeva said it was wrong for the Swedes to make such a statement while competing in Russia.

"It's unrespectful to our country. It's unrespectful to our citizens because we are Russians. Maybe we are different from European people and other people from different lands," Isinbayeva told reporters. "We have our home and everyone has to respect (it). When we arrive to different countries, we try to follow their rules."

American middle-distance runner Nick Symmonds, who won the silver medal in the 800 metres on Tuesday, blasted Isinbayeva for her comments.

"Oh my god. I can't believe she said that. It's bad," Symmonds told the AP.

Isinbayeva has set 28 world records in her career and won seven major titles, including gold medals at the 2004 and 2008 Olympics. She was part of the team that helped Russia win the right to host the 2018 World Cup.

Isinbayeva, who said she plans to take a break from the sport to have a baby, was inside the stadium to receive her gold medal shortly after making her comments. The crowd roared when she stood on the top of the podium, and Isinbayeva thrust her arms in the air and jumped giddily.

 

-- The Associated Press

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition August 16, 2013 C4

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