A Ukrainian judge says she has copped death threats for defending an Olympic gold medal decision that was accused of being politically-motivated against Russia, adding that she has been treated “as if I killed someone with a gun.”
Elite assessor Lidia Vynogradna had spoken out about the controversial call that denied rhythmic gymnast Dina Averina a gold medal at the Games on Saturday, with the title going to Linoy Ashram despite the Israeli’s huge blunder when she dropped the ribbon during her routine.
Vynogradna claimed she had received grim threats from viewers unimpressed with her verdict and said judge Natalia Ieromina had absorbed “the biggest hatred” for being Ukrainian, which she insisted did not make the panel “automatically more biaised towards Russian gymnasts”.
Debate around the result has been fierce since Averina tearfully took to the podium following her superb performance in Tokyo, appearing to be in disbelief after impressive Olympic debutant Ashram became the first non-Russian champion since 1996.
“It’s difficult to keep silent all the time,” announced Vynogradna, describing the response to a one-minute video she made seem “as if I killed somebody with a gun”.
“People are wishing me death just because I pointed out an issue which became a real phenomenon at this Olympic Games.
“I was commenting [on] qualification on TV and I noticed in Linoy’s routines, even in qualification, that she had [a pivot style] that I never seen in my life.
“The biggest hatred has been received by our judge, Natalia Ieromina, just because she is Ukrainian,” added Vynogradna, capitalizing the letters of her nationality.
“As if a Ukrainian passport makes you automatically more biaised towards Russian gymnasts. We appreciate Russian gymnasts – they are great gymnasts and we also respect their coaches and judges.
“Natalia had the hardest job to handle, together with [French judge] Eva Serrano, and I am sure they both did a brilliant job.
“However, the main difference was not on their panel and had nothing to do with the judges – the body difficulty decided the fate of gold medal. And that was just what the judges witnessed.
“Body difficulty is relatively easy to judge and does not have that many ‘question marks’ as apparatus difficulty.”
According to guidelines, gymnasts can include between six and nine body difficulties in their routines, each of which carries an assigned points value.
Legendary figure skating coach Tatiana Tarasova branded the judges responsible for the decision “bandits”, while Irina Viner-Usmanova, the head coach of the Russian national team, told RT Sport that the result had been “planned in advance”.
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Politicians from the Russian State Duma have condemned the outcome and former champion Karolina Sevastyanova questioned the point of the Olympics and athete training when they could fall foul of what she perceived as a decision that had “destroyed the future of sports”.
“If we now start rejudging routines, we will definitely count way less in the routines of all the gymnasts,” argued Vynogradna. “All judges know that.
“When judging in real time, we don’t have slow motion or the possibility to review the element. I am convinced the ranking was correct at the Olympic Games.”
Addressing the judges, she said: “You stood for Olympic ideals and for the fair sport. You don’t deserve the hatred you now receive. I know all the judges who were at Olympic Games – they are the best representatives of our sport.
“We share great support and respect to each other, even though, indeed, we often discuss and ask why some elements were counted and some were not, but that’s fine – that’s a dialogue between all of our gymnastics community.
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“By the way, I am not ready to die yet – so all the people wishing me death are immediately blocked [on social media].”
In an offer that appeared to contain an element of sarcasm, Vynogradna added: “If anybody would like to speak up as well – I am Ukrainian, so biaised in the first place, as always – feel free.
“We can make a video highlighting everybody’s difficulty and what made that final difference.”
Vynogradna was commended for her level of excellence when she judged at the 2015 World Artistic Gymnastics Championships, according to the International Gymnastics Federation.
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