Russian pole vaulter Yelena Isinbayeva caused a bit of a stir at the IAAF World Championships earlier this week when she openly condemned Emma Green-Tregaro’s decision to paint her fingernails rainbow colored in support of the Russian gay community (Green-Tregaro has since been asked to remove the rainbow paint by the IAAF). Isinbayeva has now back-tracked from her original comments, saying she was misunderstood because English isn’t her first language.
Here’s what Isinbayeva said earlier in the week regarding Green-Tregaro:
We have our law which everyone has to respect. When we go to different countries, we try to follow their rules.
We consider ourselves, like normal, standard people, we just live boys with women, girls with boys… it comes from the history (Reuters).
American runner Nick Symmonds was one of the first athletes to react to Isinbayeva: “Guess what Yelena, a large portion of your citizenship are normal, standard homosexuals.”
In the fact of mounting criticism, Isinbayeva issued this statement on Friday:
English is not my first language and I think I may have been misunderstood when I spoke yesterday.
What I wanted to say was that people should respect the laws of other countries particularly when they are guests.
But let me make it clear I respect the views of my fellow athletes, and let me state in the strongest terms that I am opposed to any discrimination against gay people on the grounds of their sexuality (which is against the Olympic charter).
Whether you find Isinbayeva’s explanation believable or not — Reuters slyly notes that she’s a “vastly experienced athlete who regularly speaks English to journalists” — the comments are certainly an indication that the debate about Russia’s treatment of its gay community won’t be winding down anytime soon.