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Israel’s gold medal gymnast harassed online by indignant Russians

Linoy Ashram’s social media accounts subjected to torrent of abuse from users claiming Russia’s Dina Averina should have taken first place

(LtoR) Russia's Dina Averina (silver), Israel's Linoy Ashram (gold) and Belarus' Alina Harnasko (bronze) pose during the medal ceremony of the individual all-around final of the Rhythmic Gymnastics event during Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games at Ariake Gymnastics centre in Tokyo, on August 7, 2021. (Lionel BONAVENTURE / AFP)
(LtoR) Russia's Dina Averina (silver), Israel's Linoy Ashram (gold) and Belarus' Alina Harnasko (bronze) pose during the medal ceremony of the individual all-around final of the Rhythmic Gymnastics event during Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games at Ariake Gymnastics centre in Tokyo, on August 7, 2021. (Lionel BONAVENTURE / AFP)

Israeli Olympic gold medalist rhythmic gymnast Linoy Ashram has faced a wave of criticism and insults from pro-Russia fans who claim the top prize should have gone to their country’s competitor, three-time world champion Dina Averina.

Russia’s Olympic team has expressed outrage because Ashram won the gold despite making a key mistake in one of her routines — dropping her ribbon — beating Averina on Saturday by a slim margin of just 0.15 points.

Ashram, the first Israeli woman to win a gold medal at any Olympics, posted a video to her Instagram page Sunday showing herself and teammates emotionally celebrating her win as it happened.

The post was flooded with thousands of responses, many of which accused her of being unworthy of the prize and saying that Averina should have been crowned champion. Some messages followed a theme suggesting the judges deliberately marked down Averina’s score in order to make sure that Ashram won. Her win ended Russia’s decades-long dominance in rhythmic gymnastics and marked the first time since 1996 that Russia has not taken the gold in the individual final.

“Aren’t you ashamed to share this?” wrote one Russian user in a comment that was liked by over 600 others. “Everyone knows that the medal is not yours.”

Ashram’s Facebook page was also targeted, with hundreds of comments added in response to her last post on the social media platform, made on July 8, which did not have anything to do with the Olympics, showing the gymnast in an evening dress.

Israel’s Linoy Ashram poses with her gold medal during the podium ceremony of the individual all-around final of the Rhythmic Gymnastics event during Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games at Ariake Gymnastics center in Tokyo, on August 7, 2021. (Lionel BONAVENTURE / AFP)

“Shame on Linoy Ashram and her stealing the medal,” wrote one user.

“The thief in all her glory,” another posted in Russian, drawing counter-responses from Russian-speaking supporters of Ashram.

Dina Averina, of the Russian Olympic Committee, waits for her final score after competing in the individual all-around rhythmic gymnastics final at the 2020 Summer Olympics, in Tokyo, Japan, August 7, 2021. (Ashley Landis/AP)

Along with the negative remarks, there was also a tide of messages from users all over the world congratulating Ashram and panning the Russians for being poor losers.

Ashram also received support from Nadia Comaneci, the legendary Romanian gymnast who was first to ever score a perfect ten for a routine.

“Linoy Ashram, congratulations. You made history,” Comaneci tweeted Saturday.

The flurry of activity also seemed to boost Ashram’s popularity.

The number of followers for Ashram’s Instagram account had more than doubled since Saturday from 78,000 to over 160,000 by Sunday morning.

Ashram, 22, led the finals for rhythmic gymnastics for the first three rounds with almost flawless performances and clung on despite a mistake in her closing ribbon routine to win with 107.800 points overall, just 0.150 ahead of Averina.

Averina had needed to score at least 24.15 points for her ribbon routine, but despite what the Russians said was an “excellent” performance, she scored 24 points and finished in second place.

On Saturday Russian Olympic Committee President Stanislav Pozdnyakov called on the International Gymnastics Federation to do an inquiry into the judging of Ashram’s event.

“Our staff and lawyers have already drawn up a request and sent it to the leadership of the International Gymnastics Federation,” Pozdnyakov wrote on Instagram.

Russia’s frustrations at the rhythmic gymnastics event were compounded Sunday when its team came second in the team all-round event, losing to Bulgaria.

Social media discussions have been full of allegations of a conspiracy to hurt Russia’s medal count and some lawmakers have weighed in with their own theories.

Head coach Irina Viner-Usmanova told the RIA Novosti state news agency Sunday that “everyone understood perfectly well that this was meant to happen, that Russia’s hegemony had to be stopped.”

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