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Israel’s gold medal gymnast says she’s ‘not mad’ at Russia’s Dina Averina

Linoy Ashram says she usually speaks to the Russian gymnast, but didn’t get the chance after she clinched first place in the tense Olympic competition

From left, silver medalist Dina Averina, of Russian Olympic Committee, gold medalist Linoy Ashram, of Israel, and bronze medalist Alina Harnasko, of Belarus, stand on the podium after the rhythmic gymnastics individual all-around final at the 2020 Summer Olympics, on August 7, 2021, in Tokyo, Japan. (AP/Ashley Landis)
From left, silver medalist Dina Averina, of Russian Olympic Committee, gold medalist Linoy Ashram, of Israel, and bronze medalist Alina Harnasko, of Belarus, stand on the podium after the rhythmic gymnastics individual all-around final at the 2020 Summer Olympics, on August 7, 2021, in Tokyo, Japan. (AP/Ashley Landis)

Israeli Olympic gold medalist rhythmic gymnast Linoy Ashram said she is not upset at Russia’s three-time world champion Dina Averina, after Averina and Russian officials claimed her victory was unfair and she received a wave of criticism and insults from pro-Russia fans.

“Usually we talk. Behind the curtains, we say hello,” Ashram told Sport 5 radio on Monday, referring to Averina, who she narrowly outscored and who won the silver medal. “I usually congratulate her on her wins, and she smiles, and all is well.

“But at that moment, she must have been a bit jolted when I surpassed her,” Ashram continued.

“I don’t think we should look at others. We should concentrate on the achievement that Ayelet and I brought to the Israeli team,” she added, referring to her coach, Ayelet Zussman.

Ashram said she and Averina did not speak following the competition, as they both had their hands full with media attention.

“I’m not mad at her. Every athlete should take wins and losses with sportsmanship. There is no need to react to things incorrectly, but in the end, she did what she thought was right for her,” Ashram said.

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.

Dina Averina, of the Russian Olympic Committee, awaits 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)

Averina said about herself that she “can’t spot any obvious mistake that I did. I was pretty consistent and clean compared to Linoy, who lost the apparatus.”

“It hurts and it’s painful that there was unfair judging today,” she told sports broadcaster Match TV. “I got through all of the disciplines more or less cleanly, properly, and came in second. I’m hurt by the injustice, I support honest sport.”

In 2018, Averina dropped her own ribbon apparatus when competing against Ashram. Despite that, she clocked a 19-point score on the ribbon, while Ashram (who made no such fumble) received an 18.9. Averina went on to win the all-around gold, leaving Ashram with the silver at the 2018 Rhythmic Gymnastics World Championships in Sofia, Bulgaria.

Ashram, the first Israeli woman to win a gold medal at any Olympics, posted a video on her Instagram page on 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 did not take 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.”

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)

Ashram, 22, led the finals for rhythmic gymnastics for the first three rounds with almost flawless performances and clung to her lead, despite the 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 call 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.

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