The Russian Olympic Committee (ROC) expressed outrage on Saturday over the “injustice” of the gold medal win for Israel’s Linoy Ashram in the Olympic rhythmic gymnastics individual all-around final, edging out three-time world champion Dina Averina to end two decades of Russian dominance.
“The whole world has seen this injustice,” tweeted the ROC. The same account later posted a statement by Averina that read, in part: “My conscience is clear, I still believe that I won.”
Ashram, 22, led the finals 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.
“It’s what I dreamed of for all my life,” Ashram said after her victory. “It’s an amazing feeling to stand in this place, at this time, on the podium and in first place,” said the gymnast who has now been picked to carry the flag at the closing ceremony.
“It’s a crazy experience that I still haven’t fully digested,” Ashram said.
The ROC team lodged several inquiries into the scores including for the ribbon routine, but the points stood. Afterward, Averina, the silver medalist, lashed out at the judges.
“I don’t feel that it was fair today and it was obvious from the very first apparatus when… I got a lower score, so I can’t say that it was very fair,” said Averina, who has been nursing a back injury since last year.
“I can’t spot any obvious mistake that I did. I was pretty consistent and clean compared to Linoy who lost the apparatus,” said Averina.
She said she and her sister would likely retire before the Paris 2024 Games
“I think it’s pretty obvious that I’m a little bit upset,” a tearful Averina told reporters.
Unsurprisingly, Ashram had no qualms with the judges.
“The judging was very good. We have no problem,” she said. “I focus only on myself. I worked so hard for this.”
She later told Channel 12: “I really don’t look at the others’ results. Only at what I did. And I did the best that I could.”
Ashram led through the first three rotations. A dazzling clubs performance, which scored 28.650 points, was the highlight.
But she gave Averina a chance to overhaul her with a drop in the ribbon, which potentially cost her a whole point.
Averina produced a clean routine, before an agonizing wait as the judges made absolutely sure of the score.
Averina was judged to have come up just short, with Ashram then confirmed as champion after the final Russian inquiry request.
Ashram’s teammates and the Israeli media in the otherwise mainly empty stands celebrated, while a devastated Averina broke down in tears.
Ashram’s medal was Israel’s fourth in Tokyo and its second gold in these Olympic Games. She is the first Israeli woman to win the top medal.
She was visibly moved as Israel’s national anthem, Hatikva, rang out through the gymnastics center as the flag was raised after the win
It was the first time a Russian gymnast has failed to win the event since the 1996 Atlanta Olympics, and was arguably one of the biggest upsets in the sport’s history.
Russian gymnasts have also won 12 of the past 14 world championship all-around golds. One of the two times they missed out was in 2001, when Alina Kabaeva was stripped of her title after testing positive for a banned diuretic.
Israel’s Ashram, the 2018 world all-around silver medalist, was not expected to beat identical twin sisters Dina and Arina Averina.
Between them, the twins had won every major championship all-around title they had competed for since the 2016 Rio Olympics.
They also finished first and second in Friday’s qualifying, with Ashram third after she fumbled her hoop.
Arina, the older of the pair by 20 minutes, missed out on the podium completely as a knot in her ribbon allowed Belarus’s Alina Harnasko to grab bronze with 102.700 points.
Ashram has been competing in international contests since 2014. She now has 92 medals from various international competitions under her belt.