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Officials 'appalled' at online 'threats' directed at judges

World gymnastics group dismisses Russian complaints over Linoy Ashram’s gold

After an investigation, the International Gymnastics Federation rules that there was ‘no bias’ in the judging at the Tokyo Olympics

Amy Spiro is a reporter and writer with The Times of Israel.

Israeli gold medalist Linoy Ashram competes in the individual all-around final of the Rhythmic Gymnastics event during Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games, on August 7, 2021. (Lionel Bonaventure/AFP)
Israeli gold medalist Linoy Ashram competes in the individual all-around final of the Rhythmic Gymnastics event during Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games, on August 7, 2021. (Lionel Bonaventure/AFP)

The International Gymnastics Federation officially dismissed on Thursday any allegations of unfair or impartial judging of rhythmic gymnastics earlier this month at the Tokyo Olympics, where Israel’s Linoy Ashram took home a gold medal and ended years of Russian hegemony in the sport.

“We can confirm that no bias or irregularities were identified in the judging panels,” said the organization, known as FIG, the abbreviation of its French name.

Ashram won gold at the individual all-around rhythmic gymnastics final, edging out Russian Dina Averina, who was a favorite to win. Averina — competing as part of the Russian Olympic Committee, which doesn’t technically represent Russia, since Russia was banned from the Olympics over doping allegations — and other Russian gymnastics officials lashed out at the judging following the event.

“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,” Averina told reporters shortly after the finals. The president of the Russian Olympic Committee announced it would seek a probe into the judging process after the result.

In its statement on Thursday, FIG said it conducted “a thorough post-competition review of all evaluation components in every phase of the Rhythmic Gymnastics competitions at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games” and found no faults.

The organization confirmed, therefore, “that the rankings and results of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games competitions in Rhythmic Gymnastics for both Individuals and Groups are fair and impartial.”

Russia’s Dina Averina competes in 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)

The Russian Olympic Committee also failed to bring home gold in the group round of the rhythmic gymnastics competition, winning silver as Bulgaria clinched gold. Israel’s team finished sixth overall.

FIG also condemned the online harassment that some of the judges experienced from fans of Averina and the Russian team.

“We have been appalled to learn that several judges from the Rhythmic Gymnastics panels have been receiving many threats and hateful messages since the Olympic competitions,” its statement read. “These attempts to destabilize judges are utterly unacceptable. The FIG wants to clearly state that these judges have our full support and can be commended for their work.”

The organization did not address the online harassment that Ashram herself experienced following her gold medal win. Ashram said a few days later that she felt no ill will toward Averina.

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)

“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.

Shortly afterward, Averina took to social media to call on her fans to back off from attacking Ashram.

“I feel bad for Linoy. She didn’t do anything wrong. Stop poisoning her,” she said in comments carried by Russia’s Championat sporting news site. “We’re not guilty of anything — it’s the judges’ business.”

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