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Russian athlete who used pro-invasion symbol has no regrets, says he was mistreated by Ukrainians – Observer

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Ivan Kuliak may have been a rising star in Russian gymnastics (which he still is), but he wasn’t exactly a household name in the sports world. At least until this weekend. And not for sporting reasons. As he stood on the parallel bars podium at the World Cup in Doha, Qatar, with the symbol Z associated with the defenders of the invasion of Ukraine, has become news all over the world. Now, for the first time since what happened (and all the repercussions that followed), he has commented on the position he took.

A Russian athlete has been investigated for wearing the pro-invasion symbol on the podium at the World Gymnastics competition (which was won by the Ukrainian)

“They told us to cover the flag, so I did. They had already banned everything possible, I just wanted to show where I’m from, that’s all. I’m not afraid of the consequences and I don’t want to hurt anyone. If there was a second time, I would do it again. The ‘Z’ stands for ‘For Victory’, for peace. And Ukrainian athletes mistreated us, they would only believe it when they see it,” the 20-year-old Russian athlete justified in a message he posted via Telegram, where he made further remarks about what happened on the podium.

“Athletes were on the podium shouting “Glory to Ukraine” and, according to the rules of the competition, this is not allowed. But no one told them. In the images that exist of this parallel bars podium, proof that was won by the Ukrainian Illia Kovtun and who had the Kazakh Milad Karimi as runner-up, we can only perceive the nervousness of Ivan Kuliak, who bites his lip , as well as the tension with Kovtun, who only hailed Karimi at medal time.

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Following the gesture, the International Gymnastics Federation (FIG) asked the Gymnastics Ethics Foundation to open an investigation into the case, which should lead to a heavy sanction for the Russian athlete. “The FIG confirms that it will ask the Gymnastics Ethics Foundation to initiate disciplinary proceedings against gymnast Ivan Kuliak, following the shocking behavior he had at the Doha World Cup. The FIG adopted measures against Russia and Belarus on March 4. From March 7, 2022, Russian and Belarusian athletes and officials, including judges, will no longer be able to participate in FIG competitions. »

Born in Kaluga, less than 100 kilometers from Moscow, Ivak Kuliak began gymnastics at an early age under the influence of his mother, representing for many years the famous Larisa Latynina gymnastics school with a stint at the University of Smolensk. In 2019, he had his first big year competitively, when he became junior all-around and floor champion, in addition to winning silver on high bar. That participation earned him a trip to the 2019 Youth Olympic Festival, where he placed second in the all-around and team competition and third in floor and rings. The achievements would later give him the degree of Master of Sport of the Russian Gymnastics Federation, a recognition of sporting merit. Last year, when she signed up for the Paris-2024 Olympic project, served the army as a kind of political indoctrination at the Balashikha military base, now focusing solely on competition.

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