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Russian pole vaulter’s criticism of Swedes’ rainbow-coloured nails protest draws fire

Gays and lesbians are “standard people, too”: US runner Nick Symmonds

Russian pole vaulter Yelena Isinbayeva Credit: wikipedia.org

An American athlete has slammed Russian pole vaulter Yelena Isinbayeva for criticizing Swedish athletes for painting their nails in rainbow colours in a show of support for gays at the world athletics championships in Russia, CTV reports.

Swedish high jumper Emma Green Tregaro reportedly posted a picture of her fingers on Instagram, saying, “Nails painted in the colours of the rainbow.” She also included the hashtags "#pride" and "#moscow2013."

The CTV report also notes that Green Tregaro’s teammate, sprinter Moa Hjelmer, ran in the 200-metre heats with rainbow-coloured nails.

But two-time Olympic champion Isinbayeva says Green Tregaro and her teammates are wrong to make such gestures while competing in Russia.

"It's unrespectful to our country. It's unrespectful to our citizens because we are Russians,” Isinbayeva says in part. “Maybe we are different from European people and other people from different lands," Isinbayeva told reporters. "We have our home and everyone has to respect (it). When we arrive to different countries, we try to follow their rules."

She added: “If we allow to promote and do all this stuff on the street, we are very afraid about our nation because we consider ourselves like normal, standard people. We just live with boys with woman, woman with boys.”

American middle-distance runner Nick Symmonds, who made his own statement in support of gay athletes earlier in the week after winning a silver medal in 800-metre final, took issue with Isinbayeva’s comments.

"Oh my god. I can't believe she said that. It's bad,” The Associated Press quotes Symmonds  as saying. “For Yelena to come out and say we are normal, standard Russian citizens — I'm paraphrasing here — and we don't stand for that.

"I want to say to Yelena, 'You understand a very large portion of your citizens here are gay and lesbian people. They are standard people, too. They were created this way. For you to tell them that they're not normal and standard, that's what we're taking an issue with. That's why we have to continue to demonstrate and to speak out against the ignorance that she's showing."

Isinbayeva, who is a gold medal winner in both the 2004 and 2008 Olympics, is a popular figure in Russia and will serve as mayor of one of the Olympic villages during the Sochi Games next year.

Green Tregaro will be back on the track on the weekend after qualifying for the final of the women’s high jump.

A spokesman for Sweden’s team says the federation has not addressed the matter and it’s “all up to the athletes.”

In a statement, the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) has said the views of both Isinbayeva and Green Tregaro should be respected.