Olympic champion Yelena Isinbayeva sparks outrage in Russia and Spain

Yelena Isinbayeva's Tenerife photos spark international scandal

6:04

The stadium in Dagestan named after two-time Olympic champion in pole vaulting Yelena Isinbayeva will be renamed, the head of the republic of Dagestan Sergey Melikov said.

"Yes, she is a talented athlete who set more than one world record, but she has never connected her life, her past and future with Dagestan. Her last statements that she made from abroad came as a serious signal for us and a reason to reconsider the name of the stadium," said Melikov.

According to him, there are many worthy athletes and true patriots in the republic, whose name the stadium can bear. Melikov also suggested that residents of Dagestan would want to return the original name to the stadium — Trud (translates as 'Labour').

"Let them name a gym in Spain in Yelena Isinbayeva's honour as long as she preferred Spain to Russia," he added.

It was earlier reported that Isinbayeva had moved to Spain. It is believed that the athlete lives in a luxury residential complex in Tenerife. It remains unknown when exactly the athlete moved there.

On June 21, the Ethics Commission of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) finished checking information related to Isinbayeva, a member of the organisation. The commission wanted to find out whether the Russian athlete was supportive of Russia's actions in Ukraine. They also looked into her contractual obligations with Russian military structures.

The IOC Ethics Commission concluded that the athlete did not support Russia's special military operation in Ukraine, nor had she anything to do with law enforcement agencies and the Russian army.

In February 2023, President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelensky enacted the decision of the National Security Council of Ukraine on 50-year-long sanctions against Russian athletes. Isinbayeva was one of the sanctioned Russian athletes.

Yelena Isinbayeva, 41, is a major of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation. The three-time world champion has been on the IOC Athletes' Commission since 2016.

Yelena Isinbayeva responds to her criticism

Following media publications, Yelena Isinbayeva released a statement in Spanish in which she stressed that she had never been in the Russian Armed Forces and called her rank of major "nominal." The athlete did not deny reports about her move from Russia to Spain and called herself a "person of the world."

CSKA legend Vladimir Ponomarev said that such a statement was "mean, a betrayal.”

An article that has recently appeared on El Digital Sur, posted photographs of Isinbayeva against the backdrop of local streets. The Russian athletes permanently resides on the Canary Islands, the article said.

The material was mostly devoted to criticism of Isinbayeva for her support of Russia's special military operation in Ukraine, for being Putin's confidant and for keeping her military rank of the major. The article featured a number of photos of the athlete in military uniform. One of the pictures depicted the athlete with Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu.

In response to media criticism, Yelena Isinbayeva released a statement in Spanish on Instagram* (owned by Meta, recognised as extremist and banned  in Russia). The athlete stressed that she had nothing to do with the Russian Armed Forces.

"Until 2018, I performed for CSKA (Central Army Sports Club — ed.) and was decorated with high awards and titles for outstanding sports achievements.

"The ranks that are being talked about today are nominal, since I do not serve and have never served in the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation. I have never served as a State Duma deputy, nor have I been a member of any party. My vocation is sport," Isinbayeva wrote in Spanish.

The athlete did not deny reports of her move to Spain. She stated that she was a "person of the world." The photos that appeared in the media could be taken ten years ago, she added. She also urged not to believe fake information, but did not specify what information it was exactly.

"I live where I work, I eat what I love, I communicate with those whom I value and respect. I have always believed and will believe in the best side of every person — even of those people who are "ready to throw a stone at me today” just because someone said something somewhere, wrote or distributed a photo from ten years ago that are not related with reality," Isinbayeva wrote.

CSKA legend: Isinbayeva must be forgotten

Vladimir Ponomarev, a legend of the CSKA football club and the USSR national team, believes that Isinbayeva is only trying not to lose her property abroad.

"This is mean, this is an act of betrayal. Isinbayeva is subject to anathema. She must be forgotten. The government awarded her with titles for her achievements in sports, and I don’t understand what she is doing now. Clearly, all her accounts and real estate are abroad, and if she supports the special military operation, then all that will be frozen and taken away. This is the price of betrayal," Ponomarev told RIA Novosti.

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Yelena Isinbayeva world record 2008
Author`s name Angela Antonova
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Editor Dmitry Sudakov
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