• Ethne Tierney

Gymnastics Scandals That We Will Never Forget

These are the top four shocking moments in rhythmic gymnastics that we won't forget even if we tried. Spoiler alert: Irina Viner, president of the Russian Rhythmic Gymnastics Federation (and ultimate DIVA) is going to be frequently mentioned.

What are the moments that shocked you in gymnastics? Are we leaving out something important? Let us know in the comments!

When Soldatova took a career break and opened up about her battle with Bulimia

We are kicking off with the most recent scandal in the world of gymnastics, when the beloved Alexandra Soldatova, Russia's four-time world champion, admitted publicly her ongoing struggles with Bulimia. She has been suffering from it since 2018, and she decided to take a break now, not competing for the Olympics.

"Life was divided between my battle with the illness and this beautiful sport"

She thanked Irina Viner and urged others to seek help and speak up if suffering from eating disorders.

We had to mention this recent event because of how meaningful it is to have a champion like her talking about eating disorders in the world of gymnastics, where the presence of these is prevalent. She is being a great example to young gymnasts in a discipline that sometimes sacrifices health for glory. Viner announced she is healthy and feeling much better recently at a press conference. She has all our sympathy and admiration, and we can only wish her to fully recover soon.

The time Viner blamed the result of the World Championships in biased judging and she got sanctioned by the Technical Committee

Speaking of the devil, we will never forget when in April 2008 a disciplinary procedure opened against Irina Viner. After Anna Bessonova won the title over Vera Sessina and Olga Capranova at the 2007 World Championships, Viner blamed the results on biased judging.

"After my girls won five gold medals, someone hinted the World's were an all-Russian competition, so the judges decided to pull up Anna Bessonova over Sessina... After the all-around results, I worried the outcome of the group tournament, and undertook the necessary measures to ensure that the situation does not happen again"

She was only let off with a warning, but she left the FIG technical committee as her role as head coach of the Russian team and FIG official was a source of conflict of interest.

And when Deriugina was suspended and excluded from the Committee too!

That same year, the famous Ukrainian team coach and FIG official, Irina Deriugina, was suspended for four years from the FIG for breaching several rules of the FIG Code of Discipline. Among them, Deriugina was caught cheating at the 2000 European Championships to underscore Vitrychenko.

So in the 2009- 2012 Olympic cycle the rhythmic gymnastics technical committee was left with no Irinas.

The rumours about the RG legend, Alina Kabaeva, having an affair with President Putin

This has to be one of the juiciest, most gossipy moments the sport has ever seen. We all know Kabaeva, she transformed rhythmic gymnastics and is one of the most decorated gymnasts in history, including two Olympic medals and 14 World medals.

It's been rumoured she is Vladimir Putin's lover. Mr Putin, 64, has never acknowledged a relationship with Ms Kabaeva, but she has been seen in public appearances like the 2017 Grand Prix Moscow, with wore a ring on the fourth finger of her right hand, the usual wedding ring finger for Russian women. She has been linked with no other partners for almost a decade despite being seen as one of Russia’s most eligible women either. Even Viner has commented on this:

“When Alina finds the right time, she will say it herself. I’m just happy for her.”

Russia has currently no official first lady since Putin got divorced in 2014, but many Russians think Kabaeva is unofficially it.

“She already is the first lady, just officially undeclared, unfortunately. It’s a shame.”

These are just rumours, of course, and Putin or Kabaeva haven't confirmed anything. But we have to admit that the nosy side of us is excited to hear from Kabaeva again, even if it's not about her performance as a gymnast!

When Viner ticked 15 y.o. Zarina Gizikova off after dropping her clubs at the end of her routine for the whole world to see

When Zarina Gizikova got on the mat at the Team European Championships, Russia already had the Gold medal in their pocket due to the scores of the Russian gymnasts performing before her.

Young Zarina performed a beautiful and clean club routine, it seemed like the perfect closure to their performances when just before the music finished, she dropped her clubs getting a big fat deduction. Despite the mistake, she scored 26.100 and Russia got their medal.

But Irina Viner was not happy about the drop. And, in front of the judges, cameras and public, reprimanded the girl while she cried. Kabaeva went to hug her and show Gizikova her support, and Viner pushed her away not feeling one bit sorry. We don't even want to imagine what happened behind the curtains!

Viner is a very generous and dedicated coach, but she is known for her temper. We heard about her coming down on her gymnasts like a ton of bricks before, but this time she did it in front of literally the whole world. She is quite an intense person!


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