Letting Russian and Belarussian athletes compete is not what’s best, for gymnastics or for peace — Other gym news — Thoughts from Kaia Tanskanen via Inside Gymnastics

The IX: Gymnastics Saturday with Lela Moore, July 22, 2023

Happy Gymnastics Saturday! This week, the International Gymnastics Federation (FIG) lifted sanctions on Russia and Belarus. Beginning on Jan. 1, 2024, this action will allow Russian and Belarussian gymnasts to compete as “individual neutral athletes” at world and continental championships and to qualify from those for the Olympics.

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The ultimate decision to allow Russian and Belarussian athletes to compete at the Olympics, notes the FIG, is ultimately up to the International Olympic Committee (IOC). Way to pass the buck, folks. 

Then FIG president Morinari Watanabe had the nerve to say that the FIG, in this decision, “is sending a message to the world that Gymnastics is seeking peace.” 

A gif with the caption, "You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means."

The FIG initially imposed sanctions on the two countries on Feb. 26, 2022, following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine — which was aided by Belarus — two days prior. The use of national anthems and flags was restricted. That was the right decision. 

On March 7, 2022, Russian and Belarussian athletes were banned from FIG competition “until further notice.” That was after a Russian gymnast, Ivan Kuliak, stood on the podium at the Doha World Cup in late February 2022 after winning bronze in the parallel bars final with a “Z” (a symbol signifying fidelity to Vladimir Putin and support for the Russian invasion) taped to his chest. He was right next to Ukrainian gold medalist Ilia Kovtun, who did not acknowledge Kuliak. 

The U.S. stands on shaky ground condemning countries that have invaded others and continued to compete in international sporting events. The U.S. boycotted the 1980 Olympics over Russia’s invasion of Afghanistan but blithely hosted the Olympics in Salt Lake City mere months after its own invasion of Afghanistan in 2001. The FIG never said anything about the presence of the U.S. military over the years in Central America, Kuwait or Iraq, much less Afghanistan. 

But the FIG was right to take action against Russia and Belarus. If anything, I wish it would pay more attention to geopolitics when planning competitions, and that includes its dealings with the U.S. I wish the FIG would hold its ground until after the Paris Olympics. Conditions in Ukraine remain dire, and I don’t for a second believe that all Russian and Belarussian athletes would hold to the strictures of neutrality imposed by the FIG. Ukrainian gymnasts have had their training interrupted and, in most cases, compromised by the war; they will be at a distinct disadvantage in international competition against their invaders next year, and that is not fair to them. 

I believe sports can be a balm for political differences, but I do not believe that they should be used to mitigate them.

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Other gym news

Here’s all the information for the upcoming U.S. Classic, including broadcast and streaming info and times for each session. 

Suni Lee will compete in the all-around (AA) at the U.S. Classic, according to this updated draw.

Luisa Blanco won the AA at the Colombian championships, reports The Gymternet. 

College Gym News has predictions for the upcoming NCAA season, a commentary on the two-pass floor routine becoming the NCAA norm (nearly 60% of all floor routines!), and all the headlines from the week.  

Sydney Barros is taking a year to recover from a knee injury that she sustained during the Central American and Caribbean Games before competing for UCLA next season. She will no longer compete elite for Puerto Rico or vie for the Olympics. 

Zoe Miller said in an Instagram story that she will defer her enrollment at LSU for a year to train for the Olympics.

A screenshot of an Instagram story from Zoe Miller. It's a Q&A format; the question is, "Are you trying for the Olympics" and the answer is, "welp I guess the secret (not so secret) is out, I am! and I will be deferring this year!"
(Photo credit: Zoe Miller via Instagram)

Michigan State hired Rachel Donovan as an assistant coach. 

Brown hired Sophia Hyderally as an assistant coach. 

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Five at The IX: Kaia Tanskanen with Inside Gymnastics

Inside Gymnastics interviewed Finnish gymnast Kaia Tanskanen about her plans for worlds and the Olympics. She is a Missouri commit but will defer for a year to train for Paris. 

Mondays: Soccer
By: Annie Peterson, @AnnieMPeterson, AP Women’s Soccer
Tuesdays: Tennis
By: Joey Dillon, @JoeyDillon, Freelance Tennis Writer
Wednesdays: Basketball
By: Howard Megdal, @HowardMegdal, The Next
Thursdays: Golf
By: Addie Parker, @addie_parker, The IX
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By: @TheIceGarden, The Ice Garden
Saturdays: Gymnastics
By: Lela Moore, @runlelarun, Freelance Writer

Written by Lela Moore