Israel’s Ashram ends Russian Olympic reign with shock rhythmic win
Newsfrom JapanSports Tokyo 2020
Tokyo, Japan | AFP
by Jed Court
Israel’s Linoy Ashram claimed a shock victory in the Olympic rhythmic gymnastics individual all-around final on Saturday, edging out three-time world champion Dina Averina to end two decades of Russian dominance.
Ashram clung on despite a mistake in her closing ribbon routine to win with 107.800 points overall, just 0.150 ahead of Averina.
The 22-year-old becomes just the third Israeli Olympic champion in history, following in the footsteps of sailor Gal Fridman and Artem Dolgopyat, who won men’s floor gold in the artistic gymnastics in Tokyo.
She is also the first woman from the country to win an Olympic title.
“It’s history,” said Ashram. “I’m so happy and proud to represent Israel here on the big stage in the world.
“I knew that I could win, at least a medal, but I didn’t know what colour.”
It is the first time a Russian has failed to win the event since the 1996 Atlanta Olympics and is arguably one of the biggest surprises in the sport’s history.
Russian gymnasts have also won 12 of the past 14 world championship all-around golds. One of the two times they missed out was in 2001, when Alina Kabaeva was stripped of her title after testing positive for a banned diuretic.
“I think it’s pretty obvious that I’m a little bit upset,” a tearful Averina told reporters.
Ashram, the 2018 world all-around silver medallist, was not expected to beat identical twin sisters Dina and Arina Averina.
Between them, the twins had won every major championship all-around title they had competed for since the 2016 Rio Olympics.
They also finished first and second in Friday’s qualifying, with Ashram third.
But Arina, the older of the pair by 20 minutes, missed out on the podium completely as a knot in her ribbon allowed Belarus’s Alina Harnasko to grab bronze with 102.700 points.
Row over judging
The Russian Olympic Committee team lodged several inquiries into the scores, including for Dina Averina’s final routine, and the silver medallist hit out at the judges.
“I don’t feel that it was fair today and it was obvious from the very first apparatus when... I got a lower score, so I can’t say that it was very fair,” added Averina, who has been nursing a back injury since last year.
“I can’t spot any obvious mistake that I did. I was pretty consistent and clean compared to Linoy who lost the apparatus.”
She said she and her sister would likely retire before the Paris 2024 Games
Unsurprisingly, Ashram had no such qualms with the judges as she basked in a famous win.
“The judging was very good. We have no problem,” she said. “I focus only on myself. I worked so hard for this.”
Ashram led through the first three rotations. A dazzling clubs performance, which scored 28.650 points, was the highlight.
But she gave Dina Averina a chance to overhaul her with a drop in the ribbon, which potentially cost her a whole point.
Averina produced a clean routine, before an agonising wait as the judges made absolutely sure of the score.
Averina was judged to have come up just short, with Ashram then confirmed as champion after the final Russian inquiry request.
Ashram’s teammates and the Israeli media in the otherwise mainly empty stands celebrated, while a devastated Averina broke down in tears.
© Agence France-Presse