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Russian pole vaulter says gay rights statements were misunderstood

August 16, 2013|By David Wharton
  • Russia's Yelena Isinbayeva smiles on the podium during the medal ceremony for the women's pole vault at the 2013 IAAF World Championships in Moscow on Thursday.
Russia's Yelena Isinbayeva smiles on the podium during the medal… (Kirill Udryavtsev / Getty…)

Russian pole vaulter Yelena Isinbayeva is now saying that she did not mean to condemn gays with her comments from the world championships this week.

"English is not my first language and I think I may have been misunderstood when I spoke yesterday," Isinbayeva said in a statement issued through meet organizers on Friday.

"What I wanted to say was that people should respect the laws of other countries particularly when they are guests," the statement read. "I respect the views of my fellow athletes and let me state in the strongest terms that I am opposed to any discrimination against gay people."

The athlete's clarification came a day after she criticized fellow competitors for painting their fingernails in rainbow colors to show support for gay rights.

In her original comments on Thursday, Isinbayeva also talked about new Russian legislation that outlaws discussing gay rights around children and showing support for gay rights through parades and other public events.

"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," she said at the time. "We just live with boys with woman, woman with boys."

The legislation has attracted considerable attention with the sports world set to gather in Sochi for the 2014 Winter Olympics early next year. President Obama and other world leaders have criticized the law.

Some Russian officials have said it will not be enforced on visiting athletes, but the International Olympic Committee has asked for further assurances.

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