Russian former figure skating world champion Irina Slutskaya says it is ‘unusual’ to see male performers ‘who want to be like women’ as she spoke out against men competing in the typically feminine sport of rhythmic gymnastics.
Appearing on a YouTube talk show with Russian RT journalist Anton Krasovsky, Slutskaya was asked about the possibility of male rhythmic gymnastics becoming more recognized – particularly as women freely compete in traditionally men’s sports such as boxing.
Krasovsky referred Slutskaya to a row earlier this year between fellow former figure skater Tatiana Navka and Spanish male rhythmic gymnast Cristofer Benitez.
Navka had shared a clip of Benitez on her Instagram account, expressing her disapproval – prompting the Spaniard to say Navka’s words were discriminatory.
Slutskaya, a former double world champion and Olympic silver and bronze medalist, sided with Navka.
“This is unusual for us. Rhythmic gymnastics from time immemorial has been a sport for beautiful, delicate, aesthetic girls,” Slutskaya told Krasovsky.
“If it were a different costume, if it were not for such an imitation of female rhythmic gymnastics, perhaps it would be perceived by us a little differently. But when a boy in a skirt comes out...”
When told that it was more of a costume than a skirt, Slutskaya, 42, replied: “To be honest, it’s a nightmare…
“If he’d put on trousers, a T-shirt, like gymnasts, if he hadn’t taken a woman's ribbon in his hands...
“Now you’ll tell me about ballet, that they have tight leotards. Ballet is classical! It’s impossible to compare rhythmic gymnastics with the Bolshoi Theater. It’s absurd!
“It’s unusual for me and I don’t want to see a man who’s trying to be like a woman. Ballet is art and this is sport. Ballet is classical, it’s theater.”
Slutskaya added that she could imagine Benitez performing with more appropriate apparatus, but said: “In 40 years’ time, maybe we’ll get used to a man in shorts and with a ribbon.
“But right now I honestly don’t understand it. I’m not against it, but guys, don’t compare apples with oranges, let men be men.”
Men’s rhythmic gymnastics does have some history and is seen as especially popular in Japan, while Spain is also viewed as a pioneer.
At present, however, it does appear widespread enough to be close to gaining broader recognition from the gymnastic and Olympic authorities.
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