I used to really like Manny Pacquiao, one of the greatest boxers of all-time, who was also recognized as the best boxer of the noughties – 00’s, by several different major organizations. However, after it turned out that the man is a huge homophob I wish him to lose in a devastating fashion his next fight, which is supposed to be his last, and then that it won’t be enough for him, and similarly to Muhammad Ali he will drag his career well beyond its natural end and continue to accumulate losses.
However, the story with Pacquiao for me is nothing compared to what happened with Yelena Isinbayeva in 2013. Isinbayeva, the greatest female pole vaulter ever, was one of my most favorite track & fielders, and I was really really happy for her when she won the world title in the Athletics World Championships that were held in Moscow in 2013. It was her first big title in 5 years.
Now, at that same World Championships, in the women high jump event, participated one Emma Green (or Green-Tregaro back then, I don’t really remember), a Swedish high jumper whom I really liked, ever since she was crowned as Bergqvist’s heir with that bronze at the 2005 World Championships. Anyway, at the high-jump’s qualifications she decided to protest against Russia’s policy regarding the LGBT rights, a policy which goes in the other direction compared with all the sane world. Emma carried out her protest by coloring her fingernails with the colors of the LGBT flag. A great symbolic act, which obviously really pissed off the Russians.
Right after that act, in a press conference which exposed her really ugly side, Isinbayeva criticized Green’s actions and proceeded to declare that “We (Russians) consider ourselves like normal, standard people, we just live boys with women, girls with boys…”. After her statements drew a lot of criticism, Isinbayeva tried to justify herself by claiming that her English is not that good and that she was misunderstood. A weak-ass lame excuse for people who heard her express herself pretty well in English in several cases in the past. It seemed that quite the contrary, she expressed very well what she really wanted to say.
In an extraordinary coincidence, two days after Isinbayeva’s statements, the women high jump final took place, in which – surprise! – we didn’t get to see a single jump made by Emma Green, depite the fact that she finished the competition in 5th place. She was the *only* high jumper out of 13 that participated in the final that wasn’t shown AT ALL. What are the odds… They showed us a jump by the German Jungfleisch, who finished last without any succesful jumps, and didn’t show a single jump by Emma Green, who passed 1.97m and missed the bronze medal only on countback.
In a great move, that was obviously not motivated by pure idialistic and human-loving thoughts but was nevertheless awesome, Nike cancelled all her sponsorhip of Manny Pacquiao, following his statements. Myself, I don’t sponsor Isinbayeva, but quite a large part of athletes’ lives is their fans, and I’m sure (or actually – I hope) that in addition to myself Isinbayeva lost quite a few of those following the events of August 2013. She didn’t compete since then, perhaps also due to the public outrage following that shameful press-conference, but considering her age, which is still pretty much reasonable for a pole vaulter, it is not unimaginable that she will try to take part in the 2016 Olympic games.
In 2001 Olga Yegorova didn’t get to enjoy at all her win at the 5,000m event in the Athletics World Championships in Edmonton, because of the overwhelming booing from the crowd in the stadium (I was booing as well, from my living room, until mom shushed me and told me not to do this or I won’t have any money. if you’re Russian you nod your head in agreement. if you’re not Russian you’re shaking your head like “WTF?!”), which reduced her to tears, because she tested positive for PED’s and was allowed to compete in the championships only due to a technical error (she was suspended again since then, BTW). I remember her running off the track in tears and not staying for a victory lap. If I’m not mistaken, she also wasn’t congratulated by any of her competitors. It was somewhat of a poetic justice, even though the golden medal was not taken from her. If Isinbayeva competes in the Rio Olympics, we can only hope for a similar solidarity display from the fans and the competing athletes.