Week 33: Prat – Yelena Isinbayeva

by Ray_North on August 18, 2013

prat_iconThis Week’s Prat of the Week is a Russian Pole Vaulter, Yelena Isinbayeva.

Strange thing, the pole vault – I mean, you can see how people naturally want to run faster or jump higher, or throw stuff further, but propelling yourself up in the air on a stick, well, I wonder who thought of that one. Still, it’s great to watch, if you like that sort of thing – which I do.

Yelena Isinbayeva is a champion pole vaulter – probably the greatest female vaulter that the world has ever, and perhaps will ever produce – three times world champion and twice Olympic gold medallist (her silver in London was one of the genuine surprises of the athletics competition). And as well as being a wonderful athlete, she has model good looks and is as massive in Russia as Jessica Ennis is here – what she says resonates.

This week she won another gold medal in the World Championships and wowed the Moscow crowd as she attempted (unsuccessfully) to beat her own world record.

She has also won the Allthatsleft Prat of the Week award.


Well, Russia is becoming a fairly horrible place: a rather vile mixture of crass capitalism set within the structure of an oppressive conservative powerful state. Putin’s recent campaign has involved enacting some extremely repugnant anti-gay laws including making it illegal to ‘promote homosexuality’ amongst under 18’s and be openly gay in public (what on earth that entails is beyond me!). A number of Pro-Gay and Lesbian groups chose to try to use the World Athletic Championships in Moscow as a vehicle for protesting against this oppression and urged athletes to either boycott the games (I don’t think any did), or make their feelings known- and, as such, a couple of athletes wore rainbow badges to show their opposition and a Swedish High-jumper Emma Green-Tregaro painted her nails in rainbow colours to show her solidarity. Russian pole vaulter, Isinbayeva, was asked what she thought of Miss Green-Tregaro’s nails and decided to make her own particular feelings on the subject very clear –

‘It’s disrespectful to our country, disrespectful to our citizens because we are Russians.’ she said,
‘Maybe we are different than European people and people from different lands. We have our law which everyone has to respect. When we go to different countries, we try to follow their rules. We are not trying to set our rules over there. We are just trying to be respectful.
We consider ourselves, like normal, standard people, we just live boys with women, girls with boys. It comes from the history.’

So, that’s clear then – normality is boys with women and girls with boys! Hmm, I think I’ve defended a couple of people who’ve tried to claim the same thing.

What Miss Isanbayeva was saying was clear though – she was defending the inherent homophobia of her government.

Quite rightly, the sports world criticised her for her words. And, perhaps mindful of her future (she has now retired), as a Beckham like international celebrity, she put out another statement, suggesting that it was all a misunderstanding, lost in translation, and, in fact, when she seemed to suggest that ‘girls and boys comes from history,’ what she meant to say was, ‘I am opposed to any discrimination against gay people on the grounds of their sexuality.’


Throughout the world there must be many, many young gay athletes, sportsmen and women who are prevented from fulfilling their talents because they are scared that the reaction to their sexuality will be so adverse that it just isn’t worth the bother – Yelena Isinbayeva, a wonderful natural talent, will have, by her prattish nonsense, made it just that bit harder for them, not just in Russia, but everywhere else.


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