Yelena Isinbayeva defends Russia's anti-gay propaganda law

Story highlights

  • NEW: Russia's Yelena Isinbayeva issues statement trying to clarify controversial comments
  • Pole vault champion says she respects the opinions of her fellow athletes
  • Isinbayeva had criticized two Swedes for highlighting gay rights issues
  • American 800-meter runner Nick Symmonds expresses surprise at her initial comments

Yelena Isinbayeva, the golden girl of Russian sport, has sought to clarify her controversial comments about gay rights and her apparent criticism of fellow athletes for highlighting the issue at the world championships in Moscow.

Isinbayeva reclaimed the women's pole vault title in front of her adoring public on Tuesday, then two days later defended her country's anti-gay propaganda law after receiving her medal.

"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," Isinbayeva said in English at a press conference.

"We just live boys with woman, women with boys.

"Everything must be fine. It comes from history. We never had any problems, these problems in Russia, and we don't want to have any in the future."

She criticized two Swedish athletes who defied the anti-gay law by sporting what could be seen as "propaganda" under the new regulations.

Open Mic: Russia's Anti-Gay legislation
Open Mic: Russia's Anti-Gay legislation


    Open Mic: Russia's Anti-Gay legislation


Open Mic: Russia's Anti-Gay legislation 02:07
Russia will enforce anti-gay law
Russia will enforce anti-gay law


    Russia will enforce anti-gay law


Russia will enforce anti-gay law 02:47

Read: U.S. runner blasts Russia on gay rights

High jumper Emma Green Tregaro and sprinter Mao Hjelmer wore rainbow-colored fingernails in their events in support of the gay rights movement.

Green Tregaro posted a picture on her Instagram account captioned: "Nails painted in rainbow sign #pride #moscow2013."

"It's unrespectful to our country," Isinbayeva told reporters. "It's unrespectful to our citizens because we are Russians.

"Maybe we are different from European people and other people from different lands. We have our home and everyone has to respect (it). When we arrive to different countries, we try to follow their rules."

However, on Friday Isinbayeva released a statement via athletics' ruling body claiming that she had been "misunderstood."

"English is not my first language and I think I may have been misunderstood when I spoke yesterday," said the 31-year-old, who is an ambassador for the International Olympic Committee and will be mayor of the athletes' village at the Winter Games in the Russian city of Sochi next year.

CNN iReport: What it's like to be gay in Russia

"What I wanted to say was that people should respect the laws of other countries particularly when they are guests.

"But let me make it clear 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 on the grounds of their sexuality (which is against the Olympic charter)."

Russia's recently implemented law, which bars "propaganda of non-traditional sexual relations to minors," has led to calls to boycott the Winter Olympics in Sochi. Russia hosts another massive sporting event in 2018, soccer's World Cup.

Russian journalist comes out on air
Russian journalist comes out on air


    Russian journalist comes out on air


Russian journalist comes out on air 02:59
Greg Louganis on talk of Olympic boycott
Greg Louganis on talk of Olympic boycott


    Greg Louganis on talk of Olympic boycott


Greg Louganis on talk of Olympic boycott 02:26

U.S. President Barack Obama spoke about the issue last week, saying that "nobody's more offended than me" by the anti-gay legislation "you've been seeing in Russia," and some bars around the world have also stopped serving Russian vodka in protest of Russia's stance.

Read: Why Sochi is now a battleground for gay rights

U.S. runner Nick Symmonds was quoted in the New York Times criticizing Isinbayeva's comments.

"It blows my mind that such a young, well-traveled, well-educated woman would be so behind the times," said Symmonds, who spoke out against the law after winning a silver medal in Tuesday's 800 meters event.

He told the BBC Thursday that he had wanted to compete wearing a rainbow sticker, but was afraid of being arrested.

In his blog for Runner's World prior to the world championships, Symmonds said he disagreed "with the laws that Russia has put in place."

Thrilling finish

On the track, Trinidad and Tobago's Jehue Gordon edged American Michael Tinsley in Thursday's 400-meter hurdle final in a finish reminiscent of the women's 400m three days earlier.

In the latter race, Britain's Christine Ohuruogu chased down Botswana's Amantle Montsho and won by four-thousandth of a second.

Gordon's margin of victory was a little greater but not by much -- 47.69 seconds compared to 49.70.

Felix Sanchez, the 36-year-old from the Dominican Republic who was seeking his third title, came fifth.

Kenya's Ezekiel Kemboi claimed his third consecutive world title in the 3,000-meter steeplechase -- adding to his two Olympic gold medals -- with a time of eight minutes, 6.01 seconds.

Had there been 10 more meters, he might have been caught by younger countryman Conseslus Kipruto but Kipruto had to settle for the silver.

      Sports spotlight

    • AG2R pair Peraud and Romain Bardet (right) thrilled the French fans with their performances on the 2014 Tour de France.

      When will French win Le Tour?

      Whisper it quietly, but after years of foreign domination the prospect of a French winner of the Tour de France is more than just a mere pipe dream.
    • Steve Way leads the in the Commonwealth Games marathon with the favorites massing behind him.

      From 20-a-day man to 26.2 miles

      Seven years ago Steve Way was a 20 per day smoker and weighed a hefty 104 kg, but he led the marathon at the 2014 Commonwealth Games.
    • The queen of the selfies

      After just one day of competition, a new sport has emerged at the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow: snapping selfies with the Queen.
    • Joanna Rowsell is flanked by Australian duo Annette Edmonson and Amy Cure (right) after the medal presentation for the women's individual pursuit.

      Rowsell stands proud again

      Inspirational cyclist Joanna Rowsell added another gold to her growing collection in the individual pursuit at the Commonwealth Games.
    • GLASGOW, SCOTLAND - JULY 23: John Barrowman performs during the Opening Ceremony for the Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games at Celtic Park on July 23, 2014 in Glasgow, Scotland. (Photo by Ian Walton/Getty Images)

      Gay kiss steals Glasgow show

      At the opening ceremony of the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow, an actor upstaged the Queen by kissing a male dancer.
    • Daniel Carter of the All Blacks in action during the Third Test Match between the New Zealand All Blacks and France at Yarrow Stadium on June 22, 2013 in New Plymouth, New Zealand. (Photo by Anthony Au-Yeung/Getty Images

      Can the All Blacks make history?

      The All Blacks and their fans are focused on one thing, says Dan Carter: becoming the first rugby nation to win back-to-back World Cups.

      Three days with 'The Greatest'

      Photographer Danny Lyon spent three days with Muhammad Ali in 1972 and shares his best photos and memories of the champ.
    • SOCHI, RUSSIA - FEBRUARY 23:  Sidney Crosby #87 of Canada celebrates after scoring his team's second goal in the second period during the Men's Ice Hockey Gold Medal match against Sweden on Day 16 of the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics at Bolshoy Ice Dome on February 23, 2014 in Sochi, Russia.  (Photo by Martin Rose/Getty Images)

      Can ice hockey go global?

      With a growing audience boosted by the drama of ice hockey on show in Sochi at the Winter Olympics, can the sport capitalize on its popularity?
    • The first cover star of Sports Illustrated's swimsuit issue, Babette March

      Swimsuit legacy: First cover model

      Her paintings may sell for thousands of dollars, but she is best known for a modeling shot 50 years ago that helped launch a business empire.