Russian gymnast's 'disgusting' act on podium after losing to Ukrainian

Ivan Kuliak, pictured here wearing the 'Z' symbol on the podium next to Ukrainian rival Illia Kovtun.
Ivan Kuliak wore the 'Z' symbol on the podium next to Ukrainian rival Illia Kovtun. Images: International Gymnastics Federation.

A Russian gymnast has been condemned around the world after wearing a 'pro-war symbol' on the podium after losing to a Ukrainian rival.

Ivan Kuliak won the bronze medal at the Artistic Gymnastics World Cup in Qatar over the weekend, with Illia Kovtun of Ukraine winning gold.

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But Kuliak has sparked outrage around the world after wearing a 'Z' symbol on the front of his uniform - a symbol associated with Russia's war effort.

Pro-war advocates in Russia have been wearing the symbol on their clothing in a show of support for Vladimir Putin's invasion of Ukraine.

The 'Z' symbol is also commonly seen on Russian tanks and military vehicles, believed to be a way to differentiate from Ukrainians.

Kovtun reportedly shook hands with silver medallist Milad Karimi as he stepped onto the podium, but did not acknowledge Kuliak.

“Of course, you will excuse me, but let the Russians not shout that sport is out of politics," Ukrainian gymnast Oleg Verniaiev wrote on Instagram.

“Congratulations to our guy [the Ukrainian winner], everything is in its place glory to Ukraine.”

A protester, pictured here holding a 'Z' sign during a rally organised by Serbian right-wing organisations in support of Russian attacks on Ukraine.
A protester holds a 'Z' sign during a rally organised by Serbian right-wing organisations in support of Russian attacks on Ukraine. (Photo by Milos Miskov/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)

One social media user wrote: “Russian should be stripped of the award and banned for a period of time."

Kuliak also wore the symbol during his routine, with fans labelling his actions "disgusting" and "revolting".

Russian athletes are currently not allowed to compete under their nation's flag or have the Russian anthem played at events.

Last week, two-time Olympic champion Svetlana Khorkina also shared the ‘Z’ symbol online, writing: “A campaign for those who are not ashamed to be Russian. Let’s spread it.”

Gymnastics and curling latest to ban Russians

On Saturday, Russia was banned from international gymnastics and curling events in response to its invasion of Ukraine.

The International Gymnastics Federation said Russian and Belarusian athletes and officials, including judges, will not be allowed to participate in sanctioned competitions for an indefinite period.

The World Curling Federation has also banned Russia from its championships for the rest of the season.

Both sports had previously cancelled events scheduled in Russia.

International sports organisers are continuing to scramble to deal with the repercussions of Russia's invasion of Ukraine, which began shortly after the end of the Beijing Olympics.

The Paralympics began on Friday without Russians or Belarusians after other athletes threatened to boycott rather than compete against them.

Russia has also been banned from upcoming World Cup soccer qualifying matches.

The gymnastics federation had already cancelled all World Cup and World Challenge Cup events scheduled for Russia and Belarus.

Belarus is a close ally of Russia where troops were deployed before the invasion of neighbouring Ukraine.

The new decision banned their athletes from upcoming events.

with AAP

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