Aussie gold medalist says sport ‘so political’ with Russian rival absent
Eleanor Patterson won world high jump gold, but Russian defending champion Mariya Lasitskene was banned
Australian high jump star Eleanor Patterson said sport has become increasingly political, before she went on to claim World Championship gold in the absence of Russian Olympic champion Mariya Lasitskene, who was banned from competing.
Patterson, 26, became the first woman from her homeland to win a world high jump title as she cleared a personal best 2.02 meters at Hayward Field in Eugene, Oregon, on Tuesday.
That was good enough to put her ahead of Ukraine’s Yarolsava Mahuchikh, who cleared the same height but needed two attempts to do so. The bronze medal went to Elena Vallortigara of Italy with a clearance of 2.00 meters.
Patterson was understandably overjoyed at her success, describing it as “crazy,” although a major talking point was the absence of Russian star Lasitskene – the three-time defending champion in the event and Olympic gold medalist in Tokyo last summer.
Lasitskene and her compatriots have been banned from competing by World Athletics because of the conflict in Ukraine.
Speaking before her victory on Tuesday, Patterson had suggested that the decision was a delicate one.
“It’s a hard question to answer, I’m not going to lie,” she had told sportswriter Mark Zeigler of The San Diego Union-Tribune.
“You’re seeing both sides of the story. You’re not seeing the whole story at the same time. It’s never nice to see someone of such high talent and accolades not be here.
“But at the end of the day, sport has become so political. You would not want it to, but it’s become a platform and unfortunately what’s going on the world is not OK, having spoken to the Ukrainian athletes and hearing their hardships,” added the Australian.
“Obviously, the war that’s going on right now is very public and it’s highlighted. It’s unfortunate that other wars aren’t as highlighted.
“It’s unfortunate that we as a society have pushed things aside and not brought to light other wars. But I would never want to take lightly the decision to exclude an entire nation.”
Silver medalist Mahuchikh, who finished third behind Lasitskene in Tokyo but was seen embracing her after that event, recently hit out at the absent Russian and said she was no longer an idol for the 20-year-old Ukrainian.
Lasitskene, 29, has herself been critical of World Athletics and the International Olympic Committee (IOC) for the bans imposed on Russian and Belarusian athletes.
The high jump star penned an open letter to IOC president Thomas Bach last month, accusing him of lacking the “courage and dignity” to lift the suspensions.
Lasitskene later said she had not received a reply from Bach, who was seen visiting Kiev earlier in July, where he rubbed shoulders with Ukrainian President Vladimir Zelensky.
It was recently suggested by IOC dignitary Craig Reedie that Russian stars such as Lasitskene could be set to miss the Paris 2024 Olympic Games as they would not be cleared to compete in qualifying events ahead of the showpiece.