In the context of the isolation of our sport, we often talk about changing citizenship, because it seems that this is the only option for Russian athletes to compete in international competitions.
But it turns out that a foreign passport is not a salvation. Former Russian gymnast Elizaveta Polstyana, who has been competing for Latvia for several years, has been banned from participating in the World Championships.
Is it because she has Russian roots?
“I want to thank the federation of Latvia”
Elizaveta Polstyanaya moved to the Latvian national team in the spring of 2018, although the process of changing citizenship began in 2016. Initially, the athlete, who was still competing in juniors, did not think about moving to another country, but then at one of the international tournaments, representatives of Latvia and Israel drew attention to her, offering to change citizenship. The gymnast, together with her parents, chose the Baltics, and not without reason. Despite the fact that the whole family lives in Moscow, Elizabeth herself was born in Jurmala. In addition, Polstyanaya has many relatives and friends in Latvia.
Photo: RIA Novosti
In Russia, then the departure of the young gymnast was taken calmly, because she was one of many. Even though Elizaveta won prizes at Russian and international tournaments, these competitions were not of such a high level as to provide the athlete with a place in the Russian team.
“When my parents and I began to seriously consider this issue, we decided that this was a very good continuation of my career,” Polstyanaya admitted. – I had a great desire to perform at the international level. Parents saw this, so they did everything possible not to miss this chance. Taking this opportunity, I want to thank the Latvian Gymnastics Federation for accepting me, for their help, support and faith in me.
We were immediately told that it was practically impossible to obtain Latvian citizenship. But we succeeded, for which I am very grateful to my parents and my godfather. I was born in Latvia, and this was the main reason. The advantage was that I passed the Latvian language exam. My parents and my godfather, who lives in Latvia, did a great job. And a year and a half later, everything worked out. And I’m happy that it worked out that way.”
In 2019, Elizabeth officially moved to the adult category. She took silver in the all-around at the Latvian Championships and four golds in individual events, she competed at the World Cup. And soon she went to the European Championships, where she became the eighth in the all-around – at that time it was an incredible result. The World Championship was less successful for Poltyanaya.
The athlete regularly performed at international tournaments: from some she took away medals, somewhere she took places in the top 10 and top 15. And for the selection for the Olympics in Tokyo, the gymnast lacked one single point.
“Half of me was destroyed”
At the last European Championships – 2022 in Israel, where the Russian gymnasts did not go for political reasons, Polstyanaya became the fourth in the final exercises with a hoop and 12th in the all-around. After the tournament, Elizaveta stated that she was preparing for the World Cup, and also admitted that she would like to go to Moscow to her family.
Photo: RIA Novosti
“Unfortunately, there are few starts before the World Cup, so we will think with the coach how to build a calendar, we have not discussed it yet. I will not go to the World Games in the USA, because I did not qualify there in 2019. There will be a Challenge Cup in Romania at the end of August, this is the only major start before the World Cup. There were tournaments in Minsk and Moscow on the calendar, but they were canceled, so, apparently, we will all go to Romania. Is it possible to just go to Moscow to see your family? I don’t know yet. Of course, I want to see my family and friends, come for a week or two, but we haven’t discussed this issue yet.”
Elizabeth managed to go to Moscow, but this entailed consequences. On August 5, the gymnast published an emotional post on social networks, in which she announced that she would not compete at the World Championships.
Polstyanaya did not name the reason, but it is clear what is at stake.
“Unfortunately, “sport is out of politics” is empty words. However, we have long been convinced of this … I was not allowed to reach the goal to which I had been going all my life. It’s a shame? I won’t lie and superhero… Yes, it’s terribly disappointing – as if half of you were destroyed. But I’m used to acting in good conscience in life, and thanks to my parents who brought up in me the right life values and principles, which, unfortunately, most have forgotten now … I was left no choice, I was not given the right to speak at the World Championships and finish even though would this season. I’m not going to blame anyone, let it remain on the conscience of the people who made this decision. I gave my all: every day, every competition, I competed with fever, injuries, etc. – and my main goal was to represent Latvia in the international arena with dignity!!! And it doesn’t matter what happened before and what status the country has in this sport… My conscience is clear, ”Elizaveta wrote on social networks.
In the comments, the girl was supported not only by the fans, but also by her rivals. Russian gymnasts Dina and Arina Averina, who perfectly understand the pain of being excluded from international tournaments, turned to Elizabeth.
Poltyanaya with the Averin sisters
Photo: RIA Novosti
“As we understand you. Hold on, when you leave, you will understand that life does not end there,” the sisters from Russia reacted.
Elizabeth herself announced another, no less important and emotional post. His athlete promised to lay out after she comes to her senses. Fans of the 19-year-old gymnast fear that he may contain a statement about his retirement. We hope they are wrong. After all, not so long ago, Polstyanaya put participation in the Olympic Games in Paris on her list of goals. Yes, and it would be dishonest if politics breaks the fate of a girl who, in fact, has nothing to do with the events taking place in the world lately.