Israeli Linoy Ashram Wins Olympic Gold, But Russians CRY foul

Linoy Ashram became the first Israeli woman to win an Olympic gold medal thanks to her near-perfect performance in the women's individual rhythmic gymnastics final Saturday. While Ashram smiled through happy tears as Hatikvah, Israel's national anthem, played during her time at the top of the podium, the Russians—especially silver-medalist Dina Averina—visibly sulked and cried foul.

Averina and her twin sister were the favorites for the event heading into the games. However, Ashram managed to edge out both Russians, despite dropping her ribbon once during her routine. Ashram's gold medal performance marked the end of decades-long domination in the sport by the Russians.

"This is history. I'm proud of represent Israel here, on the biggest stage in the world," the 22-year-old Ashram said after her win. "It's like a dream, I think it's like I'm not here."

While Ashram received praise from her teammates and a flood of congratulatory posts on her Instagram and Facebook pages, she also faced a wave of criticism and fury from many Russians for beating Averina, their three-time Olympic champion. "The thief in all her glory (referring to a photo of Ashram wrapped in the Israeli flag) "... "shame on Linoy Ashram and her stealing the medal." You'd almost forget that Russia is banned from Olympic competition for cheating. (The ROC was created as a workaround.)

Posts went back and forth—between praise and panning Ashram. One special congratulation came from the legendary gymnast from Romania, Nadia Comaneci—the first to ever score a perfect 10. "Linoy Ashram, congratulations. You made history."

Russian lawyers have filed for an official inquiry into the scoring with the International Gymnastics Federation.

Later, Averina did tell the online community to stop harassing her fellow gymnast, saying the scores are up to the judges. "She didn't do anything wrong. Stop poisoning her." Good for her!

Ashram returned to Israel on Wednesday and received a "hero's welcome" at Ben Gurion International Airport. Hundreds of adoring fans, school children (perhaps future Olympic hopefuls!), friends, and family members were there to greet her and celebrate her achievement.

"I have no words. This is one of the craziest experiences I have had in my life. I will not forget this reception my whole life. Thank you all for your love and warmth. I am delighted to finally be back in Israel. You are the best crowd of people anyone could ask for," Ashram, with her gold medal around her neck, told the enthusiastic crowd.

If Ashram's win sent the Russian gymnastic dynasty tumbling, it was completely knocked over when the Bulgarian rhythmic team took home the gold for their spectacular group performance. While the Russians literally wept, the Bulgarians rejoiced at their unexpected victory.

"It's so unreal, we cannot believe it. I don't know what to say. This is the happiest moment, ever," said Stefani Kiryakova, one of the Bulgarian gymnasts.

If you haven't ever watched rhythmic gymnastics, it has all the tumbling, jumping, and twirling elements of regular gymnastics, but they throw in shiny costumes that sometimes light up, plus balance or toss ribbons, balls, and other objects high into the air and (hopefully) catch them with precision timing. The group competition is a lot like synchronized swimming but on dry land.

I don't think I have watched it since I was a kid, but Elana and I made sure to support Linoy as she went for gold!

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Shalom from Israel! I am Ron Cantor and this my blog. I am the GODTV Israel Regional Director host of the daily TV program, "Out of Zion". I also serve on the leadership team of a Hebrew-speaking, Spirit-filled congregation in Tel Aviv. We love Yeshua and we love Israel. Hope to see you here soon!

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