Russia’s head of the State Duma Committee on Physical Culture and Sports has spoken out in support of the country’s top-ranked WTA tennis player after she came out as gay. Daria Kasatkina received backlash from two politicians for appearing in a YouTube video in which she confirmed she had a girlfriend, shared the difficulty of making it as a tennis player without changing citizenship, and condemned the war.
Kasatkina appeared in a YouTube video filmed by Russian blogger Vitya Kravchenko, in which she confirmed she had a girlfriend, sharing the difficulties of being gay in Russia. The world No 12 had previously come out as bisexual last year but said she had been inspired by compatriot and fellow athelte Nadya Karpova, who recently revealed she was gay.
Asked to confirm whether she had a girlfriend the 25-year-old simply said “yes”, and has since taken to social media to share photos of herself and her partner, figure skater Natalia Zabiiako. But the four-time title winner has been condemned by multiple Russian politicians for her comments in the video – both on being gay and other subjects.
Now, a top Russian politician for sport has come out to defend Kasatkina and said she deserved support as a tennis player, with her private life not to be discussed as anyone else’s business. Dmitry Svishchev, head of the State Duma Sports Committee, told Sport24: “Her personal life should not interest anyone. Unless it’s yellow press.
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“I believe that Daria can live with whoever she wants. Let it meet, converge, divorce. This should not worry anyone, because it concerns only Daria herself, her relatives and parents.” And the 53-year-old also admitted he was happy to have an “interesting and powerful” athlete representing the country in tennis, a stark contrast to the responses from other politicians.
“Most importantly, we must monitor and worry about her athletic performance. She needs to feel our support and how we support her. And everything else is nonsense,” he continued. “If Kasatkina is good from this, then let it be as she wants.
“And we should be glad that Daria has risen in the plate and competes. They fight for her in the WTA . We are happy for our federation that we have such interesting and powerful athletes as Daria Kasatkina.”
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Svishchev’s words come after two state deputies slammed the former world No 10, with Vitaly Milonov claiming that “Kasatkina succumbed to some fashion, or maybe she overheated in the sun,” by coming out as gay.
In the video, Kasatkina also shared the hardships of trying to make it as a tennis pro in Russia with limited access to resources and little ability to travel given the country’s reputation elsewhere, urging children who had the chance to change their citizenship to take it in order to make it in tennis.
And a second State Duma deputy in Roman Teryushkov – also the former Minister of Physical Culture and Sports – accused the tennis pro of being a criminal as he said: “I see in such appeals the promotion of the transfer of our athletes to the national teams of other countries, in fact – a crime against the state.”