Until this year, Russia — competing as the Russian Olympic Committee — had won every gold medal in rhythmic gymnastics since the 2000 Olympics in Sydney, in both individual and group competitions. Israeli gymnast Linoy Ashram shocked the world this summer when she won the individual competition, beating two Russian twins, who came in second and fourth place.
Ashram’s win was Israel’s third-ever Olympic gold medal, the country’s fourth from the Tokyo games, and the first gold to be won by an Israeli woman in Olympic history. “It’s what I dreamed of for all my life,” Ashram said, although there was some controversy surrounding her triumph over Russian gymnast Dina Averina, who won silver. In her final routine, choreographed to “Hava Nagila,” Ashram fumbled her ribbon, costing her a point in the competition, although she still beat Averina by a small margin. Online trolls harassed the Israeli gymnast after the Russian Olympic Committee called the Israeli victory into question, saying on Twitter: “The whole world has seen this injustice.” Ashram was undeterred, however, carrying the Israeli team’s flag during the closing ceremonies, and enjoying the celebration upon her return. Ashram said that she was “delighted to be back in Israel,” and remarked upon her warm reception by hundreds of well-wishers: “I will not forget this reception my whole life.”