Russian Sprinters Say Their Kiss Wasn't a Protest

Your News Companion by Ben Mathis-Lilley
Aug. 20 2013 11:05 AM

Sorry, Internet: Russian Sprinters Say Their Kiss Was a Celebration, Not a Protest

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Gold medalist Tatyana Firova and Kseniya Ryzhova of Russia kiss on the podium during the medal ceremony for the Women's 4x400 metres Relay during Day Eight of the 14th IAAF World Athletics Championships Moscow 2013 at Luzhniki Stadium on August 17, 2013 in Moscow, Russia

Photo by Paul Gilham/Getty Images

What appeared to many to be an iconic protest against Russia's anti-gay laws was actually just an accident, according to the two female sprinters who set the Internet on fire over the weekend when they appeared to intentionally kiss each other on the lips while on the winner's podium at the World Athletics Championship in Moscow.

The two Russian athletes—Kseniya Ryzhova and Tatyana Firova—insisted today that despite all the hubbub surrounding their celebratory kiss, critics of Russia's anti-gay laws were simply seeing what they wanted to. "The storm of emotions going through us was incredible," said Ryzhova, according to the Associated Press. "And if we, accidentally, while congratulating each other, touched lips, excuse me. We think the whole fuss is more of a sick fantasy not grounded in anything."

For those who need a quick refresher: All four members of Russia's 4x400m relay team appeared to kiss each other on the cheek while celebrating their gold medal at the Moscow games—a move that's rather commonplace in Russia and elsewhere when celebrating a happy occasion, or even in greeting. But a photo that quickly went viral appeared to show a kiss of a different kind between Ryzhova and Firova. Some outlets—like Sky News—seemed certain that the kiss was a political statement, but others weren’t so sure. Gay Star News, for one, urged caution, saying that it was "unclear" whether the kiss was merely a sign of affection or whether the athletes were "blatantly defying Russia’s 'gay propaganda' laws" since neither had released a statement or commented publicly on the insta-controversy in the immediate aftermath.

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Josh Voorhees is a Slate senior writer. He lives in Iowa City. 

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