Kazakh and Turkish athletes covered up each other’s flags during the World Armwrestling Championships.
Kazakhstan has attempted to play down scenes in which a pair of female armwrestlers representing their homeland squabbled with a Turkish rival over which country’s flag should take pride of place on the podium.
The incident occurred during an awards ceremony at the World Armwrestling Championships in the Turkish city of Antalya.
Diana Tyukova and Dana Asanova of Kazakhstan finished second and third in the junior under 50 kilos event using their left arm.
When taking their places on the podium, they unfurled a large Kazakh flag across it.
This meant that the winner of event, Türkiye’s Caglayan Derya Ceren, had no space when she took the number one place and had to hold her smaller Turkish flag over the Kazakh one.
A comic back-and-forth ensued in which the youngsters jostled for prime flag position.
By the time certificates were handed out, Tyukova and Asanova had resolved the row by simply holding the flag in the air behind their Turkish rival.
In an apparent attempt to diffuse any potential tensions between the two countries, the incident has been addressed by the head coach of the Kazakh national armwrestling team and the Committee of Sports and Physical Education.
The committee said through its press service that “sometimes in sport of the highest level, the competitive spirit is transferred from the arena to the podium.”
“This is the ambition and tenaciousness of real athletes,” it added, according to Tengri News, claiming that Tyukova and Anasova “jokingly took over” the podium.
“Nevertheless, such a moment does not affect the general state of affairs and the friendship between the athletes of Kazakhstan and Turkey,” the committee insisted.
Marat Asainov, who is the coach of the Kazakhstani national armwrestling team, explained how the girls “decided to take one flag and stretch it,” which is why the incident occurred.
“We discussed this issue already, with the coaches and with the girls. This, of course, will not happen again. We apologize to everyone and, of course, to sports fans from all over the world for this incident,” Asainov said.
Asainov revealed that there will also be a meeting held “without fail” at the end of the competition “to explain to everyone once more that this should not happen again.”
“The girls are about 16 years old, this is their first major competition, they were nervous. We do not justify their misconduct, [but] we will talk to them again,” Asainov added.
The World Armwrestling Championships run from October 14 to 23, with 1,700 athletes from 50 countries taking part.