Arina Kuteeva, 17, from Chelyabinsk became the first Russian gymnast with a Down syndrome to achieve the “Candidate for Master of Sports” rank. In the Russian system, this is the first of the international elite ranks in sports. The gymnast is now preparing for the World Games that will take place in 2019 in Abu Dabi.
Russia is not exactly known as a friendly country for people with Down syndrome – to this day, 85% of newborns with Down are left at hospitals after parents relinquish the custody to the state. This is actually an improvement: in the 90s the percentage of unwanted newborns with Down was 98%. The are many stereotypes and misinformation surrounding the Down syndrome in Russia, in addition to the lack of resources for parents who decide against sending their kids to orphanages.
Apparently, Russia decided to promote the participation of people with Down syndrome in the Special Olympics and artistic gymnastics is one of the sports included in this competition. That’s why the norms for achieving the rank of “Master of Sports” and “Candidate for Master of Sports” in artistic gymnastics were instituted for the Special Olympics system in Russia. They are not the same as for the able-bodied gymnasts, however, just as with regular gymnastics, achieving these ranks is necessary to compete internationally.
The Russian government is probably interested in sports medals more than in the improving the quality of life of disabled people, however, the initiative might lead to higher visibility and better opportunities for kids like Arina.