Daily Postimees' canceling of Estonian tennis player Kaia Kanepi over her recent choice of doubles partner ahead of the French Open is a bridge too far and a "too emotional" step, the secretary general of the Estonian Olympic Committee (EOK) says, though qualified his words by saying Kanepi may see her EOK funding support withdrawn.
Kaia Kanepi's doubles partner at Roland Garros is Angelina Gabueva, a Russian national competing under a neutral flag.
Siim Sukles, EOK secretary general, told ERR that: "Sport tends to breed emotion. In my opinion, the editorializing at this media house has been too emotional, however."
"We should not cancel people in Estonia. We certainly must signal clearly that there are certain actions that exceed the boundaries, but I certainly do not support canceling anyone in the state of Estonia," Sukles, attending the national sports congress in Paide, went on.
This did not mean that Sukles did not wholly disapprove of Kanepi's partnering Gabueva, however. The episode may even lead to the withdrawal of EOK financial support provided to the player, he added.
At present, Kanepi, 37, from Haapsalu, receives €1,250 per month in EOK support, the organization's category C level.
"When the EOK top sports committee meets next time, this issue may be on the agenda," Sules said.
"If it (ie. partnering with Gabueva or another Russian or Belarusian player-ed.) happens for the second or third time, I think she would then not be a worthy recipient of taxpayer's money. Private funding is another matter, but Estonian taxpayer's funds should no longer be provided in support for her."
As to the likelihood of Kanepi continuing her partnership with , Sukles said. "Kaia's answers to the EOK change so much that we have a feeling that she can do it again.
"In itself, the EOK stated on the day after the war began, on February 25, 2022, that we do not see a place for either Russian or Belarusian athletes in international competitions," he went on, adding that in some cases, such as qualification for the 2024 Paris Olympics, Estonian sportspeople have had to compete against Russian and Belarusian athletes, just that they should not compete alongside them.
Other than that the EOK has left things open on whether a sportsperson from Estonia wishes to compete against a Russian or Belarusian athlete, calling it a matter of individual conscience.
Kanepi paired up with Gabueva (pictured) at the WTA Strasbourg tournament earlier this week. The duo went out in round one after losing to Chinese players Su-Wei Hsieh and Wang Xinyu.
The competition was a warmer for the French Open, the second grand slam tournament of the year, with the main table starting play Monday. Kanepi's career best on the clay at the Roland Garros is the quarter finals, which she attained in 2008 and again in 2012.
Postimees had contacted Kanepi while she was en route to Paris – reportedly by overland train – with several questions including some on her stance on the Russian invasion of Ukraine; she responded that she did not engage in politics, or in matters aimed at dividing people.
Postimees announced its boycott Friday evening, on the grounds of the Estonian pairing up with a player from the Russian aggressor nation, Kanal2 reports (link in Estonian - Kanal2 is a TV channel belonging to the Postimees Group).
Angelina Gabueva, 34, is currently ranked 897th in the world in the singles category, 99th in the doubles. For Kanepi the situation is almost the reverse, currently 76th in the WTA singles standings, and 522nd in the doubles.
Prior to the 2022 invasion, but after the 2014 annexation of Crimea and beginning of the Donbas War, Estonia's top player, Anett Kontaveit, had partnered with Russian players Darja Kasatkina and Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, in doubles events.
Editor: Andrew Whyte, Anders Nõmm
Source: ERR Sport, interviewer Juhan Kilumets.