Sports team mascots are creepy as a general rule. It comes with the territory to a certain extent, but I can’t really think of one that I don’t find terrifying or at least moderately disquieting. It’s probably something to do with the disproportionate ratio of head-size to body. But at least most of them don’t make you feel bad about not going to the gym.
That is decidedly not the case with the two mascots of Russian gymnastics, Nastika the Eurasian Lynx and Gym the Siberian Tiger. Both are animals native to Russia, both have become staples at domestic Russian gymnastics meets since being introduced last year, and both are deeply unholy.
They could be seen weirding everyone out this week at the national championships in Penza.
Nastika is pretty much fine, although the cut of her leotard—the thin straps, the low leg cut—makes it look more like a dowdy swimsuit than a modern leotard. But Gym, the male furry, the one who is in full flex—Gym is very unnerving.
There’s the light shading of the tiger stripes, for starters, which mark his obliques; there are his shorts, slung low so you can take his musculature in all of its glory. Instead of a furry torso like that of his female lynx counterpart, Gym is wearing a fur collar while the rest of his body appears to be, horribly, waxed to show off those unnatural abs.
Whose fault is this? Everyone’s. These two mascots were designed by and voted on by the fans. We have democracy itself to blame for this horror.
While the mascots were presumably in Penza to amuse the spectators, they also managed to become part of the show. Here’s two-time Olympic champion Aliya Mustafina shoving one of these leering furries out of her way.
Even lynxes shouldn’t mess with Mustafina.
Correction: An earlier version of this post incorrectly stated that the male mascot’s name was “Jim.”