Former Russian Olympian Who Lit Flame Tweeted Controversial Photo of Obamas

Patrick ClarkeCorrespondent IFebruary 7, 2014

SOCHI, RUSSIA - FEBRUARY 07:  Irina Rodnina and Vladislav Tretyak light the Olympic cauldron during the opening ceremony of the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia, Friday, Feb. 7, 2014.   (Photo by Matt Slocum - Pool/Getty Images)
Pool/Getty Images

Updates from Monday, Feb. 10

Irina Rodnina has taken to her Twitter account to say her account was hacked when she tweeted the controversial photo:

Original Text

Three-time Olympic gold medalist Irina Rodnina made headlines when she lit the Olympic flame alongside Russian hockey legend Vladislav Tretiak during the opening ceremony of the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia on Friday. 

However, the 64-year-old former figure skating champion's step into the public eye has resulted in her coming under fire for a controversial tweet she sent from her personal account back in September 2013 that contained an image of President Barack Obama chewing food alongside First Lady Michelle Obama with a banana in the foreground:

Rodnina deleted the tweet and the accompanying photo shortly after posting it but did not apologize for it, according to The Guardian's Shaun Walker. She even went so far as to suggest the criticism was a conspiracy. 

The decorated Olympian claimed that friends from the U.S. had sent her the photo and that she was exercising her freedom of speech. 

At the time, the U.S. Ambassador to Russia Michael McFaul was quick to condemn Rodnina's post:

However, others such as pro-Kremlin television presenter Vladimir Soloviev defended her, per Walker:

"What Irina Konstantinovna put on Twitter is her business; it is her own personal space. This is not a big scandal. I advise everyone who attacked her that the next time they go out for a coffee, they should not call it a black coffee but an African-American coffee."

The Moscow native, who won gold in figure skating pairs at the 1972, 1976 and 1980 Olympic Games, has spent several years in the U.S., according to Walker.

While Rodnina has already dealt with harsh criticism over the past few months leading up to the 2014 Sochi Games, her key role in the opening ceremony is likely only to stir up more controversy as the Games progress. 


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