Olympic torchbearer Irina Rodnina backpedals over Obama tweet

February 11

 


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. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum, Pool)

SOCHI, Russia – Oh those tweets – just 140 characters, but their reach is infinite and unforgiving, even if you delete them. Just ask Olympic torch bearer Irina Rodnina, who tweeted a racist photo of the Obamas in September, deleted the tweet even as she defended it and now says she was actually hacked all those months ago.

Tuesday, the derision was swift and relentless.

“After all those long months, while we have been enjoying our happy stable life, something terrible must have been happening to Irina,” Ayder Muzhdabaev, deputy editor of Moskovsky Komsomolets, wrote in a blog. “Hackers held hostage the famous champion, State Duma deputy and member of the United Russia ruling party. . . .  Finally, the real Irina Rodnina has been released! But one thing remains unclear: was it her, or the clone, who lit the Olympic torch on Friday?”

A widely read blogger named Anton Nosik weighed in: “Apparently, they not only hacked the account, but also the brain of the legendary skater and Duma deputy – which had caused Rodnina in September 2013 to vigorously defend the racist image and, quite famously, insult all those who called it inappropriate.”

Maybe you noticed Rodnina, a 64-year-old, three-time-gold-medal-winning figure skater, as the woman who looked so short, trotting along with the high-rise tall Vladislav Tretyak to light the Olympic flame in Sochi on Friday.

Last fall, she tweeted an unflattering photo of the Obamas apparently chewing and doctored to show a hand holding a banana in front of them. Despite outrage, Rodnina didn’t apologize. She tweeted a reply:  “Freedom of speech is freedom of speech, and you should answer for your own hang-ups.” But she did delete the tweet.

Her hand on the torch Friday reignited the furor. Russian Olympic officials were asked if they were trying to insult the Obamas by giving the flame to Rodnina. They denied it. Then, a new twist!  On Monday, she tweeted:

“I respect the Obama family and apologize for not clearly stating earlier that I don’t support the tweeted photo or racism in any form.”  And: “My account was hacked and I should have shown better judgment in my initial response and handling of the event.”

But she still couldn’t stop herself. Tuesday afternoon, the BBC’s Steve Rosenberg tweeted a quote from her:

“If someone reacts like that (to a banana) then we should forget about eating lots of other foods.”

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Keith McMillan · February 11