By Kirit Radia
Irina Rodnina, the Russian Olympic legend who lit the Sochi Olympic cauldron during Friday’s opening ceremony, has apologized for tweeting a racist photo of President Obama and the first lady in September.
“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,” Rodnina said in a pair of tweets on Monday evening, Moscow time.
“My account was hacked and I should have shown better judgement [sic] in my initial response and handling of the event,” she added, employing what might be best described as the Anthony Weiner defense. (The disgraced congressman tweeted sexually suggestive photos and then claimed his account had been compromised).
Rodnina is a Russian figure skating icon. She won ten consecutive World Championships and three Olympic Gold Medals. She is also a member of Russia’s lower house of parliament, the State Duma, from the ruling United Russia party.
Yet she has been embroiled in controversy after her high-profile appearance at the opening ceremony, which drew attention to a doctored photo sent from her Twitter account in September that depicts the Obamas staring at a banana.
At the time, the U.S. Ambassador to Moscow, Michael McFaul, responded on Twitter, calling the Rodnina’s tweet “Outrageous behavior, which only brings shame to her parliament and country.”