Former Russian Olympic figure skater Irina Rodnina lit the cauldron along with former Russian hockey goalie Vladislav Tretiak during the ceremonial lighting of the Olympic torch on Friday. Rodnina is one of the most decorated figure skaters in Olympic history, having won three straight gold medals from 1972 to 1980 in pairs skating.
Rodnina is beloved in Russia, but she found herself at the center of a racial controversy back in September when she tweeted the following photo of Barack Obama and Michelle Obama that was captured by The New Republic’s Julia Ioffe:
Rodnina deleted the photo, but she never apologized for posting it. Instead, she insisted there was nothing wrong with the photograph and that she was simply expressing herself freely. Michael McFaul, the US Ambassador to Russia, blasted Rodnina at the time for her “outrageous behavior that brings shame to her parliament and country.”
Everyone is entitled to their own personal beliefs, but you would like to think someone who is so important to their nation’s people would try not to perpetuate racism. The fact that Rodnina was given such a great honor at the Olympics shows that there are no hard feelings within her own nation.