The Russian woman picked to light the Sochi Olympic torch posted an Obama-banana tweet last year.
— Jim Roberts (@nycjim) February 7, 2014
Former figure skating gold medalist turned politician Irina Rodnina posted the tweet last September.
And, she was unapologetic about it.
Rumors that Russian President Vladimir Putin’s girlfriend, Alina Kabayeva, would light the Olympic cauldron during the Opening Ceremony in Sochi were unfounded, but the host’s choices still had a strange twist.
Two of Russia’s most famous Olympians, three-time gold medalists Irina Rodnina and Vladislav Tretiak, were the country’s final torchbearers. Both have unique ties to U.S. President Barack Obama — one more offensive than the other.
An Olympic figure skating gold medalist in 1972, ’76 and ’80, Rodnina came under fire for what many perceived as racism in September, when she posted a photo on Twitter of the commander in chief and first lady Michelle Obama with a digitally manipulated image of a hand holding a banana superimposed over the couple.
While Rodnina, currently a member of parliament for Putin’s United Russia political party, has since deleted the photo from her Twitter account, she insisted she had done nothing wrong in a follow-up tweet, according to the Guardian. “Freedom of speech is freedom of speech,” she wrote in September, “and you shoud answer for your own hang-ups.”