Russian skater apologizes for ‘middle-finger salute’ after victory over US
Russian speed skating ace Daniil Aldoshkin has said he meant no offense after making a middle-finger gesture as he crossed the finish line to beat the American team at the Beijing Olympics on Tuesday.
Aldoshkin, 20, was part of the Russian trio who claimed silver in the men's pursuit, ultimately losing to Norway in the final but qualifying for the gold medal showpiece after pipping the United States team of Ethan Cepuran, Casey Dawson and Emery Lehman in the semifinals.
As he crossed the final line in the race against his US rivals to guarantee him and his team at least a silver medal, Aldoshkin couldn't quite contain his excitement as he threw up his hands – with his middle fingers extended – in celebration.
“I threw up my hands,” he said afterwards. “I have the first medal, the first Olympics. I didn't mean anything like that. I'm sorry if this offended anyone.”
Ruslan Zakharov, who along with Sergey Trofinmov, comprised the Russian silver medal-winning trio, defended his partner's reaction and said it was more a response to defeating a specific time rather than being a statement against the team who set it.
“In speed skating, we fight against time, not against an opponent. It was purely an emotional reaction,” he said.
Halgeir Engebroten of the victorious Norwegian team also added his thoughts, saying that Aldoshkin's explanation was sufficient and that no offense should be taken as images of the gesture were shared online.
“I think it's just a reaction to the fact that the guys made it to the final. He explained everything, that's enough for me,” said the gold medal winner.
Nonetheless, Alexei Kravtsov, president of the Russian Skating Union, saw fit to offer further clarification and stated that Aldoshkin's gesture was little more than an “outburst of emotion” from an Olympic novice who got caught up in the heat of the moment.
“Today was a very emotional day for our team. Daniil is a debutant of the Games, he has the first Olympic medal in his career. In the semifinals, the team set an Olympic record. It was an outburst of emotion,” Kravtsov said.
“We talked with the athlete, he made a statement at a press conference. Emotions took over at the finish line, there was no subtext in this action. We are sorry if someone differently perceived this situation and [it] offended someone. On behalf of the Russian Skating Union, we offer our official apologies.”
The ROC team has now claimed seven silvers in Beijing, along with four golds and nine bronze medals, while Norway remain the pacesetters with a haul of 26 total medals.