Mon. May 16th, 2022

A Russian athlete apologized for whipping out a double middle finger Tuesday after defeating the United States team in the Men’s Team Pursuit Semifinals held at Beijing’s National Speed Skating Oval.

“I threw up my hands,” 20-year-old Daniil Aldoshkin said after the incident, according to RT, a Russian state-controlled international television network. “I have the first medal, the first Olympics. I didn’t mean anything like that. I’m sorry if this offended anyone.”

Aldoshkin’s gesture was controversial because it came amid tensions between Western NATO countries, led by the U.S., and Russia over a feared Russian invasion of Ukrainian territory.

“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,” Russian Skating Union President Alexei Kravtsov said, according to the news network. “It was an outburst of emotion.”

“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 Russian team secured a silver medal on Tuesday after Aldoshkin crossed the finish line with teammates Ruslan Zakharov and Sergey Trofinmov, placing the team on track to compete for the prized gold medal. Videos shared on social media show Aldoshkin raising two middle fingers towards his right after skating past the line.

Norway gained the gold medal in the finals after defeating Russia later that day. Team USA won bronze.

The Russian team has eight silver medals from the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics, as of Wednesday, in addition to four gold medals and 12 bronze. Team Russia has won 24 medals in total during the Games, placing it in ninth place by the number of golds and second by total medals won.

Team USA, as of Wednesday, had four bronze from the Games, in addition to eight golds and seven silver medals, placing the team third based on the number of gold medals won and fourth by total medals won in the Beijing Games.

Presently, Norway is leading by golds won and total medals gained as of Wednesday. Since the Winter Games’ beginning, the team has scored 13 gold medals, seven silvers, and eight bronze.

China is just one rank behind Team USA at number 4 in total gold medals won. The country is ranked eleven overall, seven steps away from the United States by the total number of medals accumulated.

Data on the medals won comes from the leaderboard presented on the Olympics’ official website.

The Russian team, competing under the name of the Russian Olympic Committee and the generic five-ring Olympic flag because of a World Anti-Doping Agency sports ban imposed on the country for four years, also set an Olympic record that day by finishing 3:36.62.

The U.S. still holds the title of having set the 3:34.47 world record for the game. American athletes set the record on Dec. 5, 2021, in Salt Lake City, Utah, according to the official website of the International Olympic Committee.

The middle finger is a universally obscene gesture representing the phallus, equivalent to saying the f-word. While people often use the profane sign to express contempt, some use it in coarse jest as well.

Zakharov, Aldoshkin’s teammate, defended the obscenity, claiming it was in response to beating a particular time-mark, not as a reaction to defeating Team USA in particular.

“In speed skating, we fight against time, not against an opponent. It was purely an emotional reaction,” he said, RT reported.

“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,” Halgeir Engebroten, a speedskater from the gold-medal-winning Norweigan team, told the outlet, jumping in on Aldoshkin’s defense.

This article appeared originally on The Western Journal.

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