Vladimir Putin "sent flying" during bout with judo Olympic medalist, who gets kiss on head for effort
Russian president Vladimir Putin often indulges in physical public relations exercises that burnish his strong man image, the latest saw him engaging in a grueling judo session with a female Olympic medalist.
Reports said that 2016 Summer Olympics bronze medalist Natalia Kuzyutina "sent the 66-year-old Russian leader flying," Daily Mail reported. But pictures of Putin grounded on the mat have not been released, prompting many to cry Russian 'propaganda' cover up.
According to RT, Putin took time out of his relentless schedule — he was recently involved in summit talks on Syria — on Valentine's Day to don his judo outfit and put in some practice sessions with Kuzyutina at the Yug Sports Center in Sochi, South Russia.
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The pair first warmed up with a few basic moves before ramping up the intensity and beginning their sparring session. Each would take turns forcing the other onto the mat though, unsurprisingly, the Russian state media have not yet released images of their president on the floor.
Kuzyutina took to Instagram to thank the 66-year-old for training with her, writing, "Thank you President Putin that after such complex negotiation at the summit he found time for a full-scale quality training. I was glad yet again to be a sparring partner of the first judoist of our country!"
Speaking after the sparring session, Putin explained the benefits of getting physical from time to time, saying, "It's a well known medical fact - the level of adrenaline increases in a person who practices physical exercises, so your mood improves, and you take a different look on the world around you. I can probably say that it helps you to get real."
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However, Kuzyutina was not the only Olympic medalist Putin competed with on the day. The Daily Mail reported that Putin also sparred with Olympic bronze medalist Ivan Nifontov and managed to throw him on to his back on four separate occasions.
He would fight with Olympic gold medalist Beslan Mudranov as well, but that would end after the Russian president suffered a finger injury while attempting to flip his 32-year-old counterpart. He had to be bandaged by doctors on the scene but was okay to continue and finish the more than hour-long session.
Media from the country claim Kuzyutina was the pick of the bunch because, unlike the others, she did not hold back. "She kept going on and on and finally managed to throw Vladimir Putin over her head. He wasn't upset but indeed appreciated her persistence. He got up and kissed Natalya on the top of her head," they said.
It also wasn't the first time that she had sparred with the president either. In an upload for Putin's birthday, she shared a picture of one of their previous sessions and wrote, "Happy birthday, Vladimir Vladimirovich. A strong leader of a great country! Good health to you and all the blast, and let everything you planned comes true."