Circling in a slow, counterclockwise loop, Russian President Vladimir Putin looked uneasy on his skates Tuesday during an amateur Night Hockey League game in Sochi. An instant later you could see a tremor run up his body, the president's knees buckling as he awkwardly tumbled to the ice.
And just like that, the leader who likes to portray himself in manly physical activity — once even famously riding a horse bare-chested — had a very unbecoming moment of non-athleticism.
The fall came as Putin took the ice with the Night Hockey League Stars team, who were playing against amateurs in the Bolshoi Arena, built for the 2014 Winter Olympic Games, according to Russian state news agency Tass. Putin's squad ended up winning the game 9-5 after jumping out to a 3-0 lead in the first period. The Night Hockey League is for players 45 and older, and after the game Putin stressed his affection for the league.
"People who organize and do that and play in 68 regions are certainly fine fellows! These people do real work and set a good example to others!" Putin told Tass. "I am happy that the project has succeeded."
The president has played in four games since May 2012, according to the Telegraph. But his hockey skills might be on the decline, according to an analysis by Quartz. In previous games, Putin had been a force, scoring six, seven, even eight goals — albeit against defense that could be described as suspect at best. Tuesday he scored just one goal and added two assists, a precipitous dropoff from previous performances.
While Putin has taken to hockey, his first sporting love was judo. He's a black belt and has been training since he was 11 years old. He even wrote a book about the history of the sport and released an instructional DVD, titled "Let’s Learn Judo with Vladimir Putin" in 2008.
Putin fired a team of hockey stars to victory against oligarchs https://t.co/N31TCU87dS
— Newsweek Europe (@NewsweekEurope) May 11, 2016