Wednesday, August 13, 2014
Inquirer Daily News

Putin drops in on U.S. athletes

Vladimir Putin visits the USA House in the Olympic Village. MARIANNA MASSEY / Getty Images
Vladimir Putin visits the USA House in the Olympic Village. MARIANNA MASSEY / Getty Images
SOCHI - Russian President Vladimir Putin made a series of unannounced visits to the Olympic houses of at least two Western nations on Friday, and from the pictures posted by athletes to Twitter, the visits were something of a surprise for most.

"It was an unexpected visit," said Scott Blackmun, the chief executive of the U.S. Olympic Committee. "We talked about mostly our impression of the Games. He was very interested in knowing what we thought of the level of infrastructure. He was genuinely interested on whether we were having a quality experience at the games."

Putin visited USA House and Canada House. Word of Putin's tour quickly spread on Twitter, as the visits elicited some fun "selfie" photos of Olympians and the Russian leader.

"Just hanging out at the USA house in #Sochi with Putin! No big deal! #sochiselfie," tweeted U.S. luger Preston Griffall. In a photo, Putin is on a couch behind Griffall's left shoulder, chatting with Blackmun and USOC President Larry Probst.

More coverage
  • Final medal count
  • Complete Olympics coverage
  • Romantic Russian

    Tatiana Volosozhar and Maxim Trankov, a gold-winning pair on ice and an item off stage, got a Valentine from an unlikely source.

    The couple, who won gold in figure skating on Wednesday, said Friday they plan to stay in Sochi and train a young generation of skaters. Hours after the announcement, tycoon Viktor Vekselberg responded with an e-mail:

    "If they decide to stay with us at Azimut, we will give them our best apartment in Sochi as a gift today, on the St. Valentine's Day."

    Like White, love skating

    Snowboarder Shaun White is the most buzzed-about Olympic athlete on Facebook, but figure skating is by far the sport that attracts the most interest.

    The social media site said Friday that more than 24 million people have commented on the Olympics during Sochi's first week, with a total of 48 million posts, comments, and "likes." The most activity was in the United States, Canada, and Great Britain.

    Figure skating attracted more online commentary by a margin of more than two to one, said Robert D'Onofrio, a Facebook data editor.

    Still, of the five most commented-upon athletes, the only figure skater was Michael Christian Martinez of the Philippines, who finished No. 20 in the men's free skate on Friday. Besides Martinez and White, the most popular athletes were British snowboarder Jenny Jones; Canadian skier Alex Bilodeau; and American snowboarder Jamie Anderson.

    Viva last place

    Roberto Carcelen skied over to the fans beside the course, grabbed a Peruvian flag, and waved it as he neared the finish line.

    It was the kind of celebration often seen by the winner of a cross-country skiing race. Carcelen, though, was celebrating finishing in last place - or that he finished at all.

    The 43-year-old Peruvian was more than 10 minutes slower than any other competitor in the men's 15-kilometer classical race, finishing dead last.

    Using just one pole while carrying the flag with his other hand, Carcelen was given a loud ovation as he crossed the line.

    "I'm retiring now," he said later. "I want to dedicate myself to a cross-country development project and to work with kids to get them to the Olympics. I think I'll be more useful doing this."

    Associated Press
    Latest Videos:
    Also on Philly.com:
    Stay Connected