In the speedskating pursuit semifinals on Tuesday, Daniil Aldoshkin and his countrymen of the Russian Olympic Committee were number one and earned a spot in the gold medal showpiece after a narrow victory over the United States. Shortly after winning, Aldoshkin chose to signal that he and his teammates were number one in a way that left him having to explain himself.
After the ROC earned silver in the men’s pursuit, Aldoshkin celebrated by throwing up his hands with his middle fingers extended. Aldoshkin has since expressed that he meant no offense, while his teammates explained that his gesture had been a mere outburst of emotion rather than a shot at the American team or any other opponent.
“I have the first medal, the first Olympics. I didn’t mean anything like that,” Aldoshkin said in a report by RT.com. “I’m sorry if this offended anyone.”
Russian Skating Union president Alexei Kravtsov has also said it was a simple “outburst of emotion.”
“Daniil is a debutant of the Games, he has the first Olympic medal in his career,” Kravtsov said. “In the semifinals, the team set an Olympic record. 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.”
Cross-culturally, it should be noted that there are varying standards of vulgarity when it comes to hand gestures. In Russia, for instance, a shish — sticking one’s thumb up through their index and middle fingers — would be much more gravely offensive than sticking one’s middle finger up in the air.
The ROC has now earned a total of 20 medals at Beijing, with four golds, seven silvers, and nine bronzes.