Russia's Olympic torch-bearer apologizes for racist Obama tweet, says she was 'hacked'

Tweet showed U.S. president, first lady in picture with superimposed banana

Dylan Stableford
Yahoo News

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Irina Rodnina receives the torch in Sochi, Feb. 7, 2014. (Matt Dunham/AP)

Irina Rodnina, Russia's three-time Olympic gold medalist figure skater and torch-bearer who lit the cauldron during the Opening Ceremony in Sochi, has apologized to President Barack Obama after coming under fire for a racist tweet she now says was the result of her account being hacked.

Rodnina, who helped light the cauldron with hockey goalie Vladislav Tretiak on Friday, sparked criticism after the website Deadspin unearthed the 5-month-old tweet, which included the image of a banana superimposed over a picture of the president and first lady Michelle Obama.

Rodnina said she deleted the photo, which she said had been sent to her by friends in the United States, but in another tweet, she defended it.

“Freedom of speech is freedom!” she wrote.

On Monday, Rodnina, who won gold medals at the 1972, 1976 and 1980 Olympics, apologized, saying she was the victim of a hacker.

"I respect the Obama family and apologize for not clearly stating earlier that I don't support the tweeted photo or racism in any form," Rodnina wrote. "My account was hacked and I should have shown better judgement in my initial response and handling of the event."

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