After spending a Sochi training session practicing flips and throws with Russian president, Olympic judoka Natalia Kuziutina has grabbed headlines. RT Sport gives you the lowdown on ‘the woman who floored Putin’.
On Thursday, Vladimir Putin took time out from summit talks on Syria with to don his judo gown and sharpen his black belt skills on the mat at Yug Sport center in Sochi, South Russia, with Iranian and Turkish counterparts.
Among the young judokas the 66-year-old sparred with Olympic champion Beslan Mudranov, who won gold in the 60kg division at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games.
That particular session grabbed the headlines not so much for its flipping demonstration, but for a finger injury suffered when Putin attempted to flip the 32-year-old, which had to be strapped up by Mudranov before the president finished off his hour-long training.
Yet another of Putin’s Valentine’s Day training partner ended up in the public eyesore slightly different reasons – 29-year-old Olympic Bronze medalist Natalia Kuziutina.
After sharing the mat and warming up with a few judo moves, the two began their sparring session, each throwing the other to the mat in turn, which led to reports that she was the “woman who floored Putin”.
Seemingly oblivious to having been bestowed such a lofty title and being depicted simultaneously as a femme fatale and women’s rights warrior in one fell swoop, and simply thanked the president for finding time to train with them.
“Thanks to president Putin, that after such hard talks at the summit, he found time for a full-blown quality training session!” She wrote on Instagram, with pictures of the two together. “It was a pleasure to spar once again with our country’s premier judoka!”
But what do we know about the woman who floored Putin,who confesses she “could be dangerous?”
Kuziutina is a native of Bryansk, close to Russia’s border with Belarus and Ukraine, currently training with the Russian judo team in preparation for the Tokyo 2020 Summer Olympics next year, by virtue of which she trained with Putin.
A four-time European gold medalist, Kuziutina won her first continental title aged just 19 at the 2009 European Championships in Tbilisi, Georgia.
She has competed in the 52kg for her entire career, also reaching two more Euro Champs finals thereby winning a further two silver medals and a European Games bronze medal coming in Baku, Azerbaijan.
Kuziutina also has a hat-trick of World Judo Championship bronze medals coming in 2010, 2014 and 2017. After the last of those, she expressed disappointment at not finishing first, but still recognized her achievement.
“I was training so hard and I was well prepared. I wanted to face the Olympic champion and I wanted to be on the top of the podium not in third place. I won this medal for my country but not for myself,” she said after the tournament.
The crown jewel in her haul of silverware is certainly her Olympic Games bronze, won in Brazil after defeating China’s Ma Yingnan in her bronze medal match in Brazil, dedicating the victory to her head coach.
The medal was redemption for Kuziutina, who four years previously had been eliminated in the first round of the 2012 Olympics in London.
Despite such a ‘dangerous’ persona, Kuziutina is a fan of traveling and training, filling her Instagram account with sun-kissed snaps from exotic destinations as well as more serious photos from sweat-stained gym sessions.
The Valentine’s Day training session is not the first time Putin and Kuziutina have shared the mat. The judoka sent a birthday message with pictures of the pair from an earlier training session in 2017.
“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,” she wrote.
So is this the woman who took down the Russian president, or just one of Russia’s most decorated judoka’s larking around with a fellow black belt at a training session? We’ll let you decide…