SOCHI, RUSSIA – Russian President Vladimir Putin hit the ice on Friday in a hockey game in which he showed off his puck-handling skills and scored eight goals — a display that reinforced his image as a man of action — then took a face-first spill while waving to the crowd during a post-game victory lap.
A judo blackbelt, Putin has long been keen to show off his athletic prowess, including by working out with Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev, hitting the ski slopes in Sochi or diving to the bottom of the Black Sea.
Skating alongside Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu and Russian hockey greats such as Pavel Bure and Igor Larionov, Putin helped his side to an emphatic 14-7 win in the Night Hockey League.
Playing center, Putin was provided with plenty of scoring opportunities by his linemates and was met with little resistance by the opposing team’s defense.
Yet video footage captured the moment he stumbled and face-planted onto the ice while enjoying his victory lap.
Two of his teammates rushed over to help Putin — who appeared to trip over a red carpet placed on the ice for post-match celebrations — but he got to his feet again without much assistance.
Putin, whose approval ratings has slipped in recent years as Russia battles economic woes, periodically plays hockey with government officials, businessmen and former National Hockey League stars in matches that are broadcast with pomp on national television.
After opening the scoring unassisted by beating the goaltender 2 minutes into the game, the 66-year-old added seven more goals, making him the top scorer.