Feb. 10, 2014— -- The first openly gay gold medalist at the Sochi Olympic games says she got “a cuddle” from Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Dutch speedskater Ireen Wust told Dutch national broadcaster NOS, "I got a cuddle from him," at a party held in her honor. "He congratulated me and asked if everything was OK in Russia and I congratulated him on (Russian speedskater) Olga Graf, of course, for her third place (in the 3,000 meters). He was happy to see me, but then he had to leave again. But I cuddled him."
John van Vliet, a spokesman for the Netherlands' Olympics Committee, said Putin gave Wust a quick hug and wished her well.
Wust, who took gold at the 3,000 meter women's speedskate on Sunday, is one of seven openly gay athletes competing at the games.
Putin’s embrace of Wust comes after months of international outrage over Russia’s gay propaganda law, which prohibits what it deems the promotion of homosexuality around minors. Gay rights advocates fear it could be used to persecute homosexuals in Russia, many of whom have complained about a deteriorating climate of hate towards gays in recent months.
Some feared that gay athletes or fans could be targeted at the Sochi Olympics. Those fears may have been quieted by Putin’s meeting with Wust, the first openly gay Olympic medalist.