Brittany Schussler blasted for Vladimir Putin pic

Canadian speed skater Brittany Schussler tweeted out this photo Friday.

Canadian speed skater Brittany Schussler tweeted out this photo Friday.

STEVE BUFFERY, QMI AGENCY

, Last Updated: 12:18 PM ET

SOCHI, RUSSIA - The Canadian women's long-track speed skating team took a beating in more ways than one this weekend.

In the ladies' 1,500-metre final, the top Canadian was Kali Christ of Regina, who finished way back in 16th (1:58.63). Defending Olympic 1,000m champion Christine Nesbitt continued her string of disappointing performances, finishing one spot behind Christ (1:58.67).

But that pain was child's play compared to backlash unleashed online toward Brittany Schussler, who finished in 26th (2:00.65) amid a barrage of criticism over a picture she posted to Twitter of herself with controversial Russian President Vladimir Putin.

The strongman toured Canada's facilities in Sochi on Valentine's Day and thorny questions have been raised over the oddly warm reception he was given by Canadian officials and athletes. Schussler appeared to take the brunt of the public backlash.

She published the picture to Twitter with the caption: "I should have asked him to be my valentine!"

Because many of Putin's policies are reviled in the West, the tweet sparked an angry backlash. Schussler deleted it, but also clarified she was trying to be funny.

"I see you put up my tweet (picture with) Putin," she tweeted to one news organization that published the picture. "To be clear, I was joking (and) in no way want to be misconstrued as supporting his values."

Unfortunately for Schussler, that's exactly what's happened.

Self-styled journalist Andrea Houston wrote: "A joke? It's not a joke for gay youth literally being tortured as a result of Putin's horrendous laws" that discriminate against homosexuals.

Another person tweeted: "So sad that you chose to condone hate with Putin selfie. Every moment is a choice, please choose better."

Meanwhile, Nesbitt directed a stream of criticism at herself over her performance.

"Sh---y. Pretty sh---y," she said, when asked about her race. "I don't know what to say, really.

"I thought my skating was getting better every day," she added. "I just didn't have any speed at the start of the race today, for me anyway. I just don't have the ability to hold on as well as I have in the past in the second half of the race."

The Dutch swept the medals and actually filled the top four spots. The gold was won by Jorien ter Mors (1:53.51), followed by teammates Ireen Wust (1:54.09) and Lotte van Beek (1:54.54).

Nesbitt thought she was in for a better showing at these Games, even though she had been battling injuries as well as being diagnosed with coeliac disease last year, a condition reducing the body's ability to absorb nutrients from food, often leading to vitamin deficiencies.

"I think I'm really strong and I've worked hard," she said. "I'm very dedicated to my sport, so it's very frustrating when something like an injury is out of your control. Two or three months ago, I wasn't sure if I'd be able to qualify, so I am happy to be here. But, of course, I know what my potential is and I know I can stand on the podium."

Nesbitt had already competed in the 500m and 1,000m events in Sochi, finishing 12th in the 500 and ninth in the 1,000m ­-- the distance she won in Vancouver four years ago. She is the world record holder in the 1,500 (1:51.79).

Nesbitt is an eight-time world champion and world record holder. Her best performance on the World Cup circuit this season was a second in the team pursuit, seventh in the 1,500 and 10th in the 1,000.

steve.buffery@sunmedia.ca

twitter @beezersun

 

 


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