LONDON — Russia’s president, Vladimir Putin, has long cultivated a proud image as a man in control, both at work and at play. He is known as a fierce competitor in the ice hockey rink, after learning to play the game when he turned 60 and creating the amateur Night Hockey League in 2011.
But that image slipped, just briefly, during a friendly game at the Bolshoi Ice Arena in the Black Sea resort of Sochi on Friday. Video footage shows a jubilant Putin and his team circling the rink on skates as they celebrated a 14-7 victory.
But as Putin takes his lap in front of his teammates, he falls — face first — onto the ice. Putin, 66, appeared to break the fall with both arms, and seconds later, he was up again, all smiles.
The Russian president has been known for spectacular public appearances, which have taken him under the sea to inspect shipwrecks; to the wild dressed like a bird to lead a flock of rare Siberian cranes raised in captivity; and to the outdoors to hunt and ride a horse bare-chested.
A statement from the Kremlin made no mention of Putin’s fall. Neither did other Russian news reports. Still, the footage spread rapidly on social media, and many users of Twitter were amused.
The Russian president has appeared frequently at ice rinks with members of the amateur Night Hockey League. On Friday, he played on a Hockey Legends team, along with several aging Russian stars, against a star cast of amateurs.
In a speech at the event, Putin praised the 162 Russian teams that had traveled to play in Sochi. “I saw the so-called amateurs play,” he said according to a transcript posted online by his office. “It is not so easy for our stars to play against you.”
There remained one point of contention from the match, however: How many goals did Putin score?
The Kremlin said nine; the Tass news agency said 10. But reporters from Reuters and The Associated Press counted only eight.