Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin uses the odd tussle on the judo mat to burnish his rugged image, but Russian President Dmitry Medvedev likes to display his own sporting prowess in a less macho activity — badminton.
Since Medvedev revealed last month that he would not run for a second term as Russia’s president, he has become the butt of unkind jokes suggesting he is twiddling his thumbs while he waits to hand over his job to Putin, a former president, in March next year.
The launch of Medvedev’s Facebook page last week was seen by some as a sign of him having too much free time on his hands. That impression may have gained ground on Monday after the he used his Kremlin video blog to present an extollment of badminton’s virtues.
Dressed in a sports shirt with a Russian tricolor badge and clutching a racket, Medvedev said the game “develops your physical form, eye co-ordination, accuracy and reactions,” adding: “Those who play badminton well take decisions quickly.”
He also noted that the first man in space, Yury Gagarin, had been a keen player.
The video then showed several clips of the 46-year-old -president and Putin, 59, swatting a shuttlecock back and forth in a large hall, in what could be described as a less than competitive encounter.
While both players looked far from expert, commentators suggested that Putin — as in politics, so in leisure — had the upper hand.
David Nowak, a sports writer with the RIA Novosti agency in Moscow, tweeted: “For an almost 60-year-old Putin’s not bad. But yeah, Medvedev plays like my mum.”
Last week, Russia’s education ministry signed an agreement with the national badminton federation to introduce the game into the physical education curriculum. Medvedev’s clip will be used as the introduction to a series of videos on how to play it.