MOSCOW: Russian President Vladimir Putin, an avid sportsman who holds a judo blackbelt, on Wednesday mourned the death of his first judo trainer, Anatoly Rakhlin.
The president has practiced judo since his high school days and has frequently been photographed and filmed sparring with top-class athletes in white judo uniform. He even co-authored a book called “Let’s learn judo with Vladimir Putin” in 2002.
Putin said in a telegram published on the Kremlin website that the death of Rakhlin, after a lengthy illness, was an “irreplaceable loss” and described him as a “caring mentor” in sport and life.
Putin in 2000 invited Rakhlin, who died at the age of 75, to his first inauguration as president along with a small group of close friends.
He met his former trainer in May this year in their native Saint Petersburg and was photographed giving him a watch for his 75th birthday as well as a state honor.
Rakhlin began training Putin in 1964, the RIA Novosti news agency reported. Putin has remained close with his first sparring partners in the group, including billionaire tycoon Arkady Rotenberg.
Rakhlin was later appointed to train the Russian women’s judo team in 2008.
Putin is honorary president of the International Judo Federation.
Putin’s doctor Sergei Mironov, in an interview with Itogi weekly magazine published Monday, praised Putin’s sports sessions for keeping him young.
He said Putin was “significantly younger than his years. His sporty way of life helps him have a wonderful capacity for work”.