At last! We're finally on the cusp of the Sochi Olympics. It's a time to focus on all the extraneous inconveniences, both small and great, that, for better or worse, will be forgotten as as soon as the real action starts. But before we fully lose ourselves in a world of ice dancing and curling, we should take a minute to acknowledge the greatest, fiercest, most testosterone-drenched athlete who will attend but not partake in these games: Russia's very own Vladimir Putin.
It would not be an overstatement to say that Vladimir Putin is Russia. While there are many traits of the archetypical Russian male, exhibited by various oligarchs and fearless, rage-fueled drivers alike, no man can claim to be more Russian than Putin. Because Putin is all that is man.
Take his interest—granted that this is too limited a term—in judo. The guy can absolutely wreck your shit. In the video above, the "Judo Knight" shows off his takedown skills. While our own president shoots hoops with handpicked cronies who know to ignore an eminently blockable shooting stroke, Russia's idol demonstrates his textbook throws with impunity. He's one of those world leaders for whom the metaphors of combat in the political realm are taken literally. At G8 summits and the like, you know Putin is always intimidating the others just with expressions and subtle movements. You know I could whip your ass, right? If you'd like to learn more of the Great One's technique, here's a 90 minute instructional video. Don't thank me, thank Putin.
If the truest way to judge a man is by the company he keeps, than this video of Putin chumming it up with fellow badass Jean-Claude Van Damme before an MMA bout is all the evidence of the man's greatness one needs. On any normal day, JCVD would outshine even the most select men in manliness—but not when VVP is around. Observe the deference Van Damme displays around Putin; see how uncomfortable he is being out alpha'd. (Note especially the crossed arms.) But Putin is a benevolent leader, and he welcomes the chitchat with his lesser. He's happy to make him more comfortable.
A cynic might say, "Yeah, but he was meeting Van Damme on his own turf. Put him in a foreign environment, then see how badass Putin still is." How about this then, Mr. Cynic? This video shows Putin riding along with a hardened biker gang during an unannounced visit to a biker convention. Even among these men, Putin keeps his status as a guy who lays down for no one. While talking with the leader of the gang, surrounded by the biker dude's posse, Putin maintains a breezy conversation with the easy confidence of a man perfectly secure even in the most extreme circumstances. That particular summit also produced one of the greatest photos of all time. A few men may match Putin in manliness, but none surpass him.
All of that only scratches the surface. The Atlantic has more
carefully staged impromptu, candid pictures from the life of Vlad Putin. He rides horses in the Russian wilderness. He rides F1 racecars in the Russian wilderness. He stalks animals of prey in the Russian wilderness. He shoots whales. He flies planes. He crushes frying pans with his bare hands, for god's sake! And he cuddles with cute dogs, too. Truly well-rounded. A sure lock for gold in luge, figure skating, skeleton, bobsleigh, and anything else he put his mind to, if he felt it was worth his time.
In some strange sense, it's comforting to remember that, after the coming nuclear apocalypse—one in which Putin will no doubt have a pivotal role—when what's left of the world is an ashen wasteland, polluted by amounts of radioactivity that make The Road sound like a children's story, and mankind is all but extinct, there will be at least one stronghold of humans fighting for survival. Russians, like cockroaches, will outlive even the worst-case scenarios imaginable. There's no doubt that at the helm of this final bastion of humanity, Vladimir Putin will stand tall, wearing his judo gi and wielding a misshapen frying pan, ready to crush all challengers.