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Outrage after the photo in Russia: “Absolutely sick” |  Cross country skis

Outrage after the photo in Russia: “Absolutely sick” | Cross country skis

Russian skaters form the letter Z.

Photo: Alexander Shcherbak/SIPA/TASS/IBL

The letter Z has come to symbolize support for Russian soldiers participating in the country's large-scale invasion of Ukraine.

Photo: Alexander Shcherbak/SIPA/TASS/IBL

The photo made the Swedish stars react strongly.

Photo: Alexander Shcherbak/SIPA/TASS/IBL

Maja Dahlqvist.

Photo: Peter Arvidsson/Buildperon

About 10,000 people stood on the start line when the ski race was scheduled on the Russian Ski Track on the outskirts of Moscow on February 10. The mile-long competition was held for the 42nd time in history and hosted some of Russia's best winter athletes ever, such as figure skating star Irina Rodnina.

Before the start, all participants were formed into a Z formation while a greeting from the country's President Vladimir Putin was read over loudspeakers.

In Russia, the letter Z has become a symbol of support for Russian soldiers in Ukraine, where the country has been carrying out a large-scale invasion for almost two years.

Norwegian company VG was one of the first foreign media outlets to report on the honor.

“The organizer asked if people would come to support the special military operation. Everyone was understanding, and no one opposed it,” the Russian authorities wrote, according to the newspaper.

Swedish reaction: “It's so damned”

Swedish skating star Maja Dahlqvist was completely surprised when she saw the photo from the skating competition.

– Oh, is that true? In fact, it looks quite sick – but I guess they had no other choice but to stand up.

It received the approval of Frida Carlsson, who described the photo as “terrible.”

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– It's a bit scary, then. I really want to keep sports out of politics, but this is terrifying. This is where you really see how politicians exploit sport for their own ends, says the 24-year-old.

Since the beginning of the invasion, Russian and Belarusian skaters have not been allowed to compete at the international level. Absolutely the right decision, according to Jens Bormann.

– This picture shows how sports are used in Russia for political purposes. It's so damning. That's why they shouldn't be allowed to compete with us, says Jens Bormann.

There are still four Cross-Country World Cup stops remaining in the season: Lahtis, Holmenkollen, Drammen and Falun.

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