- By Hanna KozlowskaHanna Kozlowska is a fellow at Foreign Policy. She previously worked as a fixer, researcher and freelance contributor for the New York Times in Poland, and as the associate editor for Poland Today, an English-language magazine. Her work has also appeared in the Huffington Post and several Polish publications. She graduated from Swarthmore College where she was coeditor in chief of The Daily Gazette.
He may be the most powerful man in the world (at least according to Forbes) but Russian President Vladimir Putin just got snubbed by the World Taekwondo Federation (WTF. Yes, seriously –"WTF"). Though he was awarded an honorary black belt from the federation, it was a grade below the distinction given to U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon.
Putin got the ninth dan (grade) belt and dobok (uniform) during his visit to Seoul, South Korea for the "commitment he has shown in promoting taekwondo in Russia." The ever modest leader replied "I don’t think I have earned such a high Dan." Russia has announced they will be hosting several WTF Grand Prix events in the country.
Putin’s taekwondo qualifications seem to be elusive, but he is a judo champion and published author on the sport (he even recorded a "Let’s learn Judo with Vladimir Putin" video) and holds a legitimate black belt in karate. Ban Ki-moon’s tenth degree honorary taekwondo belt, awarded for "how strongly matched the WTF’s values are with the United Nations," probably wouldn’t be of much help if they ever were to fight it out.
Past recipients of tenth degree belts had been the slightly more qualified two former heads of the International Olympic Committee Juan Antonio Samaranch and Jacques Rogge. An eighth dan was bestowed upon Chuck Norris, whose Walker, Texas Ranger drop-kicks have probably sent more children to martial arts schools than all the other dignitaries combined.
Oh, and let’s not forget Barack Obama, known for receiving distinctions he does not necessarily deserve, who was presented with a black belt in taekwondo from South Korea’s president.
Though he may have been skipped over for the Nobel Peace Prize, Putin has many more athletic feats up his sleeve. If we are to believe the photo-ops (here is an amazing collection from Russian news sevice RIA Novosti), the Russian president seems to be a master at any sport he endeavors, including skiing, hockey, fishing (without a shirt), biathlon, horseback riding (also without a shirt), bowling and the riveting sport of curling.