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Olympic champion causes controversy with Holocaust skating routine

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MOSCOW (AP) — An Olympic ice-dancing gold medalist and her dancing partner have caused controversy by dressing up in concentration camp uniforms for a routine on a popular television show.

Tatyana Navka, who is the wife of Russian presidential spokesman Dmitry Peskov, and partner Andrey Burkovsky appeared in Saturday’s episode of “Ice Age” dressed in striped uniforms bearing yellow six-pointed stars and heavily made-up to look bruised and frail.

Their routine, which aired on state-owned Channel One, was based on “Life is Beautiful,” the Academy Award-winning Italian movie about a Jewish father who pretends for the sake of his small son that their internment in a Nazi camp is just a game.

Navka’s Instagram account soon was flooded with indignant comments.

Navka, 41, who won gold in ice dancing for Russia at the 2006 Turin Olympics, and Burkovsky, a 33-year-old theater actor, told Russian media that it was their way of paying homage to Holocaust victims.

Their dance sparked outrage in Israel.

“Motifs from the Holocaust are not for parties, not for dance and not for reality (TV),” Israeli Culture Minister Miri Regev told Israeli Army Radio on Sunday.

“Not one of the 6 million danced and a concentration camp is not a summer camp,” Regev added, referring to the number of Jewish dead.

Other people in Israel were not as categorical.

“You have to keep in mind that this is being done on Russian television,” said Efraim Zuroff, director of the Israel office of the Simon Wiesenthal Center who described the performance as “quite kitschy” but added that in the Soviet Union media and officials did not dwell on the Holocaust so any discussion of it Russia should be welcomed.

“So, in that respect, this performance was actually a refreshing change and a different way of looking at the Holocaust. That’s why it had some value.”

Peskov told reporters on Monday that his wife’s dance routine is not something for the Kremlin to comment on, but said: “I’m proud of my wife. This is all I can say.”

While some Russians were indignant at what some saw as mockery of the memory of the dead, others posted messages of support on Navka’s Instagram account, saying that the dance brought tears to their eyes.

The routine was choreographed by 2002 Olympic silver medalist Ilya Averbukh, who is Jewish.

Averbukh, who said in a 2012 interview that he “had problems” in his childhood because of his Jewish name, stood by the Holocaust-themed dance.

“This routine is my idea,” Averbukh, who is also Ice Age’s chief producer, told Komsomolskaya Pravda on Sunday. “I have done a lot of routines on the war and Jewish themes.”

Senior Russian officials, including President Vladimir Putin, have honored Holocaust victims and have spoken out against attempts to justify the crimes of Nazis or their allies.

Holocaust-themed routines aren’t new to sports.

In 1996, France’s synchronized swimming team had to scrap its program, which depicted the arrival of Jewish women in death camps and their final march to the gas chambers, following an intervention by the French sports minister. The routine was also based on a movie and set to music from Steven Spielberg‘s “Schindler’s List.”

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Paralyzed man walks London Marathon in 36 hours in exoskeleton

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A paralyzed man walked the London Marathon route wearing an exoskeleton suit, finishing around 11 p.m. Monday, nearly 36 hours after he started, according to British media.

Simon Kindleysides was diagnosed with an inoperable brain tumor in April 2013 and was paralyzed from the waist down, he said on the BBC before the race.

“I want to be a role model to my children so they can say their daddy’s been the first paralyzed man to walk the London Marathon ever,” said Kindleysides, a 34-year-old father of three, according to the report.

Kindleysides predicted he would finish in 37 hours, completing the first half of the 26.2-mile race on Sunday, then sleeping a few hours and walking the final 13.1 miles on Monday. Kindleysides said after finishing that he spent 26.5 of those 36 hours walking the marathon.

“Painful, emotional to walk that far in 26.5 hours,” he said. “It feels amazing. So glad I’ve done it. I’m here proving a point, anything is possible.”

Kindleysides said he handcycled from London to Paris for charity two years ago.

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Candace Parker finished with USA Basketball

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Candace Parker said she will not play for Team USA again, detailing her reaction to being left off the Rio Olympic team nearly two years ago.

“This is the first time I’ve spoke on this,” Parker said on a podcast published Sunday. “I’m not playing USA Basketball anymore.

“I’m one of those people. Once it’s done, it’s done.”

Parker was surprisingly left off the 12-woman Olympic roster for Rio after being a key player on the 2008 and 2012 gold-medal teams.

Asked if the omission was due to politics or an “intentional snub,” Parker detailed her commitment to USA Basketball playing through injuries from before her freshman year at the University of Tennessee through the 2012 Olympics. Plus, taking time away from her daughter to play on an October 2015 European tour one week after her Los Angeles Sparks were eliminated from the WNBA Playoffs.

“If it wasn’t going to be my play that made the final decision [on the Olympic roster]. If it wasn’t going to be my performance on the court, don’t have me do that,” she said of the European tour and Rio Olympic promotions. “It was more about loyalty. I’ve been loyal to you for this long. At least give me the heads-up that you might not make the team, and then I could choose. … I was hurt because I feel like I’ve played through so many injuries, given so many hours to USA Basketball, and then in one fell swoop they can just be like, it doesn’t matter about your play, you’re just not on the team.”

Parker’s place on the Rio team was in jeopardy after she missed both the 2014 World Championship (knee injury) and a February 2016 training camp (overseas club commitment), the last camp before the Olympic team would be named, combined with an influx of bigs since the London Games.

“We don’t get into specifics speaking about each player publicly,” USA Basketball director Carol Callan said after the 2016 team was announced. “Needless to say there are a lot of deliberations. We have a committee for a reason. … What it does speak to is that we have incredible depth on this team. … We’re looking at depth and talent at each position, and there are just a lot of numbers games that are played at that three-four position that is the strength of our team. We appreciate Candace. It’s not an easy call to make.”

Since Rio, U.S. head coach Geno Auriemma stepped down (as expected after two Games), and Dawn Staley succeeded him. Auriemma was not on the selection committee for the 2016 Olympic team. Parker said that even if the whole USA Basketball administration changed, she would not be interested in playing for the U.S. again.

“I think Dawn Staley is an amazing coach. She’s awesome. I wish I could have played for her,” Parker said. “It has nothing to do with her, but for me, mentally, I wouldn’t be able to represent USA Basketball anymore.

“I jokingly said [8-year-old daughter] Lailaa was going to get a passport and play for another team, but that’ll be her decision,” Parker said with a laugh. “I can’t put that on her.

“I was more upset about not being able to share the [Olympic] experience with my daughter. That would be the Olympics that she would have remembered.”

Parker was not among 29 players named to the initial U.S. national basketball team player pool for the 2020 Olympic cycle in December. Players can be added or dropped from the national team pool between now and 2020, so the door is not completely shut on anyone.

Callan declined to say whether Parker declined an invitation to the national team.

“We generally don’t talk about players that aren’t here because there’s a variety of reasons why they’re not. She’s one of them,” Callan said in December. “We choose not to try to speak for them. So, I would simply suggest that you ask her. Candace has been an important part of our program over the years. We talked previously about the decision when she didn’t make the Olympic roster. I just think she’s better suited to say that. I don’t want to speak for her.”

Parker said last May, two months after Staley’s hiring, that she didn’t know if she would play for the U.S. again and had not thought about it.

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