MOSCOW, August 7 (R-Sport) – Anatoly Rakhlin, the judo coach who once said he was President Vladimir Putin’s “second father” died early Wednesday morning in St. Petersburg, the Russian Judo Federation told R-Sport.
Rakhlin was 75. He had reportedly been battling a long illness, the nature of which was not disclosed.
Rakhlin trained Putin for 15 years, beginning when the future KGB colonel and Russian leader was 13. Their bond was so tight, according to a 2000 profile of Putin in Vanity Fair, that Rakhlin was called by the Kremlin for a private lunch with the president the day after inauguration.
“I was with him 15 years,” Rakhlin told Vanity Fair magazine. “His mother died, his father died. I am a second father.”
Putin expressed condolences regarding Rakhlin’s death to the deceased’s relatives on Wednesday.
In a message posted on the presidential website, Putin said he was deeply saddened by Rakhlin’s death, “a big, irreplaceable loss for all of us.”
Rakhlin was greatly respected and loved by his colleagues, friends and students; he was a “real teacher and attentive mentor both in sports and in life,” Putin said.
In a 50-year career, Rakhlin trained several leading figures in the Russian elite, including billionaire businessman Arkady Rotenberg and Putin’s political ally Vasily Shestakov, both of whom were sparring partners of the president. At the time of his death, the judo instructor had been running a youth sports academy in St. Petersburg.
Putin presented Rakhlin with a “medal of honor” for his achievements in Russian judo on the coach’s 75th birthday last May.
Adds Putin’s condolences