- Associated Press - Thursday, February 6, 2014

KRASNAYA POLYANA, Russia (AP) - A protest, a subtle wink or nothing at all? Only Russian snowboarder Alexey Sobolev knows.

Sobolev took to the Olympic slopestyle course Thursday with the bottom of his board painted with a knife-wielding woman in a ski mask. The picture looked very much like a member of Pussy Riot, the all-woman Russian protest punk band jailed two years ago after a performance in a Moscow cathedral that did not sit well with Russian authorities.

Asked if he was sending a message with his snowboard, Sobolev played it coy.

“I wasn’t the person who designed it,” he told The Associated Press.


Asked if he supported Pussy Riot, he said he had no comment.

The Olympics have faced controversy in recent weeks over the Russian government’s law banning “gay propaganda.” No one is sure whether all athletes will adhere to IOC rules banning protests.

Sobolev is scheduled to return to the course Saturday for semifinals after a 10th-place finish wasn’t good enough for a direct spot into the final round.

Didn’t seem to bother him much. After his first run, he lay down and crossed his legs like a model on the beach and soaked in the applause from a largely Russian crowd.

- Eddie Pells and Nataliya Vasilyeva - Twitter http://twitter.com/epells and http://twitter.com/NatVasilyevaAP

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Associated Press reporters will be filing dispatches about happenings in and around Sochi during the 2014 Winter Games. Follow AP journalists covering the Olympics on Twitter: http://apne.ws/1c3WMiu