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Resurgent Russia Dominates Home Olympics

Published: February 24, 2014 (Issue # 1798)



  • Russia exceeded all expectations at its home Olympics by topping the medal table for the first time in 20 years.
    Photo: Alexandr Vil / © RIA Novosti

At an Olympics designed to advertise Russia’s resurgence on the world stage, the host nation’s athletes played their part masterfully.

Russia exceeded all expectations at its home Olympics by topping the medal table for the first time in 20 years.

In the process, it laid to rest the failure of Vancouver 2010, when it won just three golds in a performance universally denounced as a national disaster.

Related: Putin Scores Gold With Sochi Miracle

“The team has exceeded the plan. The rest isn't important. I congratulate everybody,” said Sports Minister Vitaly Mutko, the man who had overseen Russia’s return to the winter sports elite, pumping money into training programs and handing passports to foreign stars.

First place in the Sochi medal table was secured in fitting style with a Russian 1-2-3 in the men’s 50km cross-country skiing Sunday. In a sprint finish, the home trio beat Martin Johnsrud Sundby of Norway, the only other country that could have caught Russia at the top.

That fairytale ending had seemed all but impossible a week into the February 7-23 Games, when Russia languished in the lower reaches of the medal table with two gold medals, both in its traditional stronghold sport of figure skating.

Related: Sotnikova Wins Stunning Figure Skating Gold for Russia

Then everything changed.

Short-track speedskater Viktor Ahn, newly naturalized from South Korea, won a gold medal that epitomized Russian sport’s new order. Then Alexander Tretiakov won the men’s skeleton, starting a haul of three gold medals in sliding sports, none of which had previously seen a Russian champion.

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