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  • Inside Story - Russia Medal Hopes Falter for Sochi Winter Olympics


    Vitaly Mutko. (ATR)
    (ATR) Russia is struggling to produce a team of athletes strong enough to deliver record results at the Sochi 2014  Winter Olympics, sports minister Vitaly Mutko tells Around the Rings.

    Less than two years out from Russia's first Winter Games, Mutko admitted that the sports programs implemented after the country's dismal showing at the 2010 Vancouver Olympics - where the Russians finished sixth in the overall medal tally with 15 medals, three gold - may not be paying off as expected.

    "It's quite a difficult issue. We understand for the whole world our Olympic Games should remain in their memories. But for our country, inside, we should reach results," he told ATR through a translator.

    "This problem [lack of emerging stars] exists.

    "Certainly there are some problems in winter sports. But there is a program of preparation for the [2014] Games... our teams, our athletes prepare themselves for the Games."

    Leonid Tygachev was forced to quit as Russian Olympic Committee president in March 2010 following the Russian team’s poor display in Vancouver; it was Russia's worst performance at a Winter Olympics since the end of the Soviet Union. By comparison, Russia won 22 medals at Torino 2006.  

    In August 2010, the Russian Olympic Committee led by Tygachev's replacement, Alexander Zhukov, approved a 10-year plan to reboot Russian sport in the wake of the Vancouver let-down. The ROC strategy focused on improving facilities, motivation and relationships
    The Russian women's 4x6km biathlon team in Vancouver. (Getty Images)
    with sports federations ahead of London 2012 and Sochi 2014.

    Russia is expected to do well in biathlon, ice hockey and figure skating. But Mutko's concerns indicate all is not well in delivering medal-winning potential across the seven winter Olympic sports - including in the 12 new events added to the sports program.

    Asked if he was confident of Russian athletes delivering plenty of podium finishes at a home Games, and what was being done to achieve that objective, Mutko said: "We work a lot, we train, develop skills among young athletes. Each sport has its own program of preparation for the Games."

    With only one more winter season to go to groom the country's athletes for Sochi 2014, Mutko remains optimistic that Russia's winter sports strategy will not deliver too little too late.

    "We are doing it now and during this [the just-ended] season, among 14 sports our Russian athletes in 11 cases were on the podium. So we will build forward," he said.

    Mutko believes Russia can at least secure more medals at Sochi 2014 than in Vancouver to put the disappointment of the 2010 Games well in the past.

    "Yes, certainly. There were very few medals in Vancouver," he said.

    Reported by Mark Bisson

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