Former Olympics powerhouse Russia asks: What happened?
Canada's defeat of the men's hockey team of former Olympics powerhouse Russia is a reminder that post-Soviet Olympians have yet to deliver the showers of golden medals that their USSR-era predecessors took for granted.
A collective groan went up as Russians awoke Thursday morning to discover that, while they slept, their Olympic hockey team – the legendary Big Red Machine – had gone down to ignominious defeat at the hands of the oft-trounced Canadians.Skip to next paragraph
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But the disappointment actually started to set in at least a week ago, as the first fully post-Soviet generation of Russian Olympic athletes hit the Vancouver Games, stumbled, picked themselves up, but have yet to deliver the showers of golden medals that their USSR-era predecessors took for granted.
Ms. Rodnina blames complacent sports officials and money-obsessed athletes for the slump. "How can we be successful if there is no proper Olympic spirit among the sports bosses, coaches and athletes?" she says.
Politics to blame?
Some sports fans say they're devastated. "The USSR was a sports superpower, and there was a responsibility that athletes felt toward the people and their country," says Sergei Kalashnikov, a Moscow hockey fan. "Things are different now. It's a shame."
Igor Larin, a sports writer for the Moscow daily Sport-Express, blames capitalism. "The attitude of society has changed [since the demise of the USSR], and athletes have become victims of the cult of cash that came from the West," he says.
This sour mood contrasts sharply with the optimism going in. Just before the Vancouver Olympics opened, the Moscow daily Izvestia leaked an internal memo prepared for the Kremlin by Russia's top sports officials, which confidently predicted that Team Russia would pick up as many as 31 medals in Vancouver, including between seven and 11 golds.
The Kremlin had attached high expectations to the national team's performance in Vancouver, hoping that a strong showing would put Russia front and center in advance of the next Winter Games, which are slated to be held in Sochi, Russia, in 2014.