February 9

For Russians, pressure is on to recapture past Olympic success

By Jim Litke
The Associated Press

(Continued from page 1)

click image to enlarge

Washington Capitals right wing Alexander Ovechkin is Russia's highest-profile winter athlete. “I don’t feel pressure right now because I’m here,” he said last week back in the United States. “But I’m sure as soon as I go into Sochi I’m going to feel it.”

The Associated Press

“It’s the first time people realized how bare the shelves were. It’s why,” Roush said finally, “they started getting rid of people and cleaning house.”

It’s also why Putin quietly lowered expectations and sports officials offered every gold medalist a $122,000 bonus, overseen investment in new ski-jumping, bobsled and curling training facilities recently, as well as hiring foreign coaches.

In one interesting ploy, former South Korean short-track speed-skating champion Victor Ahn became a Russian citizen, a move that paid off last month when he helped his new countrymen capture the 5,000-meter relay at the European championships. In another, a tear-jerker released last spring about former hockey great Valeri Kharlamov titled “Legend No. 17” seeks to remind Russians about their Big Red Machine – which won 6 of 8 Olympic gold medals in one stretch and nearly stunned Canada in the 1972 Summit Series.

Much of the rest of the world remembers those teams as bullies, but in “17” the tables have been turned. It’s the Canadians who are portrayed as uncaring thugs, and Kharlamov and his mates as cuddly sportsmen playing for the love of the game while fighting off the blandishments of greasy capitalist sports agents.

“I always dream I’m about to play a game with Canadians and kick your (butt),” Kharlamov says in a trailer for the movie with English subtitles, “together with my national team.”

Those were the days.

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