More Sites
Search
Russia targets home 2014 Olympics sweep
AFP
06:48 AEST Thu Aug 16 2012

Ice hockey and skiing-mad Russia set itself the "unbelievably" tough target of finishing top of the podium at its home Winter Olympic Games after placing a humiliating 11th two years ago.

Russia's skaters and other winter sport superstars came home from Vancouver to resounding jeers after claiming just three gold medals in their worst performance ever while seeing bitter rival and host nation Canada grab 14.

The team's devastating defeat sent shock waves through the Russian sports system because it came just as the final preparations were getting underway for the 2014 Games that President Vladimir Putin secured against long odds for Sochi.

The head of Russia's Olympic Committee said the job of finishing first in the Black Sea resort - a place popular with summer tourists for its rare Russian palm trees - was non-negotiable, even if difficult in the extreme.

"We have a target - to win first place as a team," Alexander Zhukov told reporters.

"This will be fairly hard to do. In fact, unbelievably so," the government veteran and close Putin ally conceded. "But we have pretty good potential."

Russia's spirits have been lifted by a better-than-feared performance at this year's Summer Games in London that saw the team claim the fourth-best haul of gold medals and finish third by number of podium finishes.

Putin -- a judo black belt who is learning ice hockey in time for Sochi and has built his political career around an action-man image that achieves results - said Russia should be proud of its latest Summer Games performance.

"We received 10 more medals than in 2008. This is an unconditional success," he told the winning Olympians at a special Kremlin awards ceremony.

But he also urged Russia to reach higher as it seeks to restore the sporting success of its Soviet past.

"We have to set ambitious goals - the most ambitious - and then we are almost guaranteed success," said Putin.

The fear of Russia being humiliated in its beloved winter sports on home snow and ice has prompted federations to effectively dump the old squad and focus on urgent youth training.

Russia's sporting establishment has also faced criticism for attracting foreign coaches to underperforming but high-profile squads such as women's biathlon.

"We have to get the best trainers," the country's Olympic chief said on Thursday. "And if he is a foreigner, let him be a foreigner."

Perhaps the biggest emphasis of all has been placed on developing what Zhukov called "non-traditional" sports such as snowboarding that had until recently been almost unknown in Russia.

Zhukov said the country's youngsters have been performing much better than their senior counterparts at recent competitions.

"A new generation is growing up now," he noted.

But all this optimism has been offset by the reality that Russia's Sochi performance may ultimately suffer because the home team never had the time to test all the new venues that are being built at exorbitant cost.

Russia last week brought criminal cases against two firms suspected of swindling $250 million in state funds assigned to the construction of the main stadium and luge track - a part of a reportedly broader $550 million probe.

Officials had warned that mismanagement could delay the Olympic Stadium's mid-2013 commissioning and Zhukov lamented that not enough venues were already in place.

"We would dearly love to have two full seasons for breaking in these new courses," said Zhukov. "We would like to use the home field advantage."

Did you like this article? Share your thoughts
SCHEDULEDAY0
27Jul
DAY1
28Jul
DAY2
29Jul
DAY3
30Jul
DAY4
31Jul
DAY5
1Aug
DAY6
2Aug
DAY7
3Aug
DAY8
4Aug
DAY9
5Aug
DAY10
6Aug
DAY11
7Aug
DAY12
8Aug
DAY13
9Aug
DAY14
10Aug
DAY15
11Aug
DAY16
12Aug
Opening Ceremony
Archery
Athletics
Badminton
Basketball
Beach Volleyball
Boxing
BMX
Cycling
Diving
Equestrian
Fencing
Football
Gymnastics
Handball
Hockey
Judo
Modern Pentathlon
Rowing/Canoe/Kayak
Sailing
Shooting
Swimming
Synchro
Table Tennis
Taekwondo
Tennis
Triathlon
Volleyball
Water Polo
Weightlifting
Wrestling
Closing ceremony
DAY0
27Jul
DAY1
28Jul
DAY2
29Jul
DAY3
30Jul
DAY4
31Jul
DAY5
1Aug
DAY6
2Aug
DAY7
3Aug
DAY8
4Aug
DAY9
5Aug
DAY10
6Aug
DAY11
7Aug
DAY12
8Aug
DAY13
9Aug
DAY14
10Aug
DAY15
11Aug
DAY16
12Aug
You need the latest version of Flash Player.
Enjoy the most vivid content on the web
Watch video without extra features
Interact with applications on your favourite sites
Upgrade now

You need the latest version of Flash Player.
Enjoy the most vivid content on the web
Watch video without extra features
Interact with applications on your favourite sites
Upgrade now