Scott Russell - Saturday Feb. 15, 2014 19:49

The Russians are coming

Home team's Olympics reminiscent of Canada's in 2010

Viktor Ahn is one of the host country’s big stories in a week when Russia has shown it’s old strength at the Sochi Olympics. (Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)

The thing many of us Canadians remember from the Olympic experience of Vancouver 2010 is a national euphoria that grew out of a reawakened interest in our athletes.

They were successful and we loved them for it.

So great was our admiration at the time that it has compelled many of us to continue to show an increasing affection for them now that the home Games are a not-so-recent memory.

We experienced a renaissance in sport you might say.

It seems to me the same sort of phenomenon is happening at the Olympics in Sochi and it’s revealing itself by virtue of the fact that the host Russians are really beginning to roll at the midway point of the Games.

In the Iceberg Skating Palace today Russian red, white and blue flags were waved by thousands as short track speed skaters Viktor Ahn and Vladimir Grigorev won gold and silver respectively in the men’s 1,000 metre event.

The partisans nearly brought the house down and while it was a little tough to swallow in light of Canadian stars like Charles Hamelin having a spectacularly bad day, it was amazing to see the joyous response as the home fans eagerly welcomed their guys back to the thick of things.

A similar celebration took place at the Sanki Sliding Centre as Aleksandr Tretyakov became the first non-North American to win the skeleton race since the discipline returned to the Olympic program at the 2002 Games in Salt Lake City.

They affectionately call Tretyakov, “The Russian Rocket.” He more than lived up to his name by launching himself down the track with singular purpose, leading from start to finish over the course of four runs and then leaping into the arms of his disciples with wild acclaim when all was said and done.

It was quite a sight to see, but then again I remember the same sort of thing happened when Jon Montgomery roared through Whistler brandishing a pitcher of beer when he became skeleton champion in 2010.

Similarly, the hockey story that developed on this day was so strikingly familiar to me.

The home team Russians got into a desperate and fascinating struggle with their rivals the Americans at the Bolshoy Ice Dome. President Vladimir Putin was there in a private box and hugged his pals and pumped his fist when the boys in red and white scored a big one.

He looked less sinister than I thought he would and more like an honest to goodness hockey fan who relished being near the fast and furious action taking place on the magnificent frozen pond below.

And one of the central characters in the story was the gutsy and talented Russian captain.

He scored two marvellous goals and created a million chances. He’s a superb guy with great hands called Pavel Datsyuk who you can’t help but love because he reeks of all that’s good about hockey.

In the end the Russians were beaten because a score was disallowed and the Americans had a super dazzler in T.J. Oshie who scored an amazing four goals in the shoot out.

Still, it was a Russian victory of sorts because it proved that they are a force to be reckoned with for the most coveted gold medal of all at these Olympics and they haven’t been close to that status in the three Games past.

When all the dust settled on Day 8, the one we generally refer to as “Hump Day” because it means we’re past the midway point, the Russians had accumulated a total of 15 medals in the first week, more than anyone else and more than they had in total at the last Olympic Winter Games when they became a shadow of their former selves.

The arenas and stadiums were full and the people were happy on Day 8.

It was, in a way, comforting to know that the Russians were behaving a lot like we did in Vancouver four short years ago.

They were coming on and they were coming on strong.

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