Mother Russia wins in Sochi on the ice and snow
Netherlands, Norway, Canada also have much to crow about
Sochi’s Olympic Winter Games are over, and while it was an unprecedented success for many nations, one rose above the rest – Russia.
No one is going to be happier about the host’s 33 medals than the International Olympic Committee, which warned the hosts they needed to put together a competitive team to make 2014 a true success. Russia had 15 medals at Vancouver in 2010, including just three golds, and that was below standards for the world’s largest country.
“Our coordination commission always made the Russians aware it is not enough just to organize the Games but you also need a good home team.” said Thomas Bach, president of the IOC. “After the shock they had in Vancouver, I think it’s just remarkable the progress that has been made within four years.
"We can only congratulate the Russian team on this great success.”
Athletes from the host nation came up with 13 gold (two fewer than Canada in 2010), 11 silver and nine bronze, and were in the hunt for the podium in most events.
Organizers said they spent three billion rubles ($93.3 million CAD) each year on athlete preparation, in addition to the $50 billion US in Games construction, facilities and infrastructure.
The disappointment of men’s hockey aside, the hosts dominated in figure skating, winning three golds, one silver and one bronze; They excelled, too, in short track speed skating with three golds, a silver and a bronze.
Victor An, who was born in South Korea and won four medals for it at the 2006 Olympics, moved to Russia after not making his team for 2010. In Sochi, An won three golds, two individual and one in the relay, becoming the first skater to win gold in all four short track Olympic events.
Two more golds came from Vic Wild, from the U.S., who married Russian athlete Alena Zavarzina in 2011 and received Russian citizenship.
Outside of the host athletes, there were many other remarkable performances in Sochi.
• Canada swept the gold medals in men’s and women’s hockey for the second straight Games, and also took the top of the podium in men’s and women’s curling.
• Ole Einar Bjoerndalen, of Norway, won his eighth career gold medal in cross country skiing and adding to four silvers and a bronze now has 13 overall, making him the most decorated Winter Olympian in history.
• Norway’s dominance in cross-country also spread to the women where Marit Bjoergen pushed her career total to 10 by adding three gold medals.
• The Netherlands dominated in long track speed skating in a way no event has ever been, winning 23 of 30 available medals and sweeping the podium in four of them – a stunning performance.
• Dutch speed skater Ireen Wust won five medals in one games, making her the 10th athlete and fifth speed skater to do this.
Sochi was also a great two weeks for older athletes.
Japan’s Noriaki Kasai, 41, won silver and bronze in ski jumping, 20 years after winning his previous medal at Lillehammer in 1994. Russian luger Albert Demchenko won two silvers at age 42.
And Armin Zoggeler, the 40-year-old Italian luger, won a bronze at Sochi, giving him medals at six consecutive Winter Games.