The One (or Two) That Got Away
Not all of Russia’s athletes produced medals, but no Russian athlete faced more criticism and scrutiny than the Russian Men’s Hockey team and Russian figure skater Evgeni Plushenko. Both competed in events that were of great importance to Russia as a nation and their lack of production, or even effort, was widely criticized and seen as a stain on Russia’s Olympic performance.
Plushenko Retires Juuust A Little Early
Plushenko is the only make figure skater in modern history to win 4 medals at 4 Olympic games. Prior to his retirement in Sochi, he was able to bring home Russia’s first gold medal of the Sochi Olympics in the men’s team skating event. However, he was unable to compete in the men’s short program due to intense pain in his spine during his warmups. This left Russia without any skaters in an important event where Russia had traditionally dominated. Being 31 years old and having a history of chronic back issues, Plushenko was criticized for not performing through the pain to try and win another gold for Russia. Many saw his inclusion in the games as an unnecessary risk that could have been avoided by selecting younger athletes for the games.
You Had One Job…
Hockey is one of the most, if not the most important Olympic sports to the Russians. The first time Russia had an Olympic Hockey team in 1956, they won the gold. From 1956 all the way to 1988, the Russian (Or Soviet Union during this time) hockey team won 7 gold medals, 1 silver, and 1 bronze in 9 appearances. According to the Russian news paper Russia Beyond the Headlines,
For Russia there has always been a tacit rule at the Winter Games: lose whatever you like, but not the hockey. Indeed the success of the entire Olympic team is defined by what happens in the hockey arena.
With these type of expectations, one can only imagine the pressure that was put upon the both Russian hockey teams in Sochi. Unfortunately, the expectations were far from met. Be it from a lack of team cohesion or buckling under the international spotlight, the Russian teams fell on their respective faces. Both the men’s and women’s teams were knocked out in the quarterfinals and out of any sort of medal contention. Putin’s face says it all.
Poor Russia, $51 billion dollars invested and they can’t even get what they came for, two gold medals in hockey.
Win a Medal, Win a Car
Regardless of missing out on a few medals, Putin and the Russian government must have been pretty happy with the outcome of the Sochi Olympics. So happy in fact, that every Russian athlete who won a medal was given another medal of sorts. Prime Minister Dimitry Medvedev personally passed out brand new Mercedes to all the winning athletes (talk about a nice thank you for winning). On top of a brand new car, cash prize money was also given out, with gold medalists receiving $120,000, silver medalists receiving 76,000, and bronze medalists receiving 52,000 (Comparatively, US medalists receive $25,000 for gold, $15,000 for silver, and $10,000 for bronze. No car prizes are offered). For those Russian athletes who may not be able to fully utilize their new vehicles, like 15 year old Russian team figure skater Yulia Lipnitskaya, a personal driver was also provided.
Sochi provided us with plenty of memorable moments before, during and after the actual games took place (To take a look at some of the mishaps that came in preparing for the Olympics, check out the article on the Sochi Problems here) and despite the various controversies that arose, Sochi provided us with a lot of great Olympic competition, and that can’t be overlooked, just like the $51 billion bill that Russia spent. Congratulations Russia, you wanted to do it big and you definitely accomplished that to an extent. We’ll see how you guys do in 4 years in Korea. Until then, whose stoked for the Summer Olympics?