Saturday, February 22, 2014

Sochi 2014: Russian to the finish line

Canada’s Sochi medal haul of 25 will exceed that of Turin 2006's 24, but won’t be enough to match Vancouver 2010’s 26. 

Canada has qualified for a silver in men’s hockey, but is obviously hoping for a gold medal win over Sweden on the last day of the "Games of the Putingrad Olympiad." 

It would be the first time for a Canadian men's team to win an Olympic hockey gold medal on European ice since Oslo 1952’s Edmonton Mercurys. It would also give Canada its first "sticks and stones" sweep of all hockey and curling golds.

At Sochi, Canada will have won medals in 25.5% of the 98 events, down from the 30.25% rate at Vancouver 2010, where there were 86 events. The first road Games after being host sees a traditional decline. Canada's post-Vancouver dip was buffered by the addition of new events. 

Like Vancouver 2010, Canada went 0-for-nordic sports in Sochi. The alpine bronze at Sochi was one medal better than the shutout from Vancouver 2010. Overall speedskating medals production was cut in half. At Vancouver 2010, Canada had 10 medals (four gold, three silver, three bronze). But in Sochi, it could only muster a gold, two silver and two bronze. The Dutch dominated the long-track events by the Black Sea. 

Alex Bilodeau in moguls and Kaillie Humphries and Heather Moyse in two-woman bobsled successfully defended their 2010 golds. In Sochi, Russia is en route to an overall medals win, but Canada's host record of 14 from 2010 is safe. U.S.A. and Norway are in second and third overall. 

The result for Canada will mean a second chance for winter sports organizations that failed to capitalize on the post-Vancouver 2010 high. Canada’s skiing, snowboarding and sliding organizations lost sponsors after Vancouver 2010 but some of them coalesced and cut a deal with Canadian Tire for Sochi 2014. It is one of the challenges of living in a hockey-mad nation. 

The next Winter Games will be "Gangwon style" in PyeongChang, South Korea in 2018 where the security fear will involve next-door neighbour North Korea and its Stalinist dictator, Kim Jong-Un. North Korea did not send any athletes to Sochi. 

In the meantime, Sochi will host the March 7-16 Winter Paralympics and G-8 Summit on June 4-5. 

Canadian Olympic Committee will be turning its attention to summer, where athletes are in need of a boost. At London 2012, Canada won one gold, five silver and a dozen bronze medals. The lone gold was in women’s trampoline by Rosie McLennan. 

Toronto is hosting the 2015 Pan American Games, the year before the Rio 2016 Summer Olympics. In December 2013, Toronto 2015 CEO Ian Troop was fired after costs ballooned from $1.4 billion to $2.5 billion. Maj. Gen. Fernando Azevedo e Silva became head of the Rio 2016 organization last October. The Brazilian Olympics are behind schedule and over budget. 


Canadian gold medallists in Sochi receive $20,000 bonuses, which are taxable. Same goes for the $15,000 silver medal and $10,000 bronze medal bonuses. These fine Canadians will return home and be deluged with requests from local, provincial and federal politicians seeking photo ops for their campaign bumph. 

Kazakhstan, by comparison, gives its medal winners $250,000 (gold), $150,000 (silver) and $75,000 (bronze).


A spate of late doping violations was announced by the IOC on the waning weekend. Four athletes were banned from the Games. 

Biathlete Evi Sachenbacher-Stehle of Germany was first to be dispatched for the stimulant MHA.  She claimed she was taking unspecified food supplements for the last year, on advice from a nutritional adviser. 

Latvian hockey player Vitalijs Pavlovs also blamed food supplements for his MHA test. He told the IOC that the Dinamo Riga doctor prescribed them.

Likewise for Italian bobsledder William Frullani, who claimed he bought a nutritional supplement online that he didn’t know contained MHA. 

Meanwhile, cross-country skier Marina Lisogor of Ukraine had a more complicated case. She was prescribed Thyroxin after thyroid removal surgery in 2004. In January 2013, she was prescribed Preductal, the trade name for trimetazidine, for fatigue. But she forgot to declare Preductal on her doping control form. Preductal was added to the WADA anti-doping list in January. 

Four years earlier at Vancouver 2010, only one athlete was banned: Polish cross-country skier Kornelia Marek for recombinant erythropoietin (rEPO). She blamed her positive test on injections administered by her team physiotherapist. She did not know what type of substance was injected. 

Two others were reprimanded.

Russian women’s team hockey player Svetlana Terenteva had tuaminoheptane in her system, apparently from Rhinofluimucil cold medication. She blamed jet lag for her non-disclosure, after including Mildronat, Gyponix, Nitrix, 5 Tetra and Otrivin on her form. Slovakian hockey player Lubomir Visnovsky tested positive for pseudoephedrine, which was included in theover-the-counter Advil Cold & Sinus. He claimed that he received advice from medical staff on the Edmonton Oilers and Slovakian national team. 

Of course, the athletes are subject to swifter punishment than the glacial justice given to IOC members, such as Rene Fasel. The boss of the International Ice Hockey Federation and Vancouver 2010 coordination commission chair got a slap on the wrist for conflict of interest in April 2010, almost a year after a Swiss newspaper reported that he received kickbacks from broadcast rights deals. Fasel admitted that he had helped a friend get contracts and was issued a reprimand. 


Georgian luger Nodar Kumaritashvili, who died in Whistler on the opening of the Vancouver Games, was remembered in Sochi by the IOC with a moment of silence at its meetings.

Whistler halfpipe skiing pioneer Sarah Burke inspired fellow athletes to put stickers on their equipment in her memory, until the IOC said no. That didn't stop Burke's ashes from being secretly sprinkled on the halfpipe in Sochi

There are others who were in Vancouver but aren't in Sochi. Slovakian Pavol Demitra, Latvian Karlis Skrastins and Belarussian Ruslan Salei were captains of three of the men's hockey teams entered in the 2010 Games. They were among the 43 people killed in the Sept. 7, 2011 air disaster that claimed the roster of KHL club Lokomotiv Yaroslavl. 

On the last night of the Games, NBC aired a must-see documentary called Lokomotiv

Read more about how the Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympics came and went in Red Mittens & Red Ink. The only independent e-book tells the story of the biggest sports event in Canadian history... and the politics and economics behind it all. 

Available on iTunes Bookstore Barnes & Noble and Smashwords

(The Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympics were the 21st Olympic Winter Games. Buy Red Mittens & Red Ink on Smashwords and receive a 21% discount when you use the code CR34F. Offer expires Feb. 23, 2014).

Listen for my Olympic Diary during the Sochi Olympics on Sportstalk with Dan Russell on AM 650

If you're a reporter from anywhere in the world and you seek expert comment about the Winter Olympics from a news or sports standpoint, contact Bob Mackin to arrange an interview. Review copies of Red Mittens & Red Ink are available upon request.

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