Lackluster Russia remains hopeful in medal race
LONDON - The Associated Press
Russia’s Aliya Mustafina celebrates the gold medal in the uneven bars at the London 2012 Olympic Games. EPA photo
After a miserable first week in the medal list, traditional powerhouse Russia is showing signs of a revival - though not enough to avoid its lowest Olympic finish in 60 years.
While some of Russia’s strongest events are still to come, the team is set to wind up outside the top three in golds for the first time since the Soviet Union began competing at the games in 1952.
It’s a worrying sign for a country that will host the next Olympics, the 2014 Winter Games in Sochi, and follows Russia’s worst-ever performance at the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver.
“Sure, we would like to have more gold medals,” Deputy Prime Minister Alexander Zhukov told the RIA Novosti news agency. “But this is sports, and in many sport events we just lack a bit of luck and good fortune.”
Ten gold medals
After lagging in 10th for total gold medals won in London behind even North Korea and former Soviet republic Kazakhstan, Russia started to come to life earlier this week, picking up three gold medals to move into a tie for sixth place with Italy with seven. China and the United States are one-two in golds with 31 and 29, respectively, and host Britain third with 18.
Russians have been racking up other medals - 17 silver and 18 bronze for an overall count of 42. They have moved two ahead of Britain into third place in total medals.
Russia’s recent decline has coincided with China’s rise as an Olympic superpower and continued dominance by the United States.
The Russian daily Sports Express said in a front page commentary that Russian sports was “frozen” between the Chinese and American systems. It blamed a shortage of state funding and lack of oversight and control over national sports federations.
“It’s very far from China, where the watchful Communist Party is eyeing the selection process starting from the kindergarten stage, builds giant sports arenas and finances powerful medical research - and harshly demands results,” the paper said. “We must admit that we stand even further from the American model, and the distance keeps growing.”
Russia has good medal chances in wrestling, synchronized swimming, gymnastics and boxing.
“Historically, we win 80 percent of our gold medals in the last five days,” Mikhail Kusnirovich, deputy head of the Russian team, said. “If we finish with 20 gold medals, it would be great.”