Farewell from Sochi… but first, let’s rig the medal count

From Russia with love Picture by Jedimentat44
From Russia with love
Picture by Jedimentat44

Something’s fishy. A little over a week ago, Russia was in eighth place on the Olympic medal tally. Sure, they bounced around a bit in the standings, hitting second place on a couple of occasions, but never once did they take the outright lead.

Then, with less than 24 hours of the competition left, who suddenly leapt to the top of the table? How did you guess?

Yes, Russia rounds out the Sochi Games in first place with 13 gold medals. It’s a  huge improvement on their 11th placing in Vancouver four years ago, where they took home just three gold. 

By my reckoning, about half of Russia’s gold medals are dodgy.

Let’s start with the short track speed skating. Being a bit of a purist with its winter sports, Russia had never won a medal of any description in this ‘sport’. Now it has three golds, all of them courtesy of Viktor Ahn.

If Viktor’s surname doesn’t sound Russian, it’s because it’s South Korean, as was Viktor until three years ago. Ahn Hyun-soo, as he was known at the time, won three gold medals for South Korea at Turin in 2006. Now he’s come away with almost a quarter of Russia’s gold medal haul.

Then there’s dual parallel slalom gold medal winner, Vic Wild. He speaks with a broad American accent, coming as he does from White Salmon, Washington.

Who knew Russians had a sense of humour. The closing ceremony pokes fun at the owning ceremony rings hiccup
Who knew Russians had a sense of humour? The closing ceremony pokes fun at the opening ceremony rings hiccup

Vic was competing for the US when he met and fell in love with Russian snowboarder Alena Zavarzina. Classic KGB honey trap. Vic just walked straight into it. To cap it off, Russia orchestrated some wonderful Olympics propaganda, with Vic and Alena both winning medals — gold for him, bronze for her — on the same day.

So at least five of Russia’s gold medals have come from ring-ins. In the same way that the Poms pinched all the Aussie coaches to teach them how to win gold in London, Russia has been poaching athletes.

Then we come to the women’s figure skating. If there’s a more contentious result, I’d like to see it. Kim Yu-Na, a South Korean who apparently couldn’t be persuaded to turn Russian ahead of Sochi, looked set to become only the third woman to defend her Olympic title after a flawless performance.

But the crown went to unknown Russian teenager Adeline Sotnikova, despite a stumble in her routine. The judging panel just happened to be stacked with representatives from the former Soviet bloc. One had previously been suspended for event fixing at the 1998 Nagano Winter Olympics. Another is hitched to the general director of the Russian figure skating federation.

Finally, on the last day of competition, a cab driver steered the Russians to victory in the four-man bobsled. Come on. A cab driver with athleticism and a sense of direction? Surely someone’s tampered with the clock.

If there’s a lesson in this for Australia, it’s this. Thredbo for 2022. For now, it’s goodbye from Sochi and we’ll see you in Pyeongchang in four years.

They said it

“Russia is a country that made it possible for me to win. Had I stayed in the US, I’d probably be still sitting at home, doing some ordinary job, doing something banal, and not interesting.” Former American Vic Wild, who won two gold medals for Russia

“I wanted to train in the best possible environment and I proved my decision was not wrong.” Former South Korean Viktor Ahn, who won three gold medals for Russia

“The friendly faces, the warm Sochi sun and the glare of the Olympic gold have broken the ice of skepticism towards the new Russia.” Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Kozak

“On form it might be me.” Aussie cricket captain Michael Clarke, when asked who Shane Watson could replace in the Third Test decider against South Africa

 

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