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Maggie Hendricks

Russia red-faced after poor Olympic showing

Fourth-Place Medal

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The Russians did not do well during the Vancouver Olympics, and now they're searching for answers and someone to blame. President Dmitry Medvedev has -- without mentioning anyone's name -- asked for resignations from those responsible for the poor showing.

"Those who bear the responsibility for Olympic preparations should carry that responsibility. It's totally clear," he said. "I think that the individuals responsible, or several of them, who answer for these preparations, should take the courageous decision to hand in their notice. If we don't see such decisiveness, we will help them."

The delegation from Russia finished sixth in the overall medal count with 15, the first time that has ever happened in the post-Soviet Russia. After making a bizarre announcement that they were going to win 40 medals -- an unheard of number in the Winter Games -- 15 medals is particularly hard to bear.

Some losses -- like figure skater Evgeni Plushenko's second-place finish to American Evan Lysacek, and the hockey team losing badly to the Canadians -- were high profile and particularly embarrassing to the country that is set to host the Winter Olympics in 2014.

Before the Games head to Sochi in 2014, Medvedev wants changes.

"Without messing around, we need to start preparations for Sochi. But taking into account what happened in Vancouver, we need to completely change how we prepare our athletes," Medvedev said.

Medvedev was scheduled to attend the Olympics Closing Ceremony, where Vancouver officially handed over the Winter Olympics to Sochi, but he didn't show up.

The Russian medal flop may account for the absence of Medvedev, who had been expected to come to Vancouver for the final days of the games. His plans apparently changed after the Russian men's hockey team — expected to make Sunday's final — was knocked out in the quarterfinals by Canada.

Figure skating provides a good snapshot of the decline of Russian athletic dominance. The gold in pairs figure skating had been won by a Russian or Soviet team every Olympics since 1964, until this year, when it was won by the Chinese pair of Xue Shen and Hongbo Zhao. A Russian pair didn't even make the podium, and Russia was also left without a real challenger in women's skating. They only won two medals -- a silver for Plushenko and a bronze in ice dancing -- in a sport in which they routinely bring home four.

A return to prominence is going to be tough in a rapidly changing Olympic landscape. Asian countries, particularly Japan and South Korea, are aggressively improving their sports programs. Even the U.S., traditionally not strong in winter sports, showed that they can dominate, winning 37 medals and the overall medal count in Vancouver.

The Russians will have home-field advantage in 2014, something that clearly helped the Canadians, who took home 14 gold medals. However, Canada didn't sit idly by and hope that hometown cheering would do it all; they started the "Own The Podium" program, which directed resources to Canadian Olympic efforts.

Russia may want to consider something similar, or they will be red-faced again four years from now.

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