Sochi Olympics Ice Hockey Men

Why did Russia’s hockey team fall flat in Sochi?

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For hockey (and really sports) fans in Sochi, the reaction to Russia bowing out of the Olympic tournament following a 3-1 quarterfinal loss to Finland can be summarized as such:

source: AP
Credit: AP

The rest of us can at least ask questions like “How?” and “Why?” Here are the potential roots of Russia’s demise, with copious amounts of help from Pro Hockey Talk.

The pressure

Playing in your host country can be a big advantage … unless it creates enough pressure that players start thinking too much. Alex Ovechkin acknowledged the anxiety but ultimately shrugged it off to NBC’s Joe Posnanski before the Olympics started.

“Of course there’s pressure,” Ovechkin said. “It’s your whole country.”

VIDEO: Mike Milbury says “a loss like this lasts a lifetime”

When Russian President Vladimir Putin needs to calm people down about a controversial goal, you know a country takes a sport seriously.

The roster

source: AP
Credit: AP

Everyone has their own view of what “the best team possible” is, but some countries must satisfy more “political” issues. Like, say, acknowledging the Russian-centric KHL (widely considered the second most prominent hockey league to the NHL).

While some of these players have appeared in the NHL before, it’s still notable how many players were plucked from an inferior league (let’s exclude Ilya Kovalchuk for obvious talent-related reasons):

Alexander Yeryomenko, Ilya Nikulin, Yevgeni Medvedev, Viktor Tikhonov, Alexander Svitov, Alexander Popov, Alexei Tereshenko and Alexander Radulov.

Radulov is talented – if wildly polarizing – in his own right, but maybe Russia put too much pressure on top players? Let’s not forget that depth players can make a big difference; a certain fellow named T.J. Oshie wasn’t a lock to make the U.S. roster by any means.

Goalie flip-flopping

If the Olympic tournament wasn’t such a speedy blur, one could almost imagine people taking sides with goalies Semyon Varlamov (#TeamVarly?) and Sergei Bobrovsky (#TeamBob). Russian head coach Zinetula Bilyaletdinov waffled between the two, including starting Varlamov in today’s elimination game after going with Bobrovsky in Tuesday’s do-or-die contest.

Naturally, Varlamov was pulled for Bobrovsky during Wednesday’s game.

The power play

With names like Alex Ovechkin, Pavel Datsyuk, Evgeni Malkin and Ilya Kovalchuk available, you’d think that the Russian power play would be a nightmare. It was … but usually for the Russian team itself.

Their struggling power play unit was a storyline for much of the playoffs, even after an easy qualification playoff game against Norway.

Star failures

Fair or not, Russian players frequently get blamed in NHL playoff losses. Aside from the Malkin – Datsyuk – Radulov line and Kovalchuk, many Russian scorers would probably admit that they are disappointed with their tournament play. Others will … likely use harsher words.

(The word “choke” will almost undoubtedly be trotted out.)

Their opponents

It’s easy to beat up on Russia, but it’s not like they lost to bad teams. The U.S. is the defending silver medal winners from 2010 and Finland is a steady international threat (especially on larger ice surfaces). Some believe that Tuukka Rask is the best goalie in the world; he was in net for a Boston Bruins team that kept Malkin and Sidney Crosby of the Pittsburgh Penguins from recording a single point in a 2013 playoff series, after all.

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Whatever way you slice it, it’s difficult to overstate how much this failure hurts the Russian team and their country as a whole. It’s likely those involved will be soul-searching for many years following this resounding finish.

IOC sanctions 3 boxers for betting on fights at Rio Olympics

GLASGOW, SCOTLAND - AUGUST 02:  Gold medalist Michael Conlan of Northern Ireland celebrates after the Men's Bantam (56kg) Final at SSE Hydro during day ten of the Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games on August 2, 2014 in Glasgow, Scotland.  (Photo by Alex Livesey/Getty Images)
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LAUSANNE, Switzerland (AP) — The IOC has sanctioned three boxers – two from Ireland and one from Britain – for betting on fights at the Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.

The International Olympic Committee issued “severe reprimands” to Ireland’s Michael Conlan and Steve Donnelly and Britain’s Antony Fowler for violating the rules that prohibit betting.

None of the boxers won medals.

The IOC says all three placed bets on fights at the games, but adds that “there was no intent to manipulate any event.”

Athletes and officials are banned from betting on Olympic events and required to report any approach or suspicion of fixing.

The IOC says, in order to be eligible to compete in the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, the three boxers must undergo an “educational program.”

The Irish and British national Olympic committees also received reprimands for “not having properly informed” their athletes of the betting rules.

MORE: Claressa Shields congratulated by famous boxing actor (video)

Tokyo to propose moving more venues for Olympics

Jacques Rogge Tokyo 2020
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TOKYO (AP) — Tokyo’s original plans for a compact Olympics in 2020 continue to fall by the wayside.

A Tokyo government panel is set to propose moving more venues outside of the city – including hundreds of kilometers (miles) away – in order to save money, the latest in a series of changes since the Japanese capital was awarded the games three years ago.

Among the venues being reviewed are those for volleyball, swimming, rowing and canoe sprint, Kyodo news agency reported Wednesday.

Public broadcaster NHK said the panel would propose moving rowing and canoeing to Tome City, about 440 kilometers (270 miles) northeast of Tokyo in the prefecture of Miyagi. Tome was one of several cities severely affected by the 2011 earthquake and tsunami. The city is approximately 70 kilometers (45 miles) north of Sendai, which is a three-hour train ride from Tokyo.

Details of the proposed changes are expected to be made public Thursday at a meeting of a taskforce for metropolitan government reform.

The changes would require approval of the International Olympic Committee and the individual international sports federations.

The government panel was set up earlier this month by Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike, who is determined to reduce the soaring costs.

Tokyo won the right to host the games in 2013 by promising a compact bid with 28 of the 31 competition venues within an eight-kilometer (5-mile) radius of the Olympic Village. Originally, only shooting, modern pentathlon and one football venue were to be outside the eight-kilometer radius.

Already, venues for basketball, taekwondo and cycling have been moved outside of Tokyo to maximize existing facilities. Cycling was moved to Izu, some 145 kilometers (90 miles) southwest of the capital.

Tokyo organizing committee president Yoshiro Mori acknowledged in July that the cost of building seven temporary venues for the Olympics had surged to an estimated $2.6 billion, up from an initial estimate of $690 million.

Mori said the original figures were the result of sloppy calculations which he blamed on the Tokyo metropolitan government and the Japanese Olympic Committee.

The organizing committee hasn’t disclosed an official estimate of the overall costs but has acknowledged it will be considerably higher than the $3.5 billion that was forecast in the bid.

Preparations for the games have been plagued by a series of scandals involving the new national stadium, the official logo and allegations of bribery in the bidding process.

Work on the new national stadium has fallen behind schedule because the government abandoned an original design amid spiraling costs. The total costs for staging the Olympics are shared by the organizing committee, the Tokyo municipal government and the national government.

MORE: Aly Raisman: Tokyo 2020 is the goal