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Category: 2014 Sochi Olympics

Vladimir Putin criticizes Russia's Olympic program

Putin Prime Minister Vladimir Putin on Friday criticized Russia's effort in the Vancouver Olympic Games, echoing statements made earlier this week by the country's president.

During a government meeting to examine Russia's disappointing Olympic performance, Putin called for an overhaul of the country's Olympic program, aiming for a system that incorporates the best aspects of the "Soviet system of training athletes" along with modern facilities and better coaching.

Putin said he wants the country to build more sports facilities and increase coaches' salaries. He also attacked Russia's effort in Vancouver, stating the country spent $117 million over three years in preparation for the Games.

"I have got an impression that the more money we spend, the more modest the results are," said Putin, telling reporters the country spent five times more on the Vancouver Games than it did for the 2006 Olympics.

He went on to stress the importance of a Russian turnaround at the 2014 Winter Olympic Games in Sochi, Russia.

"Sochi is our national project, and we will pay the maximum attention to that," Putin said. "Millions of fans are waiting for our team to become the winner. In any case, it must be among the leaders in Sochi in 2014."

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USOC, British Olympic Assn. to share resources, expertise

The U.S. Olympic Committee has signed an bilateral agreement with Britain's Olympic Assn. to share resources and expertise in preparation of the 2012 and 2014 Olympic Games.

USOC Chairman Larry Probst and British Olympic Assn. Chairman Colin Moynihan signed the agreement in San Francisco this week.

The agreement allows the organizations to discuss matters "of mutual interest" ahead of the next two Olympic Games. It also paves the way for the formation of a British skiing and snowboarding governing body after the financial collapse of Snowsport GB before the Vancouver Games.

The contract "represents an invaluable opportunity," Moynihan said.

The agreement could help bolster Britain's effort at the Sochi Games after winning just one medal (gold in women's skeleton) in Vancouver. Britain finished fourth overall with 47 medals at the 2008 Beijing Games and is looking for an even stronger showing on home soil in two years.

-- Austin Knoblauch

The Associated Press was used in compiling this report.


Head of Russia's Olympic committee takes President Medvedev's advice and resigns

Russia Well, that didn't take long.

The head of Russia's Olympic committee resigned Wednesday, two days after Russian President Dmitry Medvedev warned the country's top Olympic officials would be fired if they did not step down voluntarily.

"Leonid Tyagachev has offered his resignation," committee spokesperson Gennady Shvets said, according to the Interfax news agency. "This obviously concerns the Russian athletes' performance at the Vancouver Olympic Games."

Medvedev expressed anger and frustration over Russia's disappointing performance in Vancouver during a televised statement Monday. Russia won 15 medals and finished sixth in the medal count -- its lowest ranking since the dissolution of the Soviet Union. The country is eager to turn its Olympics program around since it will be hosting the next Winter Games in Sochi in 2014.

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Dmitry Medvedev demands resignations over Russia's disappointing Olympics performance

Russia One of the most-anticipated reactions of the Vancouver Games appears to have taken off.

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev has demanded the country's sports officials resign following Russia's disappointing performance in the Winter Olympics. In a televised statement, Medvedev told officials to resign before the government would force them out.

"Those who bear the responsibility for Olympics preparations should carry that responsibility. It's totally clear," Medvedev 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."

Medvedev's reaction was somewhat expected considering Russia's reputation as a Winter Olympics power. Russian officials were hoping to win 30 medals at the Vancouver Games. Instead, the country took home 15, including three gold medals, to finish sixth in the medal count -- its lowest ranking in post-Soviet history.

The Russian president also was directly affected by the country's poor play. Medvedev had hinted before the Olympics he wanted to see Russia men's hockey team play for the gold medal. His hopes were dashed by Russia's embarrassing loss to Canada in the quarterfinals.

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Lysacek, in the celebrity whirlwind, says he plans to continue competing

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 Evan Lysacek had the best sleepless night of his life.

The "Today" show had him for its opening segment Friday, which meant being in the studio across the water in North Vancouver at 4 a.m.

Next, three hours later, came a live-by-satellite appearance on "Oprah" for her Friday show, then a late morning press conference at the Main Media Center.

Before then, he finished doping control at the Pacific Coliseum on Thursday night, made a victory appearance at USA House, where the U.S. Olympic Committee entertains sponsors and other guests, packed up his room at the Olympic Village and moved into a downtown Vancouver Hotel.

Such are the immediate spoils of being the first U.S. man to win an Olympic figure skating gold medal since Brian Boitano in 1988.

Naperville, Ill's., Lysacek will undoubtedly get a boost in his appearance fee on the upcoming Stars on Ice tour, and he could likely begin to have a financially secure future as "America's Guest'' -- public appearances, working for his sponsors, etc.

But, as he left the press conference at the rink Thursday night, Lysacek told the Chicago Tribune he plans to continue competing.

"Right now, I want to keep skating,'' he said.  "I don't know, maybe one more year.  It might change.''

It doesn't seem likely Lysacek would keep going until the 2014 Olympics, given that they are in Sochi, Russia, given the reaction in Russia to having Lysacek beat their homey, 2006 Olympic champion Evgeny Plushenko.

Plushenko set the tone by claiming he wuz robbed and that no man should win Olympic gold without doing a quadruple jump.  Prime Minister Vladimir Putin said Plushenko's performance was "worth a gold medal.''  Plushenko's wife called the result a "gross mistake by the judges'' and demanded Russian officials defend the honor of their athletes.

"I don't think they would love to see me there [Sochi], to be quite honest, if I could somehow get a visa into that country,'' Lysacek said Friday morning.

Lysacek, 24, said he is almost certainly done for this year, so he will skip next month's World Championships at the Palavela in Turin, Italy, where he finished fourth in the 2006 Olympics.

"I need a little break,'' he said.

He won't get one from the celebrity circuit for a while.  The other network morning shows, plus Regis and Kelly, already have sent requests for him.

When things slow down, Lysacek can look back and see himself not only as Olympic champion but as one of the few who delivered the best skating of his life under the greatest pressure.

The scores said it: personal bests in Tuesday's short program, Thursday's free skate and, obviously, the total, for a 1.31-point victory over Plushenko, who took his defeat like a graceless churl.

"I was positive that I won, but I suppose Evan needs a medal more than I do,'' Plushenko said at the post-competition press conference.  "Maybe it's because I already have one.  I think that two silver and one Olympic gold, that's not too bad.''

Plushenko, who also won silver in 2002, was put out because Lysacek became the first man to win the Olympic title without a quadruple jump since Russia's Alexei Urmanov in 1994.

In the media mixed zone area after the competition, Plushenko derided Lysacek's accomplishment even more.

"I think we need to change the judging system,'' Plushenko said.  "If the Olympic champion doesn't know how to jump quad, it’s not men's figure skating, it’s dancing.’’

Lysacek was taken aback by Plushenko's remarks.

"I'm a little disappointed,'' Lysacek told the Tribune Thursday night.  "He has been a role model for me.''

Lysacek reiterated it Friday morning and still cut Plushenko some slack for his intemperate reaction.

"I guess I was a little disappointed that someone that was my role model would take a hit at me in probably one of the most special moments of my life, that I will never forget, regardless of what anyone says.'' Lysacek said.  "Like I said, it's tough to lose, especially when you think that no matter what, you're going to win.''

Lysacek had been relentlessly effusive in his praise of Plushenko, noting how impressive it had been for the Russian to come back after three years away from competition.

"I've admired him for many years,'' Lysacek said.  "When he was winning senior worlds and I was a junior, I was cheering along with everyone else.  I thought he skated great tonight.''

That didn't stop Plushenko from harping on the quad.

"First and foremost, I want to state that I respect my competitors,'' Plushenko said.  "My basic position is that movement must go forward, never stop, never go back.... I think people need to do lots of quads.''

Plushenko did one, although it was shaky, as were two of his other jumps.  His spins were weak, and his footwork sequences relied more on pelvic gyrations, hip shimmying and posing than anything else.

Lysacek made up a 0.55 deficit to Plushenko after the short program and created his margin of victory on the scores for his execution of spins and footwork. The scoring system implemented after the pairs scandal at the 2002 Olympics demands a skater be able to do more than jump.

"Anyone who is arguing with those judges' scores, I don't think understands the system,'' Lysacek said.  "They did a good job using the new judging system to score this event as accurately as possible.''

His advantage over Plushenko on spins was 1.36 and on footwork, 1.0.  The quality of Lysacek's jumps -- eight triples -- was good enough that he lost only 0.3 points there to Plushenko, who did the quad-triple combination and six other triples.

"I think Evgeny went up and down,'' said Frank Carroll, Lysacek's coach.  "Brilliant jumping and then down.  Evan stayed on a plane from the start to the finish.  That consistent plane and getting the pluses [for execution], it adds up.''

Lysacek was, as skaters always strive to be, the whole package. 

"For several years, I have worked on the quad, and I know how many hours and how much energy it takes,'' Lysacek said, "and that pales in comparison to the amount of time it takes to work on those spins and get those perfect and to get those transitions down and to get the stamina to put all that into 4 minutes and 40 seconds of skating.''

To get through the most important 4 minutes, 40 seconds of skating in his life, Lysacek needed a nudge from Carroll to help him keep things in perspective.

"It's hard when you're in second place at the Olympic Games to not think of a medal,'' Lysacek said.  "I started to think about the outcome.  He [Frank] could see it in me and he came up to me Thursday and said, 'You can do your absolute best and not be the best tonight.  But your job is to perform every step of your program to the best of your ability.'  I just started thinking, 'That's what I do every day in practice, so why should it be any different today.'''

Lysacek began working with Carroll after leaving Neuqua Valley High School in 2003.  After two years, he became a consistent national and world medalist, with two U.S. titles and a world title before the Olympic gold.

"Frank has a real understanding of psychology,'' Lysacek said.  "He told me you can't win until you learn to win, you can't be a champion until you learn to be a champion.  He taught me how to compete.

"I never let myself think about winning for myself because it's not a helpful thought.  I was concentrating on my work and daily grind.  I did think a couple times about winning for him.''

Carroll, 71, previously had two Olympic silver medalists, Linda Fratianne (1980) and Michelle Kwan (1998), both of whom were favored for gold.  Christopher Bowman, whom Carroll calls the most talented skater he ever coached, wasted that ability with drugs before competing at the Olympics.  Timothy Goebel, whom Carroll also coached, made the most of his ability to finish third behind Russians Alexei Yagudin and Plushenko in 2002.

So when Plushenko returned this season and began racking up high scores, it looked as if Carroll might still be looking for his first Olympic champion.  His other 2010 Olympic skater, 16-year-old Mirai Nagasu, is four years from challenging for gold.

"I never obsessed about it,'' Carroll said,  "People think it has meant so much to me, but it hasn't.

"I've had a great career, and I have really been satisfied with the Olympic medals my kids have won.  It's not about me anyway.  It's about him.  And I think coaches have got to get that in their head, that they are just a vehicle for the skaters to do well.''

Evan Lysacek would disagree.

"Winning for Frank, so far that's the best part,'' he said before rushing off to doping control.

It was just one of many stops on a long night's journey into day, after what Lysacek called the best night of his life.

-- Philip Hersh, reporting from Vancouver, Canada

RELATED: For Lysacek, celebrity whirlwind starts fast

(With the gold medal around his neck, Evan Lysacek celebrates his new glory with Old Glory.  Nuccio DiNuzzo / Chicago Tribune.)

Should NHL players be allowed to compete in the 2014 Olympics?

Brown Will this be the last Winter Olympic Games for the NHL?

The future of the NHL's participation in the Games is in doubt because  the league has not decided whether it will allow players to compete in the 2014 Olympics in Sochi, Russia.

NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman has called the midseason Olympic break a "strain on the players, on the schedule and on our fans here" and has said the league receives little positive impact from the Olympics when the Games are played outside North America.

Obviously, the Olympic break isn't an ideal situation for the NHL. While it does give players a chance to rest and heal from injuries, it does little to generate fan interest. And for teams like the Kings, who've won nine of their last 10,  a late-season, two-week break is the perfect momentum killer.

If the Olympic break were in November or December, this would be less of an issue. But with the playoff race so close in the Western and Eastern conferences, you can see why team owners aren't thrilled with the idea.

Still, the issue is not that clear-cut. Olympic participation is popular among NHL players and it's included in the league's current collective bargaining agreement with the NHLPA. So it'll be interesting to see how hard the league and its owners are willing to fight before the agreement expires after next season.

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