Medvedev Demands Russian Olympics Officials Resign After Poor Vancouver Showing

President Dmitry Medvedev called Monday for officials in charge of preparing Russian athletes for the Winter Olympics to resign after the country suffered its worst-ever performance in Vancouver.

Russia, long accustomed to boosting national pride with sporting success, was left scrambling for explanations for its dismal Olympics performance just four years before it hosts the Winter Games.

The Russian squad recorded its worst ever performance in Vancouver, finishing 11th in the Games' medal table and clinching only three gold medals and 15 overall.

For a country used since Soviet times to one champion after another stepping onto the top of the medal rostrum to the rousing strains of the national anthem, the failure has been nothing short of a trauma.

The team's performance showed up the failure of Russia to replace the all-conquering Soviet sports system with a modern equivalent and the cost of so many top coaches emigrating abroad over the past two decades.

"We need to start from the very beginning," said one of Russia's most celebrated post-Soviet Olympians, swimming legend Alexander Popov, who won four Olympic gold medals.

"The Soviet system of ruling the sports was destroyed after the fall of the Soviet Union. Now we need to create the new one."

He added: "Once, we suffered from lack of funding but now we have even more money than we need. Now is the time to learn how to use funding effectively, develop sports infrastructure, to manage sports in a proper way ... We all have lost too much of our national pride in the post-Soviet years."

Russian Olympic Committee deputy president Vladimir Vasin lamented how the fall of the Soviet system and the severe financial crisis that followed forced many of country's sports specialists to seek their fortunes abroad.

"I heard Russian spoken from people dressed in many other countries' uniforms in the Olympic village," said Vasin, himself a former Olympic champion.

"Our top specialists were spread around the world. Russia was the biggest donor to the world sports in recent years."

With funds now flowing back into Russian sports, the country has a race against the clock to sort out the problems of its sports management before the 2014 Winter Olympics in its southern city of Sochi.

The Vancouver games were marked by a series of unwelcome firsts for Russia, not least the flop of the figure skaters, who finished without an Olympic gold medal for the first time in 50 years.

Triple Olympic champion Irina Rodnina launched a scathing attack on the head of the Russian figure skating federation, Valentin Piseyev, blaming him for his team's dismal performance.

"Serious people in the figure skating world do not want to deal with him. They have no respect for him," said Rodnina, who won all of the competitions where she performed during her career.

One of the few success stories for Russia was the performance of the biathlon team, who won two of three Russia's gold medals at the Games under a far more modern system of management.

They were helped by funds from the Russian Biathlon Union president Mikhail Prokhorov, one of the Russia's richest men, and the sage administration of the federation executive chief Sergei Kushchenko who came from CSKA Moscow basketball side.

In recent years Kushchenko, one of the best country's sports managers, made a priceless contribution into CSKA success, leading the Red Army side to numerous domestic titles and two titles of the basketball Euroleague.