April 01, 1998

The Heroines of Nagano

Never mind that Russia failed to repeat its Lillehammer success, finishing third in total number of medals received. After all, Russia’s Olympic team won nine gold medals, exceeding the prediction of seven made by Vitaly Smirnov, chairman of Russia’s National Olympic Committee. And it is admirable that a country where sports have been abandoned to the mercy of fate can still line up world-class athletes who perform no worse than their Soviet predecessors.

Female athletes, that is. For it was the women, winning eight of the nine gold medals, who saved Russia’s honor. And even though Russia’s NHL millionaires surprised fans by their cohesiveness and team spirit on the ice, they still could not beat the Czechs in the final. And, while President Boris Yeltsin’s, appellation of the women athletes as “the queens of the 18th Olympic Games,” might be hyperbole, most Russians seem to agree with the president that the women’s eight gold medals were “a great gift to Russia’s men on the eve of a national holiday” (February 23: Day of the Fatherland’s Defenders).

Cinderella from Odintsovo

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