Speed skaters eager to fulfill fans’ hopes in Vancouver

Russia is hoping to win over 30 medals in Vancouver and their speed skaters are among the country’s hopes for success.

After years in the doldrums, with Russia going 12 years without a speed skating gold at the Olympics – the drought was finally ended at the 2006 Winter Olympic Games in Turin.

Four years on, hopes are high that Russia can add to this tally.

“I think we have got a good chance of gold in the women's team pursuit. We have got a number of quality skaters who have the ability to finish first. We are not going to Vancouver to make up the numbers – we will be fighting it out for the medals,” Vladimir Filippov, Russia’s speed skating head coach, said.

Ekaterina Lobysheva is one of Russia's best hopes for gold. She won a bronze at the last Winter Games in the team pursuit. She will be competing in three events this time in Vancouver.

“Everyone always has a chance of winning a medal. The most important thing is that everything comes together on that day. You always have to give 100%, as you never know what may happen. Hopefully I will have luck on my side when it comes to fighting it out for the medals,” Ekaterina Lobysheva said.

Svetlana Zhurova was the last Russian to win a speed skating gold, despite being a relative outsider.

She was in her thirties and had only returned to the sport two years before the Turin games after giving birth to her first child. She passed on a few words of advice to those taking to the track in Vancouver:

“The likes of the Netherlands, Canada and the US still remain the undoubted powerhouses of men's and women's speed skating – with Russia someway off,” Zhurova said.

Lobysheva says anything can happen.

“Sport is very unpredictable, and it's impossible to look too far ahead. No one was expecting us to win a medal in Turin, but we came home with three. This was down to our hard work, and I hope this tradition will continue in Vancouver, and we won't have to wait another 12 years before we win our next gold medal,” she explained.

Speed skating in Russia is on the rise. Only eight years ago, the national championships had to be held in Germany due to the lack of quality tracks in the country.

They will be looking to turn this potential into medals in Vancouver in less than two weeks time.