“Referees won’t prevent Russia from Olympic short track medals”

Russia’s sporting officials are outraged by the disqualification of the country’s short track relay squads from the upcoming Winter Olympics, which came without the announcement of the rules the athletes have broken.

Regardless, the athletes in individual disciplines will look for nothing but places on the podium in Vancouver.

“We are going to Vancouver to fight for the medals despite the fact that referees have been suffocating us over the last three or four years. It's a pity, because these athletes and us have put a lot of work into this. Our team is now short of several world cup medals because of the referees,” Andrey Mintsev, Vice President of Russia’s Short Track Federation, said.

Andrey Mintsev is convinced if Russia had a larger representation at the International Skating Union its interests would be better guarded.

He suggests the apparent prejudice is a fear of the Russian team's rising success, with countries like the US, Canada, and South Korea not wanting another strong side in their way.

The Russian national short track team has gone quite a long way in a very short amount of time. The country earned 12 Olympic licenses for five athletes at the upcoming Winter Games in Vancouver. This is the best result the national team has ever achieved in its entire history.

Russian skaters will only take part in individual Olympic disciplines in Vancouver. Three men and two women will run in the 500, 1000 and 1500 meter events.

Although the Russian squad is quite young, there are skaters that can bring experience to the rink as well as prior international success. One of these athletes is Nina Evteeva.

“Athletes who will go to Vancouver will give their 100% to get to the podium… But I can't say what will actually happen… We are not used to getting a lot of medals on the international circuit, but I know for certain that we will fight,” Nina Efteeva said.

So what is the secret behind Russia's evident progress over the last Olympic cycle? A big part of the credit is attributed to the team's Chinese head coach An U Long.

Under his supervision, the national team exceeded the levels of the Soviet Union when short track had much wider state support.

“An U Long has been here for four years and he managed to achieve something no other coach could, which is to unite the team. Before him we all had individual trainers and could not produce any results. But under his management the national team has shown a lot of progress. We are very thankful to him and hope to get to the top very soon,” Semen Elistratov, Russian Olympic team member, said.

Reaching the Olympic summit looks to be an achievable goal for Russia.

It might not happen in 2010, but by the time Sochi 2014 comes around, the Russian Short Track Federation hopes to overcome its many problems.