Short track skaters think of Sochi 2014 ahead of Vancouver

Russia’s short track team realizes that they are not ready for big achievements at the upcoming Winter Games in Vancouver, but hope they will gain experience to use at home at the Sochi Olympics in 2014.

Despite showing satisfactory results in international competitions, the Russian short track team is still a work in progress. While there is little hope for an Olympic medal in Vancouver, the following winter games in Sochi could become the start of the medal count.

But leaving grand plans aside for now, let us concentrate on the team at hand. In Vancouver, Russia will be represented by two male and three female athletes.

Nina Evteeva is probably the most experienced skater on the team and will compete in the 1000- and 1500-meter events.

The Russian champion took part in the 2002 Salt Lake City games and remains realistic about the team’s prospects in Vancouver.

“The athletes who will go to Vancouver will give their 100 per cent 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 Evteeva said.

Valeria Potemkina will compete in all distances in Vancouver for which Russian ladies have qualified. And they are the 500-, 1000- and 1500-meter events.

But she admitted that longer distances are more her forte. And just like her teammate Nina Evteeva, she knows that Russian short track success is a long term project.

“I can already feel the competition breathing down my neck in the Russian championships. And I think our national team will be at an entirely different level come the Sochi 2014 winter Olympic Games,” Valeria Potyomkina said.

Ruslan Zakharov and Semyon Elistratov will run in all three events allotted to Russian men in Vancouver.

Elistratov is considered to be an all round skater able to compete in all disciplines. But he lacks the experience of Zakharov who in 2009 won the 3000 meter super final at the European championship in Turin.

Although Ruslan Zakharov is not an official team captain for now, teammates refer to him as such, as he often acts as liaison between them and the coaching staff.

“I think our team is quite strong at the moment and there's plenty of internal competition…which can't be bad. It makes you an even stronger athlete. And just like here at the Russian nationals, I think the best men will win in Vancouver,” Ruslan Zakharov said.

While the athletes prepare for the Olympics, the management is concerned with whether or not the judging will be unbiased.

According to the vice president of Russia’s short track federation, the country’s men’s relay team failed to qualify for the Olympics due to a subjective disqualification call by a referee.

But Andrey Mintsev is convinced that things should eventually turn around.

“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 we have put a lot of work into this. Our team is now short of several world cup medals because of the referees,” Andrey Mintsev from Russia’s Short Track Federation said.

The Russian national short track team has gone quite a long way in a very short amount of time.

Tthe Olympic winter games in Vancouver should reveal whether the country is on the right path.