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Meeting with medallists at the XXII 2014 Winter Olympics

February 24, 2014, Sochi

Vladimir Putin met with the Russian medallists at the XXII 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi. The President congratulated the medallists on their successful results and presented them with state decorations.

President of Russia Vladimir Putin: Good afternoon, friends,

It gives me genuine pleasure to congratulate you, Russia’s medal winners at the XXII Winter Olympics, on your successful, or one could say triumphant performance at this event, the sporting calendar’s most prestigious competition. The Russian team won a total of 13 gold, 11 silver and 9 bronze medals, and took first place in the unofficial overall team ranking. Congratulations to you all!

You all know that our whole country and millions of our fellow citizens all say a huge thank you to you for your talent, courage, determination, and for the results you achieved. I am sure that these medals, which you won in hard and honest competition, have special value for each and every one of you. They were won at the Games that we hosted here at home, in Sochi. We achieved all that we hoped for. As our people like to say, you have brought the party to their street too thanks to your talent and effort.

Once again, thank you very much.

Any competition in which athletes defend their country’s honour is an important event. But our national team carried a particularly heavy responsibility this time. The Sochi Games gave the world a chance to see a modern, diverse and open Russia. I think you would have had the chance to hear this on numerous occasions during the Olympics. Everyone taking part was saying this, everyone who came to the competitions. We had to show that we had modern sports facilities, but even more important, we had to show the Russian sports world at its very best, show that we have worthy people who continue to carry aloft the banner of our great and glorious sports traditions. You showed that these traditions are solid and that our country continues to nurture impressive and strong athletes who can dazzle the world and win its admiration, bring people joy and make the hearts of millions of our people beat as one, filling them with pride in their homeland.

Over the two weeks of the Olympics, even people far removed from sport organised their lives around your competition schedule, and everything literally came to a halt when our athletes took to the arena or the track. As for what happened here at the Olympic Village, you probably saw yourselves how your memorable victories and performances brought transport to a halt and how strangers embraced and kissed each other, expressing their joy at your success. 

”The Olympic Games are much more than just an international competition. Countries battle here to win the title of most sporting nation, and being among the leaders is a matter of national prestige.“

I want to take this opportunity to thank our media, both state and private, and those who ensured the national television broadcasts of the Games. It was thanks to their efforts that people were able to watch your battles and see your victories. Your performances and their results were the main topic of conversation. This is not surprising. The Olympic Games are much more than just an international competition. Countries battle here to win the title of most sporting nation, and being among the leaders is a matter of national prestige.

You achieved the goal we set, defended our country’s honour, and deserve not just sports but also state honours. On behalf of the millions of fans and on behalf of Russia’s citizens I thank each of you for putting the best of yourselves into these Olympics, for working towards your goal no matter what the difficulties met along the way, pushing yourselves onwards, not giving up the fight even when the situation looked hopeless, and inspiring us with your energy and passion. It is for this that we love you, our talented and determined athletes, and for this that we love the Olympic Games, which are filled with examples of personal courage and intense competition. The big element of unpredictability only increases the tension and is what gives particular charm to any big competitions and above all the Olympics of course. 

This was the case in Sochi too, where the Russian team made some breakthroughs that were unexpected and thus all the more welcomed and important. Our athletes won medals in disciplines where we had never or had long since not counted among the leaders. Alexander Smyshlyayev’s efforts bolstered our position in freestyle, and we reclaimed the lead in bobsleigh thanks to Alexander Zubkov and Alexei Voyevoda, who consolidated their success with victory in the four-man event on the last day of the Olympics, together with Alexei Negodaylo and Dmitry Trunenkov. 

Our snowboarders brought us some very happy moments. Nikolai Olyunin won Russia’s first ever medal in snowboard cross, and Vic Wild, two-time Olympic champion in Sochi, who decided to compete for Russia, won us our first ever gold medal in parallel giant slalom. I can’t rule out that he was inspired by the success of his wife, Alyona Zavarzina, who, as we know, despite an injury won the Olympic bronze ahead of well-known rivals in the same discipline earlier that day. Yelena Nikitina’s bronze medal was also of particular significance because this was the first time that a Russian sportswoman took a place on the Olympic podium in women’s skeleton.

Let me mention another breakthrough. The men’s ski relay certainly tested our fans’ nerves, as I am sure you can understand. But the Russian foursome stood firm and won our long-hoped-for medal.

The competition in the men’s biathlon relay was just as intense and thrilling. We were all hoping hard for victory and triumph here, and Alexei Volkov, Yevgeny Ustyugov, Dmitry Malyshko and Anton Shipulin gave us just this.

Also very precious were the two silver medals won by luger Albert Demchenko, who was taking part in his seventh Olympics.

Russian skeleton racer Alexander Tretyakov, who placed first in all four runs, deserves a special word of mention too, as does outstanding short track racer Viktor Ahn, another athlete who decided to compete for Russia and who has brought us four Olympic medals and made millions of people fall in love with short track.

And then of course we have our literally golden figure skaters, who ensured the Russian figure skating school’s complete and undisputed triumph. You set the tone and raised the standard high with your impressive performance at the very start of the Olympics. I think it would be fair here to mention too our exceptional female figure skaters, Yulia Lipitskaya, who contributed much to the gold medal in the team event, and Adelina Sotnikova, who won Russia’s first ever gold medal in women’s figure skating.

Of course, our amazing skiers also deserve the highest praise. Alexander Legkov, Maxim Vylegzhanin, and Ilya Chernousov took all three places on the podium in the 50-kilometre mass start race. This was a first in Russia’s sporting history. 

In short, everyone for whom the Russian flag was raised over the podium of honour merits particular mention. We could write a whole book about the performance of each and every one of you. The minutes that made your victories were the results of the work you put in over long years, practically your whole lives, all those long years of exhausting and devoted training. This is very valuable of course. You worked hand in hand with your coaches, who were like your second parents in many ways, and I take this opportunity today to congratulate them too and express my sincere thanks for training our athletes and for the victories achieved at these Olympics. The best among them will also receive state decorations, including Eteri Tutberidze, who we congratulate from all our hearts today on her birthday.

”You showed that our country continues to nurture impressive and strong athletes who can dazzle the world and win its admiration, bring people joy and make the hearts of millions of our people beat as one, filling them with pride in their homeland.“

I also ask you to pass on my words of thanks to all of your teammates. You saw what an intense and difficult competition it was for each member of the team. All of our athletes did their best and fought for medals. We were behind each and every one of them, with them in their moments of defeat too, when they were just a step away from a medal, or when they faced frustrating defeats at the start of the competition. There were tragic moments too, such as when our freestyle skier Maria Komissarova fell during training. We all wish her a speedy recovery. And to those who did not get to take their places on the Olympic podium, we wish future victories. I am sure that these victories will come. You need only not look back, not fall behind, but keep pressing forward, believe in yourselves and your strength, and our country will always stand with you. 

Our national team’s results in Sochi show that the difficult period in Russian sport is behind us now and that all the effort we have made, all that was invested in sport over these last years, was not in vain. This is all the more true now that our winter sports athletes have a modern training base in Sochi and the surrounding area, with facilities that have earned high praise from Russian and foreign athletes, coaches and experts.

The Olympic Athletes’ Support Fund will also continue its active work, mark the success of our national team, and continue in general to provide substantial assistance to our athletes and prepare them for new victories and competitions. 

At the meeting of the Council for Sport, scheduled for late March, we will take the opportunity to analyse the Russian team’s results while the events are still fresh in our minds, and will decide the next steps in our efforts above all to develop mass sport, which is the main talent pool that top-level sport draws on.

Let me say again that Russia is proud of you. We support you and always will. We appreciate what you have done.

I wish all of our athletes success, solidarity, mutual support and sense of camaraderie and team spirit. It is often said that unity and team spirit determine a competition’s final result. I am sure that you will all throw your energy now into supporting our Paralympic athletes, who in 11 days’ time will defend Russia’s sporting honour at the Paralympics here, at the same facilities where you competed.

Friends, from all my heart I wish you good health and new successes. Let’s now move on to presenting the state decorations, the reason for our meeting today.

Thank you very much for your attention.

* * *

Vladimir Putin: Friends, let me congratulate you once again on your victories and your decorations.

You spoke words of thanks to our country and our fans. On behalf of Russia and all sports fans, let me thank you once again for your efforts, courage and talent.

We have done a lot to build the sports facilities and get all of the infrastructure ready. This was the work of a big team of organisers, builders and engineers. The last and current Russian Governments also made a big, indeed decisive, contribution to this effort. Mr Medvedev did a lot during his time as president, and continued to do so as prime minister. His deputy today, Mr Kozak, worked on the Olympic project for almost five years. The point came when even I started believing that we would indeed achieve everything just as planned.

But our joy would have been incomplete – by ‘our’ I am referring not just to the Government and leadership of course, but to the whole country, all our sports fans and practically every citizen – without your memorable performances here at our Sochi Olympics.

Events like this are definitely national in dimension and bring people together. They unite people in completely positive spirit and raise our self-esteem, and at the same time they show our country’s openness to the whole world. Mr Bach, the president of the International Olympic Committee, already spoke about our country’s openness and new image. This is all no surprise for us of course, because we know what we are like, but it was a good opportunity to show the rest of the world too that Russia is a very friendly country that knows how to welcome people, create a celebration that it can share with sports fans all around the world and achieve victories and success. We owe these victories and success to you.

Thank you very much. I congratulate you and wish you future achievements.

All the very best!

February 24, 2014, Sochi