Miracle memories resurface in Sochi

Wed Feb 12, 2014 3:15pm EST
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By Steve Keating

SOCHI, Russia (Reuters) - As would be expected, Russian and American memories of the 1980 Lake Placid Olympics 'Miracle on Ice' are as different as the Cold War philosophies that provided the backdrop for a sporting contest that left an indelible mark on both countries.

It was 34 years ago in a small arena in upstate New York that a group of American college players faced off against the former Soviet Union's 'Big Red Machine' in an ice hockey mismatch of David and Goliath proportions and scored a shock 4-3 victory that propelled the group of unknowns into sporting immortality.

For Americans, weary of oil shortages and burdened by the Iran hostage crisis, it was much more than a round-robin win en route to a highly unlikely Olympic gold medal.

Played out in the waning days of the Cold War, with Russian troops recently invading Afghanistan, it was viewed by Americans as representing victory for amateurism over State-controlled sport, democracy over communism, freedom over repression and at, its most basic, good over evil.

In the United States, where multi-million dollar baseball and NFL vie for top billing, it is an ice hockey game played for fun by college kids that has become a cherished piece of American folklore; the subject of countless books and documentaries, two movies and, according to numerous polls, the greatest moment in the country's sporting history.

In Russia it is something very different - a national embarrassment and a lasting stain on a period of widespread sporting supremacy.

It was a humiliating defeat that decades later still stings, and the need for retribution burns hot.


"Miracle on Ice" hockey team member Jim Craig takes part in a panel discussion of National Geographic Channel's "The 80s" during the 2013 Winter Press Tour for the Television Critics Association in Pasadena, California January 4, 2013. REUTERS/Gus Ruelas