Russian defeat wrecks Putin's plans for golden finish

Wed Feb 19, 2014 12:15pm EST
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By Steve Keating

SOCHI, Russia (Reuters) - Russian President Vladimir Putin's plans for a golden finish to the Sochi Olympics were cancelled on Wednesday when Finland claimed a party-pooping win over the hosts of the Winter Games in the men's ice hockey competition.

Russia have had other victories to celebrate and may yet finish top of the Sochi medal table, but that haul will not include gold in the sport that matters most.

Finland's clinical 3-1 quarter-final victory in front of a devastated capacity crowd at the Bolshoy Ice Dome will leave the most expensive Olympics without the show-stopping climax that Russians had ached for.

The men's gold medal will be the last decided in Sochi, handed out hours before Sunday's closing ceremony.

"I cannot explain my feelings. Inside I am absolutely empty," said Russian captain Pavel Datsyuk. "The emotion we feel right now is disappointment, disappointment that we didn't live up to the hopes placed on us.

"There were great hopes placed on us and we didn't live up to them."

At a Winter Games built to showcase Russia's modern face nothing would have been more symbolic of the country's resurgence as a global player than a return of the men's hockey team to the top of the Olympic podium.

Once international hockey's undisputed superpower, Russia's dominance faded following the breakup of the Soviet Union.   Continued...

Russian fans react as they watch a broadcast of the ice hockey quarter-final match between Russia and Finland in the Olympic Park during the 2014 Winter Olympic Games in Sochi February 19, 2014. REUTERS/Shamil Zhumatov