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Former Olympics powerhouse Russia asks: What happened?

Canada's defeat of the men's hockey team of former Olympics powerhouse Russia is a reminder that post-Soviet Olympians have yet to deliver the showers of golden medals that their USSR-era predecessors took for granted.

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Former Olympics powerhouse Russia's Alexander Ovechkin (8) is seen in the second period of a men's quarterfinal round ice hockey game against Canada at the Vancouver 2010 Olympics in Vancouver, British Columbia, Wednesday.

Matt Slocum/AP

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A collective groan went up as Russians awoke Thursday morning to discover that, while they slept, their Olympic hockey team – the legendary Big Red Machine – had gone down to ignominious defeat at the hands of the oft-trounced Canadians.

But the disappointment actually started to set in at least a week ago, as the first fully post-Soviet generation of Russian Olympic athletes hit the Vancouver Games, stumbled, picked themselves up, but have yet to deliver the showers of golden medals that their USSR-era predecessors took for granted.

"All Russia is in shock over the [Vancouver] results," says Irina Rodnina, a former Soviet figure-skating champion turned prominent Russian politician.

Ms. Rodnina blames complacent sports officials and money-obsessed athletes for the slump. "How can we be successful if there is no proper Olympic spirit among the sports bosses, coaches and athletes?" she says.

As of Thursday, Russia stood in fifth place overall, with 13 medals, three of them gold. That puts it far behind the front-running US, which has garnered 28 medals, including seven golds.

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