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Former Olympics powerhouse Russia asks: What happened?

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Politics to blame?

Some sports fans say they're devastated. "The USSR was a sports superpower, and there was a responsibility that athletes felt toward the people and their country," says Sergei Kalashnikov, a Moscow hockey fan. "Things are different now. It's a shame."

Igor Larin, a sports writer for the Moscow daily Sport-Express, blames capitalism. "The attitude of society has changed [since the demise of the USSR], and athletes have become victims of the cult of cash that came from the West," he says.

This sour mood contrasts sharply with the optimism going in. Just before the Vancouver Olympics opened, the Moscow daily Izvestia leaked an internal memo prepared for the Kremlin by Russia's top sports officials, which confidently predicted that Team Russia would pick up as many as 31 medals in Vancouver, including between seven and 11 golds.

The Kremlin had attached high expectations to the national team's performance in Vancouver, hoping that a strong showing would put Russia front and center in advance of the next Winter Games, which are slated to be held in Sochi, Russia, in 2014.

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