|Putin Gives Russia’s Olympians State Honors|
Russian President Vladimir Putin presented the country’s Olympic gold medalists with state honors at the Kremlin on Wednesday and defended Russia’s performance in London.
Russia won gold in 24 events and a total of 82 medals, more on both counts than in Beijing four years ago, but slipped to fourth in the official Olympic medal table for the first time.
“Elite-level domestic sport, which went through a fairly difficult time ten years ago, along with our country, is once again gaining momentum,” Putin said, adding that Russia should place high demands on its athletes.
“We need to set ambitious targets, the most ambitious. And then almost everyone will expect success, even if we don’t achieve something that was spoken about publicly earlier. But anyway it’s right to set the most ambitious targets.”
He added that the medalists should visit Russian schools on September 1, the start of the school year, to talk about their experiences.
The highest of the honors given out Wednesday was the Order for Services to the Fatherland fourth class, one of Russia’s most important honors, given to rhythmic gymnast Evgenia Kanaeva and five synchronized swimmers, Natalia Ishchenko, Anastasia Davydova, Svetlana Romashina, Elvira Khasyanova and Maria Gromova.
All of the recipients had defended gold medals they won in Beijing in 2008, with Davydova winning her fifth gold medal and Ischenko, Khasyanova and Romashina their third golds.
The lower-ranked Order of Honor was awarded to 400m hurdles gold medalist Natalia Antyukh and to Sergei Tetyukhin, who led Russia’s men’s volleyball team to the country’s last gold of the games in a thrilling comeback win over Brazil on Sunday.
A further 39 gold medalists were presented with the Order of Friendship, typically awarded for strengthening international relations.