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Gazette Premium Content USOC leaders say they're OK with reduced medal count

By David Ramsey Updated: February 22, 2014 at 5:26 pm

SOCHI, Russia - The United States claimed 37 medals at the 2010 Vancouver Games. The U.S. will not claim 37 medals at the Sochi Games.

Leaders of the U. S. Olympic Committee, based in Colorado Springs, say they are at peace with the lowered medal count. As of Saturday night, the U.S. had won 27 medals with nine golds. Russia leads the medal race with 29, including 11 golds.

The leaders spoke at a press conference that offered their overall views of the Sochi Games. They spoke Saturday afternoon before the American loss in the bronze-medal men's hockey game and Ted Ligety's failed attempt to medal in the slalom.

"I don't think it's a step back at all," USOC CEO Scott Blackmun said of the medal count. Medals, he said, are "getting spread around a little more."

Alan Ashby, the USOC's chief of sports performance, shared Blackmun's view.

"It's not as though we're doing worse," Ashby said. "The whole level of competition and the diversity is growing. It's great for the Olympic movement. . Things don't always shake out the way you wanted them to."

Troubles in speedskating and figure skating offered much of the reason for the medal drop despite the addition of 12 new events. The U.S. failed to earn a medal in speedskating and also in singles figure skating. The Netherlands won 23 of the 36 medals in speedskating.

Blackmun was asked if the USOC planned to become more involved in team selection. Selection of the women's figure skating team was especially controversial.

He said the USOC does not want "to get involved in the daily" operations of the national governing bodies.

Ashby said the figure skating NGB "followed their selection process to the T."

"They followed their process and they followed the process extraordinarily well," Ashby said. "I look at their team right now and I see a ton of opportunity."

The figure skating team, Ashby said, has a "great, bright future. It's really encouraging to me."

- USOC chairman Larry Probst complimented the organizing committee of the Sochi Games. He said he had been impressed by the transportation and security.

"They've even controlled the weather," Probst said.

Weather conditions in the Sochi area have been surprisingly warm and sunny.

Probst offered special compliments to "the engagement" of Russian president Vladimir Putin.

"He's been visible throughout the Games," Probst said. One of Putin's appearances included 30 minutes spent visiting athletes at the USA House.

"He has really owned the Games," Probst said.

- Julie Chu, a member of the U.S. women's hockey team, will serve as American flag bearer at the closing ceremony. She said she felt overwhelmed by the honor.

But she's still hurting after that 3-2 loss to Canada in the final.

"We wanted the gold medal," Chu said. "I'm not going to sugarcoat that."

- Chu also was asked about Russia's anti-gay propaganda law.

"I know there had been a lot of focus on the anti-gay law," Chu said, "but everyone has been welcomed. That's been true across the board for everyone."

-

Twitter: @davidramz

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