By Duncan Mackay
British Sports Internet Writer of the Year

August 7 - Russia has unveiled a new strategy designed to help restore its position as one of the world's leading Olympic countries following its disastrous performance at Vancouver earlier this year when the team finished 11th in the medals table behind the Netherlands.

Russia won only 15 medals in Vancouver, their worst performance since the break-up of the Soviet Union, a performance blamed on poor preparation and lack of motivation and led to the dismissal of several leading officials including Russian Olympic Committee (ROC) President Leonid Tygachyov.

Alexander Zhukov, Russia's Deputy Prime Minister who replaced Tygachyov, has now overseen the launch of "Strategy for the Development of the Russian Olympic Committee", which is aimed at Russia finishing top of the medals table when Sochi hosts the Winter Olympics in 2014.

The plans include building more training facilities across the country and greater financial support for the top athletes.

There are also proposals to streamline the ROC's Executive Board from 27 members to 20.

"I am very happy that we for the first time in the history of the Russian Olympic Committee we have managed to set the guidelines for the National Olympic Movement and the Olympic Committee," said Zhukov.

"I am very glad that everyone supported it and it was approved anonymously.

"For me, the most inspiring thing from this meeting is that there is a clear understanding that only cooperation between Government and non-Governmental organisations can produce success.

"And the only aim we have is providing excellent facilities for our athletes so that they can concentrate on their performances."

Zhukov, a close friend of Russian President Dmitry Medvedev (pictured), hopes that the new strategy will begin to pay dividends as early as London in 2012 where Russia is expected to come under pressure from Britain to retain its place among the top three nations.

In Beijing Russia finished third in the medals table with a total of 72 medals, 23 of them gold.

But they finished a long way behind China and the United States, who won 51 and 36 gold medals respectively.

"Russian Olympians inspire people across the whole country and generate a feeling of national pride," said Zhukov.

"The Russian Olympic Committee will be the one of the most effective National Olympic Committees and will ensure that Russia remains a global sporting powerhouse."

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