By Duncan Mackay in Sochi
British Sports Internet Writer of the Year

June 7 - Russian athletes preparing to compete in the Sochi Olympics in 2014, where they have already been warned they must finish top of the medals table, will have new state-of-the-art facilities built to help their preparations, the country's Sports Minister Vitaly Mutko promised today.

Russia finished only 11th in the medals table earlier this year in Vancouver, winning 15 medals, only three of which were gold - their worst performance since the break-up of the Soviet Union.

Mutko would almost certainly have lost his job if he had not been a member of FIFA's ruling Executive Committee and is considered an important figure in Russia's bid to host the 2018 World Cup.

Instead, Gennady Alyoshin resigned as Russia's Deputy Sports Minister.

Several other leading figures also resigned, including Leonid Tyagachyov as President of the Russian Olympic Committee (ROC).

Since Vancouver, Deputy Prime Minister Alexander Zhukov has been appointed as the new President of the ROC and warned Sochi's potential competitors for 2014 that they "must do everything it can to attain first place for Russia in the total medal table rankings".

Mutko has now come up with a plan that he hopes will help achieve that goal, including a series of new training centres around the country.

He said: "First of all, we have to solve the problem of [training facilities] for new winter sports disciplines, such as freestyle skiing, snowboarding, biathlon and skiing.

"We are now building such a centre in Toksovo [in northwestern Russia].

"We are also building a serious sports cluster in the Perm Territory [in the Urals] for the first time.

"There will be the whole range of ski jumping hills, including K-40, K-70, K-95 and K-120."

Mutko laid out his plans during a meeting with Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin (pictured) and added that with other facilities in the Urals also under construction, they will form "a powerful centre of ski jumping and Nordic combined."

Mutko also promised that the training centre at Novogorsk, near Moscow, would also be expanded, to include facilities for short track speed skating, figure skating, hockey and curling.

He said: "So, with [facilities in] the Ergaki mountain range in [Siberia's] Krasnoyarsk territory added, we will solve the problem of training facilities for winter disciplines in barely a year-and-a-half."

Mutko also revealed that he plans to establish a new aquatics centre at Lake Krugloye, also near Moscow, that will provide facilities for diving, synchronised swimming and water polo in the build-up to London 2012.

A centre attached to it will also be a training facility for fencing.

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