- Sochi 2014: Lara Gut hopes to avenge downhill disappointment in super-G
- Ennis breaks British record as Idowu & England shine in Hengelo
- Sochi 2014: ‘Mystery man’ Dale Begg-Smith has everyone guessing
- London 2012 Paralympics: Ellie Simmonds reflects on 4-medal haul
- NBA Global Games 2015 tickets: Milwaukee Bucks v New York Knicks
- Photo: Sir Ben Ainslie announces engagement to Georgie Thompson
Sochi 2014: Face of the Olympics? Meet hockey gladiator Alexander Ovechkin
Sochi 2014: Alexander Ovechkin leads Russia ice hockey stars into battle on Thursday with a $50 billion burden on his shoulders
As faces of the Olympics go, Alexander Ovechkin’s epitomises Russia: rugged, and one that’s taken a few hits over the years.
Sidney Crosby had that honour in 2010 and his laid-back, boy-next-door image was perfect for Vancouver. Cathy Freeman summed up Australia for Sydney 2000 – multicultural, patriotic and with a deep-seated passion for sport.
Crosby and Freeman, along with Jessica Ennis-Hill at London 2012, dealt with the weight of the nation on their shoulders well by winning gold in their sports in front of their home crowd.
Whoever hosts the Olympic Games probably has the most pressure and we are in the same position that Canada was in four years ago. But I am pretty sure we have the experience and we are old enough to handle that pressure
However Ovechkin’s career thus far has seen him play the bridesmaid on more occasions than he would care for.
At 28 years old, the Washington Capitals forward still has much of his career ahead of him, but in eight years playing in the NHL he is yet to appear in the Stanley Cup finals and has two disappointing Olympic campaigns to his name.
In 2006, at the tender age of 20, Ovechkin’s Russia finished fourth behind Sweden, Finland and the Czech Republic. Their star forward scored five goals in their eight games, but recorded no assists in the competition.
Four years later the Russians surprisingly exited at the quarter-finals stage to the eventual winners Canada, with Ovechkin scoring two goals and two assists in four games. He has been mocked on NHL fan forums ever since.
The NHL took an unprecedented mid-season break in 2010 to allow their athletes to compete in the Olympics, but with no such break guaranteed heading into the Sochi games, Ovechkin took matters into his own hands.
He publicly stated that he would breach his contract with the Capitals in order to compete. He didn’t care about the threats of fines and suspensions by the NHL, that is how badly he wanted to compete on home soil.
And after arriving in Russia on Monday Ovechkin was bullish about the Russian hopes on the ice, claiming that a gold medal in hockey would justify the Games’ vast price tag.
“It means gold only costs $50 billion,” he said.
“Whoever hosts the Olympic Games probably has the most pressure and we are in the same position that Canada was in four years ago. But I am pretty sure we have the experience and we are old enough to handle that pressure.
“I was very young when I took part in Turin, it was my first big tournament and a very significant one. Vancouver was a different story. Not only did I have a lot of pressure on me, there was pressure on all of us.
“When we lost to the Canadians it was a big blow to us, a big failure, a big blow to everyone in Russia.”
The Russians face off against Slovenia on Thursday, before they play the US on Saturday, whose team features Ovechkin’s Capitals teammate John Carlson.
With his face plastered around Russia on billboards and $50 billion resting squarely on his shoulders, Ovechkin will hope that the pressure does not get the better of him this time.
Samsung are a proud partner of Team GB and are supporting the Samsung Galaxy Team. To meet the team, see exclusive content and win amazing prizes, including once-in-a-lifetime winter sport training sessions with the Samsung Galaxy Team athletes, visit: www.samsung.com/uk/sochi2014◀ The Sport Review homepageNext story ►
- NBA Global Games tickets on sale Friday
- Ainslie announces engagement to Thompson
- Farah wins Great North Run and sets new personal best
- Johnson-Thompson vows to make up for lost time
- Devine hopes luck is about to change
Read more on...
NBA Global Games 2015 tickets: Milwaukee Bucks v New York Knicks4 weeks ago Olympics
Photo: Sir Ben Ainslie announces engagement to Georgie Thompson2 months ago Olympics
Mo Farah wins Great North Run in new personal best time3 months ago Olympics
Katarina Johnson-Thompson vows to make up for lost time3 months ago Olympics
Paralympic runner David Devine hopes luck is about to change3 months ago Olympics
Paralympic discus thrower Dan Greaves eyes Doha triumph after great 20143 months ago Olympics
Kirani James hails home fans after 400m win at Sainsbury’s Grand Prix3 months ago Olympics
Mo Farah breaks British record over two miles at Sainsbury’s Grand Prix3 months ago Olympics
Stunning seven medals for Britain on night two at Europeans3 months ago Olympics
Mo Farah makes history as GB end record-breaking Euros on high3 months ago Olympics
Greg Rutherford prepared to jump big at European Championships3 months ago Olympics
Lizzie Armitstead third at RideLondon Women’s Grand Prix4 months ago Olympics
Commonwealth Games 2014: Tom Daley storms to gold4 months ago Olympics
Commonwealth Games 2014: Purvis exceeded own expectations with gold4 months ago Olympics
Commonwealth Games 2014: Tom Daley thrilled with 10m synchro silver4 months ago Olympics
Commonwealth Games 2014: Dowsett uses anger to power to gold4 months ago Olympics
Commonwealth Games 2014: Williams targets Jamaica after 200m silver4 months ago Olympics
Commonwealth Games 2014: Max Whitlock leads home nation clean sweep4 months ago Olympics
Commonwealth Games 2014: Greg Rutherford thrilled with gold4 months ago Olympics
Commonwealth Games 2014: Proud follows Hasall’s golden lead4 months ago Olympics