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Athletes from Russia for the first time performed at the Olympic Games in London in 1908. Three of the five grabbed medals: Nikolai Panin-Kolomenkin won the gold in figure skating and two Greco-Roman wrestlers, lightweight Nikolai Orlov and heavyweight Andrei Petrov, became silver medalists.
The USSR, which emerged on the political map of the world in 1922, remained absent from the world Olympic movement for quite a while. Soviet athletes made their first appearance in the Helsinki Olympics in 1952. The 295-member Soviet team then placed second in the unofficial overall standing. In 1956 the USSR’s 53 athletes made their debut at the Winter Olympics in Cortina d’Ampezzo (Italy) to have placed first.
In 1980 the USSR hosted the Summer Olympics in Moscow, boycotted by most Western countries. In Moscow, the Soviet team was number one in the overall standing to have won the greatest number of golds in its history – 80. In 1984 the Soviet athletes missed the Los Angeles Olympics as most Soviet bloc countries boycotted the Games.
The Soviet team’s main contender in all summer Olympics was the US, and in winter Olympics, Norway and the GDR. The USSR garnered record numbers of medals more often than any other nation. In 1952-1988 Soviet athletes won a total of 1,204 medals, including 473 golds, to place first in six of the nine summer Olympics and in seven of the nine winter Olympics. In 1992, after the breakup of the USSR athletes from the CIS countries, including Russia, participated in the Barcelona Summer Olympics and Winter Olympics in Alberville under the Olympic flag. The award ceremonies were accompanied by the Olympic anthem.
New Russia’s team for the first time appeared at the Games under the national flag in 1994, when the Winter Olympics were held in Lillehammer, Norway. Russia then won eleven golds, more than any other team. In all consecutive winter Olympics Russia’s athletes have never risen above third place (third line in 1998, fifth in 2002, fourth in 2006, and eleventh in 2010).
At the Sochi Olympics Russia will have the youngest team in recent history, with the average age of its athletes slightly above 22 years. Also, it will be the largest ever, including the Soviet period’ teams – 225 athletes.