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Russian hockey squad must be mentally ready for Olympic challenge – Tretyak

February 12, 2014, 19:49 UTC+3 SOCHI
Legendary Russian goalkeeper said the level of competitiveness at this Olympics would be as high as never before
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Head coach Zinetula Bilyaletdinov (R background) instructs his players during a training session

Head coach Zinetula Bilyaletdinov (R background) instructs his players during a training session

SOCHI, February 12.  /ITAR-TASS/. The most important for the Russian ice hockey team at the 2014 Winter Olympics is to be mentally prepared for the tough competition, the head of the Russian Ice Hockey Federation said on Wednesday.

Day 5 of the Winter Olympics, which kicked off last Friday in Russia’s resort city of Sochi, will jumpstart the much anticipated men’s ice hockey competition with two Group C matches on Wednesday night.

Vladislav Tretyak, who was also a legendary Russian goalkeeper playing for the Soviet squad in early 1970s series of games against Canada, said the level of competitiveness at this Olympics would be as high as never before.

“It will be complicated to reach the final,” Tretyak said. “Let’s face the reality - at least six teams will fight for the final in Sochi. It will be a good result even to go through to the final. This is not the year 1980, when silver equalled to the loss.”

“Winning bronze medals is a norm. The competitiveness has increased in the world. Even Switzerland throws in surprises and no one will ever consider this team as a walk-through contender.”

Comparing the current Russian national team with the squad at the 2010 Olympics in Canada’s Vancouver, where the hosts creamed the Russians 7-3 in the quarterfinals, Tretyak said it has a number of advantages.

“Firstly, the team is playing at home. Secondly, it has the spirit and stable psychology, which it did not have four years ago playing against Canada,” Tretyak said adding that without such qualities “it is impossible to take the first place even if the squad packs ten Ovechkins and ten Datsyuks.”

The Russian team boasts this year a number of former and current NHL players, including Alexander Ovechkin (Washington Capitals), Pavel Datsyuk (Detroit Red Wings), Evgeni Malkin (Pittsburgh Penguins), Semyon Varlamov (Colorado Avalanche) and others.

“Sports always had the most important category, which cannot be measured in meters or kilograms, and it is the spirit,” Tretyak said.

The Russian hockey team has been placed in Group A along with teams from Slovakia, Slovenia and the United States and will play its opening game at the Sochi Olympics against Slovenia on February 13.

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