Russian figure skaters Maxim Trankov and Tatiana Volosozhar. (Getty Images)
Russia on Sunday finished the Sochi 2014 Olympics top of the medals table with 13 golds, a result few in the country would have dared predict.
On a glorious final day for the hosts, Russia's cross country skiers led by Alexander Legkov recorded a stunning clean sweep in the blue riband 50km mass start while Alexander Zubkov piloted Russia to gold in the four-man bobsleigh. Its total of 13 gold, 11 silver and nine bronze represented an astonishing turnaround from the debacle of Vancouver 2010, where Russia took just three gold in a huge blow to its prestige.
Some cynics may point out that five of the Sochi gold medals came from two naturalised athletes —South Korean-born short track speed skater Victor Ahn and US-born snowboarder Vic Wild — who do not yet even speak fluent Russian.
But that will be of little concern to relieved Russian officials breathing a huge sigh of relief in the face of immense public and media pressure for success.
"It's hard to plan medals," said sports minister Vitaly Mutko. "We had worked out that according to the results of the (2013/2014) winter season we were fourth or fifth in the world."
Russia's success won praise Sunday from International Olympic Committee president Thomas Bach, who said the Russians were well aware that a result comparable to Vancouver would not do at a home Games.
"It is remarkable the progress they have made," he said.