Sports

A CLASH TO SAVOUR

USA v RUSSIA

The US and Russia continue their quest for Olympic hockey gold with a preliminary-round game tonight and, while it won't match the drama of the "Miracle On Ice", it will be one of Sochi's most watched contests.

Russia's national hockey team are seeking to win their first gold medal since the 1992 Albertville Games, while the Americans are hoping for their first gold since the stunning victory at the Lake Placid Olympics in 1980.

"That was absolutely incredible," said Ray Shero, who is the acting general manager of the US hockey team at the Sochi Games.

"They played two weeks earlier in New York at Madison Square Garden and the Soviets won and it wasn't even close. To think they had any opportunity to even get to that point to play the Soviets in a meaningful game in the Olympics was hard to imagine."

UPSET

At the 1980 Olympics, an underdog American team, coached by Herb Brooks and consisting of mainly college players, posted one of the biggest upsets of all time by beating what was then the Soviet Union, who had won almost every world championship and Olympics since 1964.

The US went on to claim the gold medal by beating Finland in their final match of the tournament, while the Soviets collected the silver.

In 1999, Sports Illustrated named the "Miracle on Ice" as the top sports moment of the 20th Century.

A Hollywood movie, called "Miracle", came out in 2004.

The Americans took advantage of Soviet coach Viktor Tikhonov's bizarre decision to pull the "greatest goaltender in the world" Vladislav Tretiak early in the game and replace him with an untested back-up, which then led to US forward Mike Eruzione scoring the winning goal for a 4-3 victory.

At the time, the Soviet Union and American teams were also natural rivals because of the Cold War.

American Olympic team defenceman Ryan Suter's father, Bob, was a member of the 1980 team.

Suter says when he was in elementary school, he was a big hit with his classmates because he would bring his dad's Olympic medal to show-and-tell.

"My teachers would want me to bring the gold medal in," Suter said.

Suter, who plays in the National Hockey League for the Minnesota Wild, says his dad rarely speaks about the 1980 Olympic win.

"I learnt about it through my teachers," he revealed.

"I ask him about the movie "Miracle" and he says 'it was a great tribute to (coach) Herb Brooks'.

"He always changes the subject and he starts talking to me about my kids or about the game we played the other night. He is very proud of it. He is just a quiet humble guy."

Three-time Olympic gold medallist Tretiak isn't shy about discussing that day. He says the shock defeat taught the Soviets a valuable "lesson".

"In 1980 it was a good lesson for us," said Tretiak.

"It taught us you have to respect your opponents. We did not have respect for the Americans at the time."

The Soviets eased the pain by winning gold four years later in the Sarajevo Olympics with Tretiak, who lit the cauldron at the Sochi opening ceremony, saying it helped them rectify the mistake of 1980.

Since 1980, the US and Russia have met five times, with the Americans winning just once and one match ending in a tie.

- AFP.

WINTER OLYMPICS