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February 23, 2014 AT 10:45 AM
Russia's post-Soviet athletic decline hit bottom at the Vancouver Olympics, where the once dominant winter sporting nation left with only three gold medals and the daunting task of rebuilding its team in time to host the Sochi Games. Four years later, the Russians are back on top of the winter world. After a stunning podium sweep Sunday in the men's 50-kilometer cross-country race and another gold in the four-man bobsled, Russia finished the Winter Games with more total medals and more gold medals than anyone else. It was a worst-to-first rise that surprised even the most devoted Russian fans.