Sochi, Russia (MunichNOW News/dpa) – Germany’s Winter Olympics team is leaving the games with a disappointing medals haul and the blot of a positive doping test on a leading athlete.
Germany, who lead the all-time Winter Olympics medal standings, had at least hoped to match the 30 medals won four years ago in Vancouver. More optimistic talk before the Games was of a much bigger tally.
But that target became more distant the longer the Games went on.
Sochi 2014 for the German team has been largely a tale of near misses and mishaps, and has ended with the nightmare of a failed doping test for two-time Olympic gold medallist Eva Sachenbacher-Stehle.
“This Olympic Games was very emotional for us and I would not say it was a big success,” team chief Michael Vesper said Saturday.
Germany reached 19 medals (8 gold, 6 silver, 5 bronze) at the start of the penultimate day, leaving them sixth in the standings behind Russia, Norway, Canada, the United States and the Netherlands.
There have been some notable successes, but considering that half of the eight golds came from the luge team which swept all four golds, the overall picture is negative.
Among the flops, the speed skaters failed to get a medal for the first time in 50 years, the biathlon team was left trailing and the bobsleigh team is also without any silverware going into the concluding four-man event.
Big alpine ski medal hope Felix Neureuther appeared to epitomise the bad luck when he crashed his car in Germany on the way to the Games. He recovered to take part in the giant slalom, finishing eighth, but went out of the slalom Saturday when he hit a gate in the second run.
A team win in ski jumping, victory for Carina Vogt in the inaugural women’s ski jumping and three alpine ski medals including a gold for Maria Hoefl-Riesch were also among the happier moments for the team and the traditionally large television viewing audience back home.
Saturday also saw a biathlon men’s relay silver and a silver and bronze in snowboarding but no victories.
The positive doping test on Sachenbacher-Stehle, which has led to her fourth place in the 12.5km biathlon mass start and the fourth for the mixed relay team being annulled, was a new low point as the Games went into its last day.
The case is a particular blow for German sports officials who had insisted their athletes would be clean and have always welcomed more stringent doping controls as a way of levelling the playing fields – the implication being that cheating goes on elsewhere.
Officials have also not escaped criticism for the athletes’ performances and for being over confident in their forecasts ahead of the Games.
But Vesper said: “The goals set were correct, they were not unrealistic. We had a chance to reach them but failed to do so. We hoped to have 27 medals but failed to do so. We still have big potential within our team.”
German Olympic Sports Association DOSN sports director Berhnard Schwank said the team did not match expectations and could have done better.
“We need to apply new methods of training and new coaching staff, and enhance the cooperation between the national sports union and international federations,” he said.
Alfons Hoermann, the DOSB president, has said there would be an internal analysis of the results after the Games. He has also been trying to put a positive spin on the two weeks of competition, saying success should not only be measured by medals.
A lot of athletes will come away with positive experiences of Sochi. “We will return with many happy faces,” he said.