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Olympics: Italy gets 'could do better' report card

Azzurri go beyond Vancouver medals tally, but no golds in Sochi

24 February, 18:22
Olympics: Italy gets 'could do better' report card (By Paul Virgo).

(ANSA) - Rome, February 24 - Sports chiefs have given the Italian team's showing at the Sochi Winter Olympics a "could do better" report card.

Giovanni Malagò, the head of Italian Olympic Committee (CONI), set a minimum target of beating the five medals the Azzurri won at the Vancouver Games in 2010. This was achieved comfortably, with a finishing tally of eight.

On the down side, Italy did not pick up any gold medals at a Winter Olympics for the first time since the Lake Placid Games in 1980.

"We don't have a gold, like the one (Giuliano) Razzoli won (in (the slalom) in 2010 for various factors," said Malagò.

"But with eight medals we managed to hit our minimum target.

I'm satisfied but I'm not making do with this". Italy came 22nd in the Sochi medals table, but 12th in terms of the overall number of medals won.

The star of the Azzurri's Sochi team was short-track speed skater Arianna Fontana, who won two individual medals, bronze in the 1,500-metres and silver in the 500m, and helped Italy come third in the women's 3,000m relay event.

Skier Christof Innerhofer was close behind her with two medals - silver in the men's downhill and bronze in the super combined.

Veteran luge star Armin Zoeggeler, meanwhile, made history with his bronze medal.

That made him the first person to win medals in the same individual event at six different Olympics - summer or winter.

The 40-year-old, who, like Innerhofer, comes from the Alpine autonomous province of South Tyrol where the majority of people are German speakers, opened his account with bronze in Lillehammer, Norway, 20 years ago.

He went one better in Nagano, Japan, when he took silver in 1998, before winning back-to-back golds in Salt Lake City and Turin in 2006.

Zoeggeler, Italy's flag-carrier at the opening ceremony in Sochi, also won the bronze in 2010 at Vancouver.

Perhaps the most emotional of Italy's medals was the bronze Carolina Kostner took in the women's figure skating on Thursday.

2012 world champion Kostner, 27, came third behind Russia's Adelina Sotnikova, who won the gold, and defending champion Yuna Kim of South Korea.

It was the first taste of Olympic success for Kostner, one of Italy's most popular athletes, after five European titles and several world medals.

She flopped at Turin in 2006, where she finished ninth after going in as favourite, and placed 16th at Vancouver in 2010.

Italy's other medal was bronze in the biathlon mixed relay.

The Italian team of Dorothea Wierer, Karin Oberhofer, Dominik Windish and Lukas Hofer came behind gold medallists Norway and the Czech Republic.

Italy can take heart from the fact that they took a relatively young team to Sochi with many athletes who have more Games to look forward to.

The average age of Italy's medalists in Sochi was 25.81.

The Azzurri also managed to get around half of their 110 athletes into the final of their events.

A negative factor was the high number of athletes who finished just outside the podium in fourth place - eight. "There were sports in which we did well and others in which we didn't go beyond what had been forecast," said Malagò.

"If we do a good job, we get between 10 and 13 medals in four years time in South Korea (in Pyeongchang) and the distribution of the colours must be different. In short, three or four have to be gold".

Malagò said in some events Italy had pulled off miracles with just a handful of athletes, but stressed that CONI had to work with schools on promoting the practice of winter sports to broaden the base.

Another black spot on the Sochi record was bobsledder William Frullani's positive doping test. Frullani, a 34-year-old four-time Italian national decathlon champion, was ejected from the Olympic team after testing positive for the banned stimulant dimethylamylamine.

He reportedly said he took the substance by accident after buying a diet supplement that contained it on the Internet from the United States.

"It was a massive blow for everyone," said Malagò. "But the team was not to blame".