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Russia's success in Sochi Olympics is imported

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Host federation's poached foreign-born athletes win medals at Winter Games

Sochi: After years of making little impact on Russia's sporting fortunes, foreign-born athletes poached from abroad are finally making an impact at the Winter Olympics. Russia has been much criticised at the Sochi Games as several athletes who were born or brought up in Russia won gold for other countries.

Russia's Short Track 1000m gold medalist Victor An (right) and silver medalist Vladimir Grigorev in Sochi. An was born in Korea & Grigorev in Ukraine
Russia's Short Track 1000m gold medalist Victor An (right) and silver medalist Vladimir Grigorev in Sochi. An was born in Korea & Grigorev in Ukraine 

But the reverse has also come true in the last few days where a South Korean-born short track skater won a historic gold for Russia, a Ukrainian-born pairs skater won double gold and another Ukrainian-born short track skater win silver.

Such athletes from abroad, who take Russian nationality are known in Russian as 'legioneri' (legionnaires), a reference to the French Foreign Legion of soldiers hired from abroad.

After the disaster of the Vancouver 2010 Winter Games where Russia won just three golds, Russia's sports bosses wanted to win more.

In the boldest move, short track speed skater formerly known Ahn Hyun-Soo, who won three golds for South Korea in 2006, was granted Russian citizenship in 2011 and immediately became Russia's No 1 short track star.

Under his new name, Victor Ahn won gold in the 1,000m in Sochi to follow his bronze in the 1,500m. He was followed across the line by teammate Vladimir Grigorev, another "legionnaire," who was born in Ukraine.

"Should we really be happy (for their victory)?" asked the Sovietsky Sport daily. "Where are our guys?" Another non-Russia born winner is Ukraine-born Tatiana Volosozhar, who won team gold with her partner Maxim Trankov and then a sensational gold in the pairs competition itself.

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