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MacLeod: Russian hockey coach challenges media to 'eat me alive'

A Russia fan talks on his mobile phone as he leave the area after Russia's 3-1 loss to Finland

David J. Phillip/Associated Press

Canada's millionaire hockey players defeated plucky Latvia 2-1 and Canadian hockey fans heaved a big sign of relief from coast to coast.

Canada is now into the semi-finals in men's play at the Winter Olympics without Sidney Crosby not having scored a goal. Discuss amongst yourselves.

The upstart Latvians were even with the powerful Canadians heading into the third period and Crosby, the hero from the gold-medal winning squad at the 2010 Olympics, had a pretty good idea how hockey fans back home were feeling.

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"Probably a little tense; a lot of people screaming at the TV, I'm sure," Crosby said after Canada pulled out the 2-1 heart-stopper over the unheralded Latvians.

A loss to Latvia likely would have sparked calls for a national inquiry into the state of the game in Canada, but Shea Weber spared us all that – at least for now – when he blasted a slapshot past Kristers Gudlevskis, Latvia's puck-eating goaltender, with about seven minutes left in the third period that proved to be the winning goal.

So Canada was spared a humbling loss and coach Rob Babcock was able to avoid terse questioning from the media hoards about what went wrong.

Such a luxury was not afforded to Zinetula Bilyaletdinov, the beleaguered coach of the Russian team that was under heavy pressure to bring home a gold medal on home soil.

That can't happen now after Finland stopped Russia 3-1 and Bilyaletdinov had to face intense questioning afterward  from his media countrymen.

"Is this a catastrophe?" came one query.

"This has certainly been an unsuccessful appearance," Bilyaletdinov responded. "Call it what you will."

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After that, the press conference slid downhill faster than a German luger with Bilyaletdinov going on to tell the media to "eat me alive".

Not that Bilyaletdinov was ready to accept all of the blame for the early Russian exit from the hockey tournament.

Bilyaletdinov also found time to share some of the blame with Alex Ovechkin, the NHL's leading goal scorer who managed to find the twine just once in five games for Russia.

"Tough to explain the loss, of course, why scored so little," Bilyaletdinov said through an interpreter. "Players who score so many goals for their clubs, like Alex Ovechkin who scored 40 goals for his club [didn't score]… Right now I cannot explain that."

Neither could Ovechkin himself when asked what happened to Russia.

Russian television struggled to put the Russian hockey setback in perspective with one broadcaster intoning: "Dear friends, life has not come to an end, but this is a severe and annoying defeat."

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Here is a photo gallery, courtesy of the Washington Post, to how the hockey world reacted to the Russian loss.

The Winter Olympics is not just for the young but also for the young at heart.

At age 40, Norway's Ole Einar Bjoernadalen has proven that as he became the most decorated Winter Olympian of all time when he won his 13th medal in the biathlon.

Bjoernadalen was a member of his country's mixed relay squad that earned the gold medal, his second of the Winter Olympics after winning the men's sprint event on Saturday.

And Bjoernadalen could earn a 14th medal on Saturday in the men's relay.

Bjoernadalen's nickname is "Cannibal" for his hunger to win.

If you have been glued to your television the past couple of weeks taking in all the Olympic action, you're in good company.

The International Olympic Committee is boasting that television viewing figures for the Sochi Winter Olympics are hitting historic marks.

An IOC spokesman said that 464 television channels world-wide are showing coverage of the Games, compared to just 240 four years ago in Vancouver.

In Canada, 90 per cent of population has watched some coverage of the event

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