Sheets of paper rained down like super-sized confetti on the bench, which players leapt off at full speed to pile on top of goaltender Harri Sateri with such force that they knocked the net off its moorings.
After finally accomplishing what so many Finland teams before were unable to do, there was plenty of strength to go around. Finland, known as Suomi in Finnish, is now synonymous with gold.
The Finns knocked off the favored Russians 2-1 Sunday to win the men’s hockey tournament without NHL players at the Beijing Games, capturing an Olympic gold medal for the first time in the nation’s history.
“We got what we came here for,” Finland defenseman Sami Vatanen said. “We battled hard, and we got the first Olympic gold medal in Finnish ice hockey history. It’s something something special, and nobody can ever take it away from us.”
Finland had never won at the Olympics on the men’s or women’s side. It last reached the final in 2006 and lost to Sweden, matching the silver from 1988.
The defending champion Russians had to settle for silver instead of going back to back.“Life doesn’t end with this,” coach Alexei Zhamnov told Russian TV. “There’s still a lot of competitions ahead of us.”
After winning gold in 2018 as the Olympic Athletes from Russia, the Russians competed this time as ROC, short for Russian Olympic Committee. The ROC and OAR names were the result of sanctions for doping and cover-ups across multiple Olympic sports.
The tournament unfolded in the shadow of another Russian doping saga, this time involving 15-year-old figure skater Kamila Valieva. Word emerged after the Russian team won gold that Valieva tested positive for a banned substance in December. She was allowed to skate in the individual event, finishing a disappointing fourth.
Players and coaches from the Russian hockey team and others at the rink faced questions about the scandal and the IOC’s ruling not to hold a medal ceremony if she finished on the podium.
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