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Russian Paralympians at Top With 38 Medals

Just weeks after Russia suffered its worst-ever Winter Olympics, its team trounced the competition at the Vancouver Winter Paralympics to nab 38 medals, including 12 golds.

The Russians won more medals than any other team but placed second in the number of golds, one short of Germany's 13. Germany won 24 medals overall.

"This was a good performance despite the fact that we lost one gold medal to Germany," said Alexander Porshnev, coach of Maria Iovleva, 20, a native of the Komi republic a gold in cross-country skiing and a gold and silver in sitting biathlon events.

Porshnev said the athletes could have done even better. "Some didn't use their full potential," he told The Moscow Times by phone Monday.

The triumphant finish at the nine-day games, which ended Sunday, was in stark contrast to Russia's humbling performance at the Vancouver Olympics in February, when its team placed 11th with only three golds among its 15 medals.

Canada placed third in the Paralympic Games, followed by Slovakia, Ukraine and the United States.

President Dmitry Medvedev will congratulate the medalists in the Kremlin on March 30, the Russian Paralympic Committee said in a statement on its web site Monday. The team will arrive at Moscow's Domodedovo Airport on Tuesday afternoon.

The government will hand out cash prizes to the medalists, including 100,000 euros ($137,000) for golds, 60,000 euros for silvers and 40,000 euros for bronzes.

The prize money promises to help the athletes live out their dreams in Russia, where disabled people are among the most marginalized members of society and where few public facilities are adapted to their needs.

Iovleva, who is deaf and paralyzed from the waist down, went to the games hoping to win enough money to buy her own apartment, her coach said. The 260,000 euros entitled to her for her three wins should easily cover the cost of an apartment in Komi.

Iovleva currently shares a room with 12 other women in a home for disabled people in Syktyvkar, Komi's capital.

In Vancouver, athletes competed for a total of 64 sets of medals in five sports, including alpine skiing, cross-country skiing, biathlon, wheelchair curling and ice sledge hockey.

More than 1,300 athletes from 44 countries, including 32 Russian athletes, attended the games.? 

The president of the Russian cross-country skiing federation resigned Monday after the country's Olympic flop in Vancouver, The Associated Press reported.

Vladimir Loginov becomes the third high-ranking sports official to depart, following Russian Olympic Committee president Leonid Tyagachyov and Deputy Sports Minister Gennady Alyoshin.

Editor's note: An earlier version of this story incorrectly said Maria Iovleva won only two medals.

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