By Duncan Mackay in Vancouver

February 24 - Pressure is growing on Leonid Tyagachev, the President of Russia's Olympic Committee (ROC), after they saw another gold medal pressure slip from their grasp here today when they  lost  in the quarter-finals of the ice hockey tournament to Canada.

Russia, one of the favourites for the title, were humiliated by a rampant home team desperate to atone for their shock defeat to the United States on Sunday.

They were beaten 7-3 by the host nation and are now facing up to the prospect of their worst-ever performance in the Winter Olympics.

With only four days left of competition here Russia are only 10th in the medals table with a total of 13 medals, just three of which are gold, fuelling fears that Russia will be embarrassed when it hosts the Winter Olympics for the first time in Sochi in four years time.

Parliament Speaker Boris Gryzlov, a leader of Prime Minister Vladimir Putin's United Russia party, said anything less than a fourth-place finish in the final standings "would be a failure for those who are responsible for sports in our country" and could lead to their dismissal.

Russia, that made its debut as a separate country at the 1994 Olympics in Lillehammer following the break-up of the Soviet Union, has never previously finished lower than fifth in the medals table.

Its had been hoping to surpass its best-ever performance in the Winter Olympics - achieved in Lillehammer - when it won 23 medals, 11 of which were gold.

Tyagachev, formerly the head coach of the Soviet Union's ski team who has been President of the ROC since 2001, is coming under increasing fire back home for him to step down amid claims he is to blame the team's poor results.

The subject is sure to be near the top of the agenda when Russian President Dmitry Medvedev arrives here later this week to attend the Closing Ceremony when the Olympic flag will be officially handed over to Sochi.

Former skater Irina Rodnina, winner of three consecutive Olympic gold medals in pairs, has led the criticism of Tyagachev and other officials.

She said: "Tyagachev was in charge of spending the budget funding for the preparation of our Olympic team for the Games.

"And he is personally responsible for every rouble and every dollar from the country's budget."

"The entire country was shocked with our athletes performances [at the] Games and, I believe, we have the right to ask him [Tyagachev] to give an account on all of the ROC expenses in the recent years."

Russia's decline as a winter sports superpower is best illustrated in figure skating where they are set to leave these Games with only two medals, Yevgeny Plushenko's silver in the men's event and Oksana Domnina and Maxim Shabalin's (pictured) bronze in ice dance.

It would be the first time since the 1964 Olympics in Innsbruck that a Russian or Soviet skater has failed to win a gold medal.

Rodina blamed Valentin Piseyev, the President of the Russian Skating Federation.

She said: "I consider Piseyev to be personally responsible for our failure in figure skating at Vancouver.

"The national federation's top officials shouldn't sit pompously at the stands during the competitions but should contact their colleagues, referees, to form relations with them and to be a part of the international federation's life.

"But serious people in the figure skating world do not want to deal with him.

"They have no respect for him.

"Piseyev should resign after the disaster in Vancouver but I do not believe in miracles.

"I hope that the federation will elect somebody else for the post at its special meeting later this year.

"We need a fresh and unbiased person in the post.

"And the new federation head should rather be a highly-skilled manager than a figure skating specialist."

Contact the writer of this story at [email protected] 

Related stories
February 2010:
 Putin tells Plushenko that he is worth gold as Russian anger grows
February 2010: Fear suspicions over drugs affecting Russian team in Vancouver
February 2010: Russian dopes could ruin Sochi 2014 warns Bach
February 2010: Russian is first athlete to test positive at Vancouver Olympics
February 2010: Russian team in Vancouver will be clean promises anti-doping chief