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MOSCOW, February 27 (R-Sport) – With the world hockey championships only two months away, the fate of Russia national team coach Zinetula Bilyaletdinov remains in the balance.
The 58-year-old shouldered the blame for the host nation's humiliating elimination from the Sochi Olympics earlier this month, when a team packed with NHL talent went down 3-1 to Finland in the quarterfinals.
Bilyaletdinov's contract expires Saturday, and if he wants a new one he'll have to convince the Russian Hockey Federation that he is the top candidate at an executive committee hearing next Wednesday.
Time is of the essence with the world championships running May 9-23 in Minsk, the capital of neighboring Belarus.
"Whether or not he works through the world championships will be decided at the executive committee meeting," the federation's executive director Valery Fesyuk told R-Sport on Thursday.
No other candidates have put their name forward publicly, but speculation has grown in the Russian media that former coaches Igor Zakharkin or Vyacheslav Bykov may be in line for a return.
Bilyaletdinov took over from Bykov in 2012 and immediately won that year's world championships, but struggled at the two major tournaments since then, finishing sixth at the 2013 worlds and fifth in Sochi.
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The main event of the third day of the 11th meeting of the Valdai International Discussion Club in Sochi was the closing session with President Vladimir Putin. The atmosphere was calm and open, despite the current political tensions and the Russia-West confrontation. The Russian president said that it corresponded to the spirit of the Valdai Club.