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Posted on February 25, 2010 12:17 AM

Alex Ovechkin, Russia go out with a thud

Here's an update from Slava Malamud of Russia's Sport-Express:

The dominating performance of Team Canada in Wednesday night's quarterfinal against Russia provided perhaps one of the most anticlimactic moments of the Games. Not only did the expected Dream Final not manifest itself, even the Dream Quarterfinal turned out to be lopsided.

One of the bigger disappointments of this game was the performance of the Russians' top line with Evgeni Malkin centering Caps stars Alex Ovechkin and Alexander Semin. The line was working out so poorly that coach Slava Bykov switched Malkin for the 40-year-old Sergei Fedorov at times, recreating the "Washington Line" from the 2008 World Championships.

To add insult to injury (or, rather, vice versa), Ovechkin hurt his pinkie finger while trying to knock down the puck with his hand.

After the game almost all Russian players (with the exception of the two goalies and Pavel Datsyuk) stormed past the mixed zone without talking to any members of the media. Eventually, however, one of them emerged from the dressing room. To the reporters' relief, it was Ovechkin.

"No, nerves are not the issue," said Ovechkin when asked to explain his team's poor performance. "We are all adults, experienced players. Nerves cannot be a reason for losing at this point. We didn't play our hockey. The first five minutes knocked us off our game. They scored after in the first offensive rush they had and it was tough for us to stop them.

"We wanted to do the best we can, but it turned out as usual," Ovechkin added, quoting a famous phrase coined by a Russian politician.

"The will be a lot of dirt poured on us from the media and from people who don't know anything about hockey," he said. "But to the people who support and love us, I would like to say that we tried our best."

Concerning his injury, Ovechkin said that the puck hit his hand and pinched a nerve.He lost the feeling in his finger and had to leave the ice.

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Posted on February 22, 2010 9:28 AM

Fetisov on Ovechkin's skill, toughness

It was a who's-who-in-Russian-hockey Sunday night in Vancouver as the very top people in the hierarchy of the sport visited the Winter Olympics. I ran into two of them outside Bosco Bar, which is an offshoot of the famous Russia House (a Russian headquarters at the Olympics, known for its wild nightlife) in downtown Vancouver.

First, I chatted with Slava Fetisov, a Hall-of-Famer and a former star of the Soviet national team, CSKA Moscow, the New Jersey Devils and the Detroit Red Wings. Fetisov has coached Team Russia to the 2002 Olympic bronze and is also a former Russian minister of sport. He is currently serving in the Russian Senate, the Federation Council.

"[Alex] Ovechkin is currently the most dangerous player in the world," said Fetisov. "He is out forward, someone who has come through the Russian school of hockey, and he always says that he is a graduate of our game. But there has never been a player like him in my time. He is a unique forward! He had other players, of a different style, who were also tough to stop. But never anyone like him."

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Posted on February 21, 2010 9:23 PM

Alex Ovechkin's hit helps Russia win

Capitals star Alex Ovechkin set the tone early by flattening Jaromir Jagr to set up a goal by Evgeni Malkin as the Russians beat the Czech Republic, 4-2.

"I think every play is a big part of the game," Ovechkin said. "When you are trying to do something and play more physical, your team wakes up and will gain the momentum all the time."

Click here to read the full story by Slava Malamud.

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Posted on February 20, 2010 6:57 PM

Russia's new top line: Ovechkin, Malkin and Semin

Here's another hockey update from Sport-Express' Slava Malamud, who will be blogging for us throughout the Games:

Get ready for the Dream Line!

Saturday afternoon's Team Russia practice featured a switch-around in the top two lines, with Pavel Datsyuk moving to pivot Ilya Kovalchuk and Maxim Afinogenov. This means that Evgeni Malkin will take his place on the top line, setting up the long-anticipated partnership between the Penguins superstar and the Capitals' dynamic duo of Alexander Semin and Alex Ovechkin.

After the practice, Ovechkin commented on his new center.

"How do I like [playing with Malkin]? If we were to put you on the line with him, you would like it too," Ovechkin said with a smile. "I don't think it will be too different an experience [from Datsyuk], because all players on our team are good. It will probably have a bit more physical force. More speed. The most important thing is to play your own game, instead of trying to adapt to a linemate."

Ovechkin and Malkin have played on the same line at the 2005 World Championships, the 2006 Olympics in Turin and the 2006 World Championships. And then, of course, there was the All-Star Game's Gatorade-squirting, face-shield-wiping togetherness.

The superstar line will debut at 3 pm on Sunday against Jaromir Jagr and the Czech Republic.

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Posted on February 20, 2010 9:01 AM

Alex Ovechkin switches skates, Russia retools power play

Here's another hockey update from Sport-Express' Slava Malamud, who will be blogging for us throughout the Games:

Say goodbye to the Wild Sheep Skates! Maybe...

Alex Ovechkin, whose painted blades have been the talk of the Olympic hockey tournament, said after the Friday morning practice that due to some unspecified damage to one of them, he will go back to his old gear. Too bad. The new skates featured an image of a rabid sheep with a missing tooth. Ovechkin's last name is derived from the Russian word "ovechka", which means "little sheep," and his nickname among Russian teammates is and always has been "Ovtsa," or "sheep."

Unless the skates can be fixed quickly, we may not see this particularly bad-mannered farm animal on Ovie's feet any time soon.

So, it was less sheepishness but quite the usual amount of rabid at the Britannia Rink on Friday. The Russians finished up the practice with a shootout challenge, as all the players took turns trying to score on Semyon Varlamov. Ovechkin and the ex-Cap Viktor Kozlov were among the last to solve the young goaltender and Ovie was taking his misfortune pretty hard. In one episode, he had Varlamov beaten only to hit the goalpost, and this prompted Ovechkin to unleash an expletive-laden, screaming soliloquy which had his teammates laughing. His celebration after he finally scored was even louder.

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Posted on February 19, 2010 2:15 PM

Alex Ovechkin annoys announcers

Woke up this morning to find the Russia-Slovakia game being replayed on one of the many Canadian Olympic channels so I tried to catch a little as I got ready for another day.

During the game, Alex Ovechkin apparently broke a stick and went to the bench to replace it. He didn't like the sticks that were brought out so he went behind the bench to look for a new stick himself. The Canadian announcers were not pleased.

"I can't believe they are letting him get away with this," said one.

"The rules don't apply to him," said another.

Ouch. Canada, is of course, Sidney Crosby country, and the nation's hockey fanatics have set up this Olympic tournament as Ovechkin vs. Crosby. There is respect for Ovechkin but not a lot of affection. A meeting between the two teams will be very interesting.

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Posted on February 19, 2010 10:19 AM

Olympic hockey: Slovakia surprises Ovechkin, Russia

Here's a hockey update from Sport-Express' Slava Malamud on Slovakia's 2-1 shootout victory over Russia late Thursday night. Malamud will be blogging for us throughout the Games:

Slovakia's first surprise on Thursday came well before the game, at the Britannia Rink, used as the practice facility.

The Slovaks held their pregame skate with one more player than usual, as their general manager and ex-Cap great Peter Bondra donned full gear and practiced with the team.

This motivational ploy before the game with the tournament's favorite may not be so surprising when you consider that Bondra, at 42, would actually fit right in with his players. Exactly half of the Slovakian roster is on the wrong side of 30, making it the oldest squad at the Games. Still, this isn't what GMs normally do and it just underscored the closeness and camaraderie that the Slovaks have always been known for, as well as the loose and pressure-free attitude of Bondra's squad.

During the game, of course, it was a certain current Capital who was trying to apply the pressure on Slovaks, in the most physical sense of the word. Alex Ovechkin's hits on Lubos Bartecko, Pavol Demitra and especially the gigantic Zdeno Chara were of highlight quality.

"Ovechkin, Semin and Datsyuk are obviously the best players in the world," Chara said after the game. "It's challenging to play against those guys. But I loved [Ovehckin's hit]. We always battle hard. I was tired and was trying to get the puck out of our zone. I knew he was going to hit me, but I lost my balance and he put me down on the ice. That's what the best players do. We are good friends off the ice but on the ice we compete and go after each other."

"I am always determined to play hard," confirmed Ovechkin. "If there is a chance to hit, why not hit? What else was there to do? I had to fire up the team and I tried to do what I could."

Russia, which didn't have a power-play unit in the first game, this time assembled a team of all-stars for that purpose. With Ovechkin and Sergei Gonchar at the points, and Ilya Kovalchuk, Evgeni Malkin and Alexander Semin up front, this special team was quickly nicknamed the Super Five by Russian journalists. Unfortunately, the Supers were a complete bust, going 0 for 4 before Coach Bykov went back to using his regular line combos on the power play.

Ovechkin's other highlights came in the shootout, where he had three chances, scoring on one.

"The third attempt, I asked for it myself," Ovechkin said. "Actually, I had the goalie beaten but the puck just jumped on me. If it didn't, I would've scored. Malkin also had a jumping-puck problem."

Coach Bykov's explanation of Ovechkin's shootout workload was a bit different, though.

"It was our decision [to give him three attempts]," he said. "It was based on the fact that Ovechkin was one of the few players who battled hard."

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Posted on February 18, 2010 9:16 AM

Olympic hockey: Catching up with Tomas Fleischmann

Here's a hockey update from Sport-Express' Slava Malamud, who will be blogging for us throughout the Games:

For Caps fans, Olympic hockey is not all Russians, of course. Two other Washingtonians are playing at the Games as well, and both had their first taste of the sport's premier stage Wednesday.

I was able to catch up with Tomas Fleischmann after his Czechs defeated arch-rival Slovakia in a beautiful, open game that featured lots of scoring chances and a brilliant performance by a certain former Cap, whose first and last names both start with a J.

"I am having a lot of fun, especially after the win." Fleischmann said. "I am just happy to be on a team with such great players. You could see tonight, how Jagr was a difference between winning and losing. He scored the game-winning goal and had an assist on the third one. You watch guys like this every day and try to be like them."

"Of course, Sunday there will be a bit of a reunion for you, with the upcoming Russia game. What are your thoughts?"

"It's going to be very exciting playing against Ovie and Sasha, and the other guys, [former Caps] Kozzie and Feds [Viktor Kozlov and Sergei Fedorov]. But I am not scared of Russians. Never!"

"What about of Ovie?"

"Ovie is crazy, but I am crazier than him."

"You are?"

"Mmm, no, not really. But I have to be."

"He did say he would kill Backstrom if he has a chance. I am sure this threat would be applicable to you as well."

"Yeah, I remember him saying that. Hey, that's Ovie, it sounds like something he would say. But it's all great fun anyway."

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Posted on February 17, 2010 9:39 AM

Olympic hockey: Catching up with Mike Milbury, Peter Bondra, Alex Ovechkin

Here's a hockey update from Sport-Express' Slava Malamud, who will be blogging for us throughout the Games:

Lots of Washington's heroes and villains were on hand in Day One of the Olympic men's hockey tournament and I was able to catch up with one of each.

First, NBC's own Mike Milbury, made infamous among Capitals fans for his remarks during the recent Caps-Penguins game, agreed to clarify his thoughts on the Alex Ovechkin-Sidney Crosby rivalry.

"No, it's not true" that I have a preference, Milbury said. "I think both of them are unbelievable players. It's just that Crosby has the Stanley Cup and this is the difference. But Ovechkin has been working hard and it looks like his team may be headed there, too.

"Without a doubt, Ovechkin's approach to life is more fun-loving," than Crosby's, he added. "And his approach to hockey, too. He always has a smile on his face and he attracts people to himself. Crosby is a professional, he says all the diplomatic things. But you know what? Good for both of them. I know they make a lot of money, but I wouldn't want to be in their place and deal with what they have to deal with."

The former Caps great Peter Bondra, in his capacity as Slovakia's general manager, was overseeing his team's practice and seemed unable to stop talking about the Russians. Which is not surprising, considering that Bondra himself is Soviet-born, speaks fluent Russian and, according to some rumors, was once under consideration by coaches of the USSR national team despite living in Czechoslovakia (Bondra himself points out that he never stood a chance).

Bondra said that beating Russia in Vancouver is his team's "dream" and that he is pleased that his Caps scoring record will be broken by someone like Ovechkin. He also reminisced on the time he was Alexander Semin's roommate, back when the young Russian was just starting in Washington. Sasha's fun-loving ways apparently have a long history.

"I remember that he would always come in late, which was a little annoying," Bondra said. "I eventually told him that if he wants to keep doing that, he'll have to pay for his own hotel room."

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Posted on February 16, 2010 10:54 PM

Ovechkin sends support to Plushenko via text

The text message from Russian Olympic teammate and Washington Capitals star Alex Ovechkin came just minutes after Evgeni Plushenko had completed his short program on the opening night of the men's figure skating competition, showing the same brilliance he displayed in winning the Olympic gold four years ago.

About three hours before Ovechkin took the ice for Russia's opening hockey game, he wrote in Russian to Plushenko, "We are all holding hands and watching you right now."

After the skate, Plushenko said he hoped to watch Russia's hockey game, and said he had been hanging out with Ovechkin and other hockey stars. Plushenko's agent, Ari Zakarian, who translated the text message, said Plushenko had carried a jersey from Italian soccer star Alessandro Del Piero to the Games for Ovechkin. He watched the team practice Monday, he said.

"I'm very friendly with him," Plushenko said. "They are my friends."

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Posted on February 16, 2010 9:44 AM

Ovechkin, Semin, Datsyuk on top line for Russia

Here's another Caps update from Slava Malamud of Russia's Sport-Express:

The Russians were once again in the spotlight during the second day of hockey practice at the Canada Hockey Place. They took the ice wearing four sets of colored jerseys, indicating the current line assignments. Alex Ovechkin and Alexander Semin were on the "Black Line," with Pavel Datsyuk playing center.

After the practice, I asked Pavel about how he felt being placed between two such super-energetic teammates.

"Placed?" said Datsyuk in mock outrage. "I feel great about being with them."

"But what is your first impression about practicing with them?"

"My first impression? They were already running back as I was still trying to get [to the blue line]."

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Posted on February 16, 2010 9:12 AM

Alex Oveckin: We're not the favorites

Alex Ovechkin said Monday that Russia -- despite the presence of stars such as Evgeny Malkin, Pavel Datsyuk and Ilya Kovalchuk, as well as himself and Caps teammate Alexander Semin -- is not the team to beat in the men's tournament.

Russia, whose first game is Tuesday against Latvia, finished fourth in Turin and is looking for its first gold since 1992, when the Unified Team won gold in Albertville. The nation is hosting the next Winter Games in Sochi, so that provides pressure as well. Ovechkin said the Turin performance isn't important.

"It was a long time ago," he said. "We have a different coach and different players, and I think we have a good team. The most important thing is the result and to have a good feeling."

Canada is definitely a contender, and this hockey-mad country is hoping its beloved Sidney Crosby can bring home an Olympic medal.

"Every team is a dangerous opponent and it is going to be a pretty hard battle," Ovechkin said.

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Posted on February 15, 2010 7:32 AM

Alex Ovechkin, Russia hold first Olympic practice

Here's a hockey update from Sport-Express' Slava Malamud, who will be blogging for us throughout the Games:

Sunday was the Big Arrival day in Vancouver as the NHLers poured into the Olympic Village, and many of them held their first practices (the Canadians, quite notably, did not). The Caps' Russian contingent was on hand at Canada Hockey Place, where the roof was being raised with a vengeance. Which is not surprising, considering what kind of hotheads were assembled under it.

Alex Ovechkin and Alexander Semin skated together on the "black jersey line," while Semyon Varlamov was the only regular goaltender present, accompanied by two subs. At least, this was the case until well into the practice, when the Phoenix Coyotes' Ilya Bryzgalov joined the proceedings. With no place in goal for him, Bryzgalov, fully decked in goalie gear, took to playing defense in front of Varlamov, causing the young Capital no end of annoyance. Ovechkin wound up being the only player who managed to score on that particular exercise, beating both goalies with a low, glove-side wrister.

(This wouldn't remind anyone of a certain Sergei Fedorov commercial, would it?)

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Posted on February 13, 2010 7:51 PM

Yzerman: Russia, not Canada, is the favorite

Russia is the favorite for hockey gold, according to Steve Yzerman, the executive director for Canada's hockey team. Yzerman, trying to paint powerhouse Canada as an underdog, said during a news conference Saturday that it would be less of a stretch for Russia to come out on top.

"They're the No. 1-ranked team in the world," Yzerman said of the Russians, whose roster features Caps star Alex Ovechkin. "They're the favorite going into this tournament. We have to play our best, and with a little bit of luck the other countries can dethrone them."

"Do you think they'll have a parade in Moscow if the Russians win the silver medal? They won't," the former Detroit Red Wings star added. "The expectation in Russia is gold. The expectation in Sweden is gold. Whether they admit it or not, the USA is in this to win a gold medal."

And all of hockey-crazed Canada expects nothing less than gold. No pressure.

Read the full story here.

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Posted on February 11, 2010 12:15 PM

Ovechkin video makes us homesick

There are flat screen televisions all over the Main Press Center, which is our second home until Friday, at least. CTV is one of the chosen channels to play all the livelong day, and the network is airing a special called "Sid the Kid vs. Alexander the Great."

The sound is muted, and I've been in and out, so I haven't watched this from beginning to end. It appears to be an hour long -- although maybe that's just because it's played so often today -- and it contains some great footage of Ovechkin, from Russia, from the States, from all over the place. Here's Ovechkin's father, talking about the Russians' chances for gold: "They are all united like fingers in a fist."

Frankly, I wish someone would tune into the Caps-Habs game, now that I've seen this over and over. But no such look in this room. Although I noticed a volunteer in the main hallway had taken matters into his own hands and switched to the game.

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Posted on January 13, 2010 2:34 PM

Ovechkin fights -- almost

The Capitals' 7-4 loss at Tampa Bay on Jan. 12 was notable for a near-fight between Alex Ovechkin and the Lightning's Steve Downie. It was a near-fight because Ovechkin's teammate Matt Bradley skated in and took on Downie before Ovechkin could get entangled.

The Post's Tarik El-Bashir's had details of the Ovechkin-Downie incident on the Capitals Insider blog:

When Ovechkin and Downie came out of the [penalty] box, they quickly found each other and squared off again. It was the last thing Boudreau or the rest of the Caps wanted to see.
"The last thing you want to see is Alex fighting," Brian Pothier said. "I think Brads did a real heroic thing [by] stepping in. It's not that Ovie can't handle himself. We all know he's one of the strongest guys in the league, but we don't need him to be [fighting]."
Boudreau added: "You knew Matt would step in. The last thing we want is Alex fighting."

Dan Steinberg broke down the Ovechkin-Downie-Bradley confrontation with photos on the D.C. Sports Bog.

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Posted on January 11, 2010 12:23 PM

Ovechkin and the key to D.C.

Alex Ovechkin became the first Washington Capitals player to be named NHL MVP when he won the Hart Trophy following the 2008 season. D.C. Mayor Adrian Fenty gave Ovechkin a ceremonial key to the city in honor of the achievement.

Standing on the steps of the Wilson Building, home of the mayor's offices, Ovechkin addressed the crowd:

"It's a big honor to stand here today," Ovechkin told approximately 500 fans, who chanted "M-V-P" as the 22-year-old left wing stepped to the podium. "Thank you for your support. You are unbelievable, guys. I love you."
Then Ovechkin, who is known for his love of exotic sports cars, cracked: "Today is a big day; I have the key for the city. I am president this day in the city. For one day. So everybody have fun -- no speed limit."

Click here to view The Post's video from Ovechkin's ceremony with Mayor Fenty.

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Posted on January 2, 2010 2:43 PM

Ovechkin: D.C.'s most popular athlete?

Through his time in Washington, Alex Ovechkin has quickly become a favorite among Caps fans, but is he the most popular sports figure in the nation's capital? Washington Post blogger Dan Steinberg pondered that in his D.C. Sports Bog last August. Here's a portion of Steinberg's conversation about D.C.'s top athletes with a few Washington Redskins players:

So....top five most popular athletes?
"After me?" [Chris] Cooley asked.
"Probably Freddy Adu," [Clinton] Portis said.
"Freddy Adu?" Cooley repeated. "You're [extremely] crazy. Jason Campbell, Clinton Portis, Santana Moss..."
"I don't think so," Portis said. "I think Alana Beard. What's the dude's name from the Nationals?"
"Zimmerman," Cooley said.
"Zimmerman," Portis agreed. "Ovechkin. What is it, Simeon? Simeyon? Man, number 28 for the hockey team."
"Oh, Semin," I said.
"Yeah, Semin..." Portis continued.

For more, plus poll results, click here.

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Posted on January 2, 2010 10:04 AM

Ovechkin's mother was in the Olympics

Vancouver won't be Alex Ovechkin's first Olympics -- and it's hardly a novel thing for his family. Ovechkin led Russia to a fifth-place finish and was named to the all-tournament team in Turin in 2006, scoring a team-high five goals in eight games.

But another family member already has two Olympic golds -- his mother, Tatiana. She won them as a member of the Soviet Union's basketball team in 1976 and 1980. In a 2006 pre-Olympics profile by Barry Svrluga of The Post, Ovechkin said: "My mother, she is a great sportsman. She taught me so much. How to play. How to play hard. How to win."

Tatiana Ovechkin has the hardened look of the athlete she was, and she speaks brusquely and seemingly without emotion when asked about her own career, not to mention that of her son. "I am very proud of Alex," she said recently through an interpreter, but her eyes stared straight ahead as the words passed her lips, painted with bright red lipstick.
"They take their sports very, very seriously," McPhee said of the Ovechkin family.

For the full story, click here. Also check out the follow-up Barry wrote the day after Russia won a big matchup with Canada in the Turin quarterfinals.

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About Alex Ovechkin

Alex Ovechkin will don a different red jersey in February, shelving his Washington Capitals sweater in favor of that of his native Russia, which he will represent in the 2010 Vancouver Games. Ovechkin is one of 14 players from the National Hockey League on the Russian roster.

The Capitals selected Ovechkin first overall in the 2004 NHL Draft, and now he is arguably the game's best player, winning league MVP honors the past two seasons. He has led the Russian national team to two bronze medals (2005 and 2007) and a gold (2008) in world championship play.


 
Events

Preliminary Round

  • Feb. 17, 12 a.m.: Russia vs. Latvia
  • Feb. 19, 12 a.m.: Russia vs. Slovakia
  • Feb. 21, 3 p.m.: Russia vs. Czech Republic

Playoffs (12 teams qualify)

  • Feb. 23 -- Play-in games
  • Feb. 24 -- Quarterfinals
  • Feb. 26 -- Semifinals
  • Feb. 27 -- Bronze medal game, 10 p.m.
  • Feb. 28 -- Gold medal game, 3:15 p.m.
Multimedia
Alex Ovechkin
Ovechkin in action for the Russian national team
epic_vonn.jpg
Ovechkin picks his best highlight-reel goals
YouTube
A compilation of Ovechkin's top 10 goals, pre-2009.
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