The dissolution of the U.S.S.R. in the early 1990s finally cooled things off by calming the political climate and fragmenting Russia's talent pool for sports.
Top athletes that might have represented the Soviet Union subsequently competed for Belarus, Latvia and Estonia, among other countries. The Russians were no longer sequestered.
They became free to compete around the world and visit American facilities to hone their skills.
"We do share training sites, we do share coaches," U.S. ice dancer Alex Shibutani said. "We get to know these people. It's first-name basis, it's not, 'Oh, the Russians.'"
Americans say they have benefited from exposure to Russia's pass-oriented style. Vladislav Tretiak, the legendary goalie, credits the Lake Placid loss for making his countrymen mentally stronger.
"In 1980, it was a good lesson that the Americans taught us," he said this week. "We did not have respect for competitors at that time, and that's why we lost. But we don't have that during this Olympics."
The once-icy relationship has thawed to such a degree that, earlier this week, the French publication L'Equipe quoted an unnamed source alleging that the U.S. and Russia were colluding to fix the figure-skating results in Sochi.
Olympic officials quickly dismissed the report as false.
Halfway through these Olympics, it seems that athletic camaraderie has trumped any rift that separates the two countries.
The hockey players insist that Saturday's game is all about sports and the sliders talk about spending months together on the World Cup circuit, staying in the same hotels and eating at the same restaurants.
The language barrier often gives way to shared interests in drinking beer and playing table tennis.
U.S. luge racer Erin Hamlin recently persuaded several Russian competitors to shimmy and lip sync in a campy video that she and teammate Kate Hansen made to Mariah Carey's "All I Want for Christmas Is You."
Hamlin has been competing alongside the Russian team since she was 15, a personal experience that outweighs any political history.
"I've basically grown up with them," she said. "It's a pretty cool relationship."