As the 2014 Winter Olympics came to a close on Sunday evening, there was room for a little humor. The dazzling performers, donning shiny silver costumes, poked fun at the technical glitch that occurred during the opening ceremonies when they formed themselves into four rings and a cluster. With jokes included, the stunning closing ceremonies wrapped up a full 17 days of excitement in Sochi. In what was the most expensive Olympics ever at $51 billion, Russia put together a fine performance, using the hometown boost to win both the gold and total medal count.
As a whole, the 2014 Winter Olympics was clustered with concerns. As mentioned in previous articles, Sochi had been characterized by poor or unfinished construction, leaving spectators and players in nearly unlivable conditions. In response, Twitter ran amok with the popular hashtag “#SochiProblems,” poking fun at the seemingly endless list of maladies in the town. Months of pro-LGBT protest challenged Vladimir Putin’s anti-gay restrictions that would quietly remain through the Olympics. The bathrooms helped fans get a little too close for comfort and stray dogs roamed the streets of Sochi. Despite these problems, the Olympics ran smoothly and featured exciting sporting events that showcased the world’s great talent.
The United States sent 230 athletes to Sochi in hopes of taking the gold medal count after falling five short in Vancouver. While the Americans performed marginally well in Sochi, they left many opportunities unfulfilled. If there was ever an event to characterize U.S. frustration during the Winter Olympics, it would be both the men’s and women’s ice hockey tournaments. The women breezed through the tournament to set up a gold-medal match against Canada, whom they had faced in four of the past five gold-medal games. The Americans built a two-goal lead with 3:26 remaining in the third period, looking to avenge their loss to the Canadians in the 2010 Vancouver Olympics. Unfortunately, a bad deflection and a late goal gave Canada the equalizer and sent the game into overtime, and Canada scored to land a fourth consecutive gold medal. After falling in the gold medal game last year, the U.S. women’s loss stings, especially losing in that fashion.
The men fared no better. Through group play, the American men established themselves as a top competitor, setting up a semifinal match against Canada. In a tightly competitive match that demonstrated the dazzling capabilities of goalies Carey Price (CAN) and Jonathan Quick (USA), Canada outlasted the U.S., 1-0. The game featured frustrating defense on the Canadian side, who stopped the fast-paced offensive attack of the Americans. The U.S., seemingly devastated by the loss, was unable to score a bronze-medal and was blown out by Finland, 5-0.
Snowboarder Shaun White was heavily favored to win the men’s snowboard halfpipe event, but fell on his final run and finished fourth. Speedskater Shani Davis failed to medal in the 1,000-meter event in which he was the two-time defending champion. In ski jumping, none of the US men advanced to the final.
While the United States had their fair share of defeats, they did put together an excellent campaign during the Winter Olympics, finishing with nine goal medals, just four shy of Russia’s 13. These Olympics served as the coming-out party for athletes to watch in the future. Slopestyle snowboarder Sage Kostenburg took home the U.S.’s first goal medal, 18-year old Mikaela Shiffrin took home the gold in slalom skiing and underdog Alex Deibold won bronze in men’s snowboard cross. It was additionally touching to see raw emotion from downhill skiier Bode Miller, who lost his brother, a fellow Olympics skiier, this past year. The 36-year old bronze medalist in Sochi broke down in tears during an interview on NBC.
The Winter Olympics brought dazzling competition to Sochi, Russia, a town that was deemed unfit to host an Olympic event. While there were troubles leading up to the Games, competition was fierce. Even the Ukranian athletes, whose fellow countrymen are engaging in violent protests against the government, remained to compete for their country. As the ceremonies drew to a close, Sochi passed the torch over to Pyeongchang, South Korea, where the 2018 Winter Olympics will be hosted. As the United States’ athletes head home, they will continue to train and prepare, hopeful for a finish in first in the gold medal count.
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