1. USA Hockey Disappointment
Only two weeks ago, optimism was high for the United States Men’s Hockey team. During the group stage, in an instant classic, the United States defeated the Russians on home ice in a penalty shootout. American T.J. Oshie, chosen for the squad largely for his shootout prowess, converted four out of six of his attempts including the game-winner between the legs of Russian goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky. The Americans went in confident for their quarterfinal matchup, where they defeated the Czech Republic in a 5-2 blowout. A semifinal matchup with Canada loomed – the same team who defeated the USA in the gold medal game in Vancouver four years ago.
In what was expected to be a goal-fest, the Americans were stifled by the Canadian defense. A Canadian goal by Jamie Benn in the second period proved to be the difference, knocking USA to the bronze medal game against Finland the following day. Unfortunately, the Americans looked completely disinterested and still hung-over from their loss the previous day. The Fins trounced the United States 5-0, which left the Americans without a medal. Aside from the win versus Russia, the American hockey campaign in Sochi will be remembered as an overall disappointment.
2. The Bode Miller Interview Disaster
Skier Bode Miller was one of the most well known American Olympians heading into the Sochi Games. What a lot of the public did not know was that Miller’s brother, Chelone, passed away after suffering a seizure last year. That was until NBC reporter Christin Cooper hounded Miller after the American tied for bronze in the Men’s Super-G. Miller expressed at the beginning of the interview that he had “a lot of emotion riding” during the race. That prompted Cooper to ask, “Bode, you’re showing so much emotion down here, what’s going through your mind?”
It was a fair question, but at that point, Bode had a hard time coming up with an answer of more than a few words. Cooper then directly brought up Bode’s brother by asking if the skiing performance was for him. Miller, now at a loss for words, began to break down on primetime television for the entire world to witness. It was time for Cooper to stop, but she made it overkill by asking, “What’s going on there?” To top it off, NBC kept the camera on Miller for another minute as he broke down by himself on his knees. The whole situation demonstrated that Cooper and NBC lacked the sensitivity to know when enough was enough.
3. USA Tears Up Inaugural Slopestyle Events
The Sochi Games started off with a bang for the Americans on the first day after the Opening Ceremony. American snowboarder Sage Kotsenburg won America’s first gold medal in Sochi by winning the slopestyle event in surprising fashion. Kotsenburg was not projected to even medal in the event, but he pulled off a “1620 Japan Air Mute Grab,” which requires the rider to spin in the air four times while arching the back. After winning the gold, Kotsenburg admitted, “I had never ever tried that trick before in my life.” But the American dominance in Slopestyle did not end there. The following night, snowboarder Jamie Anderson won gold in the women’s competition.
Later in the week it was time for skiing, where Devin Logan grabbed the silver medal in the Women’s Skiing Slopestyle. Two nights later, Joss Christensen, Gus Kenworthy, and Nick Goepper made it a red, white, and blue podium in Men’s Skiing Slopestyle. It was only the third time in Winter Games history that the Americans have swept the podium. In total, the Americans won six of 12 medals in slopestyle, which was making its inaugural debut in the Olympics. Many American viewers consider the Sochi Games as an overall disappointment for American athletes. Thankfully the success of Americans in slopestyle events kept the United States near the top of the medal count throughout the Sochi Games.
4. Ole Einar Bjoerndalen Becomes Most Medaled Olympian in Winter Olympics History
At age 40, Bjoerndalen won his 12th and 13th Biathlon medals to become the most decorated Winter Olympian of all time. Of “The King of Biathlon’s” 13 medals, eight have been gold. The Norwegian competed in six different Olympics over the span of his career, starting in 1994. Perhaps more impressively, he has won 39 medals at the World Biathlon Championships, which are held every year.
5. Dutch Orange Dominates Speed Skating
The Netherlands managed to finish fifth on the Olympic medal table almost exclusively off of their Speed Skating performance, where they won 23 total medals out of a possible 36, while no other country won more than three. The Dutch, with their bright orange uniforms, made Adler Arena their own, setting four Olympic records and sweeping four of the twelve Olympic events.
6. Dominican Republic Nordic Skiers
The Dominican Republic had its first two winter Olympians in Sochi. Sound great, right? Gary and Angelica di Silvestri, hailing from the U.S and Italy, managed to buy Dominican citizenship and then were able to head to the Games because of Dominica’s quota allocation. In Sochi, Angelica, age 48, mysteriously withdrew from the 10km, having “broken her nose” in training, and husband Gary, 47, dropped out of the 15-kilometer classic race less than 5-kilometers into it.
7. Canada’s Women’s Hockey Comeback
The United States Women’s Hockey team found themselves on the wrong side of one of the most exciting Gold Medal Games in Olympic history, as Canada scored twice in the final four minutes of the third period to send it into overtime, where they would go on to score the winning goal eight minutes later. The Americans came agonizingly close to putting the game away, hitting the post with an empty Canadian net with just over a minute to play in regulation. The Canadians have now won gold at the previous four Olympics, with the US taking silver in three of those.
8. Minnesota: Second-Most U.S. Olympians
Minnesota sent 19 Olympians to Sochi, tied for the second-highest state total, behind California’s 20. Eighty percent of Team USA’s ninth-place Men’s Curling team called Minnesota home. Meanwhile, of the 25 Men’s Hockey players wearing red, white and blue, 10 had Minnesota connections: Zach Parise and Ryan Suter of the Minnesota Wild; former Mankato State forward David Backes; former Minnesota-Duluth defenseman Justin Faulk; former Gophers Phil Kessel, Paul Martin and Blake Wheeler; and Minnesota natives Ryan McDonagh (St. Paul), T.J. Oshie (Warroad) and Derek Stepan (Hastings). Parise and Suter’s Wild teammates Mikael Granlund (Finland) and Nino Niederreiter (Switzerland) led their teams to a bronze medal and the qualifying round, respectively. U.S. Cross Country skier Jessie Diggins posted the top individual placement for a Minnesota native, finishing eighth in the 15-kilometer Skiathon.
9. Wadsworth to the Rescue
Despite a disappointing Olympics for the Canadian skiers, Canadian Cross Country Ski coach Justin Wadsworth provided one of the Games’ most feel-good stories. Wadsworth was standing on the sidelines watching the Men’s Cross Country Sprint semifinals when he noticed Russian rival Anton Gafarov struggling down a hill, three minutes behind the lead pack. Gafarov had crashed earlier in the race, wrecking his left ski, making it painful to continue. In a true act of sportsmanship, Wadsworth rushed over with an extra ski, which he switched out like a NASCAR crew chief, allowing Gafarov to finish with dignity.
10. Women’s Curling
That sport that everyone makes a hilarious joke about it being a novel made a resurgent return in 2014. The gold medal winning Canadians set the closest thing to an Olympic Record there is in team sports, becoming the first team ever to go undefeated in the tournament. Watching the stone slide down the ice during a crucial moment is far more suspenseful than anyone would like to admit. In addition, the supreme slowness with which this unfolds places curling among the Olympic’s spine-tingling events.
11. German Luge Continues Reign
The Germans took home the gold medal in every single luge event: Men’s and Women’s Individual, Doubles and the Team Relay. My unseasoned reaction to luge starts at, “Wow he/she’s going fast” and quickly progresses to, “I’m scared and need to look away.” Despite my novice fanship, a sweep of gold medals is a feat in any sport. Plus, kudos to luge for having coed events. It is good to see some social progress in an Olympics otherwise eschewing such conversations.
12. New York Times’ Firehose
The live stream of photos direct from the Times photographers in Sochi blasted out approximately 14,000 photos a day throughout the Games. Each photo flashed for only a few seconds and none carried captions, so the viewer was often left guessing on the specifics, but the visuals were simply stunning— it was an all-access pass to every event as they happened. For most major sporting events a select few pictures are splashed across front pages, but this project opened the floodgates to share a wealth of beautiful frames.
13. Women’s Ski Jumping — FINALLY!
After being controversially shut out of the Vancouver Games four years ago, the women ski jumpers of the world finally got the chance to fly. Men’s Ski Jumping has been an Olympic sport since the 1924 Games in Chamonix Mont-Blanc, but it took almost 90 years for the women’s event to be accepted, which is remarkable because there is relatively little difference between the abilities of each sex. Carina Vogt of Germany won the inaugural event in the Women’s Normal Hill with a final score of 247.4, a mix of style points and the length of two jumps. While the Americans were shut out of the medals, they considered it a win just to be finally jumping in the Olympics.
14. Kate Hansen
This American luger knows how to have fun. Videos of her Beyonce-fueled warm-up dancing drew cheers from most everyone except one NBC commentator who wished she’d do something more “sports specific.” But Hansen stuck with her Queen B, dancing all the way to a top ten finish. Plus she even dance-blessed teammate Erin Hamlin’s bronze medal, the first ever U.S. medal for individual luge. Later in the games, Hansen tweeted the video of a wolf supposedly wandering through the Athlete Dorms in the Olympic Village. It immediately got picked up by the media who went wild, until it was revealed to all be a stunt by late night host Jimmy Kimmel. The comedian and the luger colluded to poke fun at Sochi’s stray dog problem and the ridiculous state of many of the facilities (#sochifail). After a good laugh we learned the wolf’s name is Rugby and the second half of the video shows Kimmel concrete skiing through the ABC studios.