10 Things We Learned From the 2014 Winter Olympics
Things We Learned From the 2014 Winter Olympics
With the 2014 Winter Olympics now complete, now is the perfect time to reflect on the past two weeks.
Before the Games, much of the attention surrounded the country Russia itself, especially how Russian President Vladimir Putin would handle security and political issues. With these Games being the most expensive in Olympic history, Putin certainly had the financial support to put on a great show. The Opening Ceremony was awe-inspiring despite a couple of major hiccups and certainly helped to put the focus on the competition itself.
Although many pictures and news articles surfaced right before the Games showing some ugly images of the living conditions in Sochi, the athletes all acknowledged that the housing was adequate and the venues were modern and did not suffer from any structural problems. Indeed the host Russia did a good job in dispelling the notion that it struggles economically behind other major countries of the world.
So although many of the social issues the Putin supports are seen as questionable to the international community, the coming and going of the 2014 Winter Olympics certainly put aside those worries as fans around the world watched amazing athletes compete in a variety of disciplines. While human rights activists will continue to look at Russia as a questionable country, there is no denying that during the time of the Games, Russia succeeded in providing solid athletic entertainment for everyone.
While we learned that Russia could competently host the Olympics, there are many other things that awed sports fans these past two weeks. Let's take a look at the 10 most important things that we learned at the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi.
10. Unwanted Athletes are Welcome in Russia
Victor An and Vic Wild won multiple gold medals for Russia in short track and snowboarding respectively after becoming naturalized citizens.
After winning three gold medals at the 2006 Winter Olympics in Turin, Italy as Ahn Hyun-Soo of South Korea, An left Korea after failing to qualify for the Korean team for 2010 Games due to multiple injuries. Feeling that the Korean team did not support him, An was recruited by Russia and would become a national hero for his home country, winning Russia's first ever gold medal in short track speed skating.
For Wild, a move to Russia occurred after the United States took away funding from the alpine snowboarding program. Despite being born in the state of Washington, Wild married Russian snowboarder Alena Zavarzina and obtained Russian citizenship as a result. With gold medals in snowboarding parallel slalom and giant slalom, Wild certainly made the United States regret putting money in the other snowboarding disciplines.
For Russia, the country certainly capitalized on unwanted athletes who could compete specifically for Russia as they hosted these Olympics.
9. United States Hockey Teams Come Up Short Once Again
After the United States men's hockey team lost an overtime thriller to Canada at the 2010 Olympics in Vancouver, the men certainly had high hopes for its first gold medal since the Miracle on Ice in 1980. However, for both the men and women this time, disappointment was the result.
The United States women looked certain to win gold, up two goals late in the third period before giving up goals in the waning seconds of regulation and in overtime to allow bitter rival Canada to win once again. It was certainly tough to watch gold medal hopes go up in flames in a matter of minutes.
The men's team got off to a blistering start including the breakout shootout performance by T.J. Oshie in the hyped-up matchup against Russia. But in the end, a tough 1-0 loss to Canada once again in the semifinals and the resulting 5-0 destruction against Finland in the bronze medal match resulted in the Americans coming home with nothing.
The United States hockey teams certainly came up short of expectations in 2014 and will have to wait another four years to earn redemption again.
8. Dutch Speedskating Still Dominant
The Netherlands as a country won 24 medals at the 2014 Winter Olympics and 23 of them came at Adler Arena where the long track speed skaters dominated every event. The Dutch took gold at 8 of the 12 events and 23 out of a possible 32 total medals. To add to their dominance, they swept the medal podium for four of the events. Jorien ter Mors, a short track skater by training, won the 1500 meters while Irene Wust won five total medals on the women's side. The men's team also won five of the six events themselves. Quite frankly, the rest of the world were competing for silver and bronze on the ice as Dutch orange filled the entire oval at the 2014 Games.
7. United States Speedskating Chokes
With the new Under Armour skin suits, the United States won no medals. After shedding the new suits for old ones, there were still no medals. Top ranked skaters Shani Davis, Heather Richardson and Brittany Bowe, who have dominated World Cup races for the last year, won nothing. In fact, the highest American finish for any individual event was seventh place, nowhere close to the medals. Whether it was the suits or the poor training regiment, conflict between the athletes and the United States speedskating program will certainly result in changes after getting shut out of the medals.
6. Shaun White Is Not Face of United States Snowboarding
For the United States at the 2014 Winter Olympics, most of their medals came in the snowboarding disciplines, especially those that are prominently featured at the X-Games. The "cool" sports resulted in a gold medal for Sage Kotsenburg in slopestyle and four other medals in snowboarding events. On the other hand, superstar Shaun White was a disappointment, choosing to drop out of the slopestyle event after deeming the course too dangerous. White was certainly not forgiven when he finished fourth in his signature halfpipe event, where he won gold in 2010. While White certainly has business to attend to when he gets home, the bitterness of losing will haunt him even more so.
5. Failed Doping Tests Still Mar Olympic Spirit
Every Olympics at least a few of the athletes get caught taking some banned substances. While there were no reports for the majority of the Games, the last couple of days finally caught a few perpetrators. Five athletes were caught with none bigger than Swedish hockey player Nicklas Backstrom of the Washington Capitals. Although Backstrom's positive test was a result of allergy medicine and Backstrom himself will not be punished by the NHL, the four other athletes who were caught cheating prove that some will continue to risk cheating in order to gain an advantage at the Olympics.
4. Meryl Davis and Charlie White Move Ice Dancing into Spotlight
With no jumps or spins, ice dancing has certainly been frowned upon compared to the excitement of the other figure skating disciplines. However, the success of the United States pair of Meryl Davis and Charlie White certainly provided a model of success and consistency in ice dance. Although Davis and White will likely retire after their gold medal performance, they certainly have set up a brighter future for ice dancers in the United States.
3. Figure Skating Judging Still Perplexes Viewers
While Ashley Wagner certainly made headlines making faces across our television screens, her rant about the anonymous judging system in figure skating certainly makes sense. It should be considered a mockery that a sport consists entirely of a subjective system where none of the judges can be held accountable for their actions. With such little clarity in terms of scoring, there will always be scoring controversies at the Olympics. Whether or not Adelina Sotnikova deserves her gold medal is moot because a cloud of suspicion will always reign over the sport as long as the current judging system is in place.
2. Women's Ski Jumping Debuts
While winning gold medals has certainly been the goal of athletes at the Olympics throughout history, the International Olympic Committee has always maintained that they would like as many countries and athletes to participate as possible. While ski jumping at the Olympics is usually one of the most under-watched sports, the fact that women finally get a chance to participate in ski jumping is certainly another step in maintaining the Olympic spirit.
1. Ole Einar Bjoerndalen Is Most Decorated Winter Olympian Ever
When it comes to cross-country skiing and the biathlon, no country can claim greater success than the Norwegians. In addition to winning eight golds and 17 total medals in those disciplines, Norway can now claim to have the most decorated Winter Olympian ever with Ole Einar Bjoerndalen winning two golds to increase his total medal count to 13.