With a final charge, the Russians emphatically declared victory in their own Olympics. Until yesterday, they'd only held the daily medal count lead a couple of times, always surrendering it the following day; until yesterday, they'd never led the gold medal count at all. With a pair of golds and a total of four medals today, they claimed both titles... and they close with the largest medal lead anyone had the entire festival. As this is the final day, we dispense with the top five and present you a full list -- the top 26.
|MEN'S FOUR-MAN (heats 3-4)|
USA 2 (Nick Cunningham, Justin Olsen, Johnny Quinn, and Dallas Robinson) finished in 12th place.
|MEN'S 50k MASS START|
Just 7.5km back, things looked a lot different. American Noah Hoffman had been running in the top four, with the exception of a slip back into the pack between the 25-35km marks caused by Michail Semenov of Belarus and then Finland's Matti Heikkinen making early breaks for the lead (which naturally caused both skiiers to run out of gas and fall back later). At 42.5km, Hoffman was in second place, less than a second off the lead. But the Russians gather to make a charge, and buried the field in the final three kilometers. Hoffman ended up in 26th place, 1:09 off the lead (but still within the main chase pack, so good on him). Brian Gregg ended up in 51st, and Kris Freeman was 57th. Torin Koos, the fourth American entry, did not start the race.
|MEN'S GOLD MEDAL GAME|
Jonathan Toews, Sidney Crosby, and Chris Kunitz all scored their first goals of the Olympics, and Carey Price kept the Canadian net free of intrusion, to lead Canada to yet another hockey gold. Jeff Carter and Shea Weber assisted on the Toews goal; the other two were unassisted.
One unpleasant note; Sweden's Nicklas Backstrom was declared ineligible to compete in today's game due to a failed doping test; he apparently took one too many Zyrtec D for his allergies, and tested above the threshold for pseudoephedrine. Sweden's furious, but they should really be turning their ire on their team doctor. Both he and Backstrom were perfectly aware that the medication contained a banned substance, and that it was okay to use up to a point. They passed that point. Clearly, Backstrom wasn't trying to gain any competitive advantage, but pseudoephedrine is banned for a reason: people do abuse it as a PED. It's a shame that Backstrom went over the allowable limit, but if his disqualification for the gold medal game is a farce, then the only argument should be that the limit is too low.
Kessel and Grabner led all scorers with five goals. Finland's Sami Vatanen, who had no goals to go with his five assists, was the tournament's leading helper.
Final Event Recap:
Breakdowns of the medal counts in each individual discipline, and words:
The Austrian alpine team, so disappointed in Vancouver, reestablished their dominance of the sport in a big way, nearly doubling the USA's medal count. It didn't seem like that successful an Olympics in Alpine for the Americans, but viewed through this lens it wasn't bad at all. In fact, compared to Vancouver nobody can truly be too disappointed; Team USA was the only contingent to take home more than two fewer medals than they did four years ago. We bid a fond farewell to former bad-boy and now American skiing statesman Bode Miller, who bows out of competition after representing the United States in five Winter Olympics.
There were few surprises here, but the one we did get was big. The Czechs, after not even medaling in Vancouver, finished second in the event overall. The Americans didn't medal, and still never have, but their performance was much improved. The biggest news from biathlon, however, was the final appearance of the legendary Ole Einar Bjoerndalen, who steps out of the spotlight as the most-decorated athlete in the history of the Winter Games. He's now part of the Olympics forever, being one of the two athletes elected to the IOC at the conclusion of the games.
Team USA won the bobsled medal count -- and averaged more than a medal per event -- without winning any of the three events. The Russians won't be heartbroken over losing the overall, having won two golds. The big disappointment: Germany, winners of three medals in Vancouver, came up empty.
What a shocking outcome. The American drought continues; it's now been 38 years since Bill Koch won silver in the Men's 30k at Innsbruck in 1976, which remains the only USA medal in the discipline. It was especially disappointing given that American Kikkan Randall was actually a favorite in the sprint event, having won the World Cup title this year, and her elimination by a mere 5/100 of a second in the qualifications was heartbreaking. Also disappointed: Germany, who only one a single bronze medal after taking five medals home from Vancouver.
One senses a pattern here. The big winner, if there can be one in an event with two sets of medals, is the British; they finally win a men's medal after being shut out since 1924, and the women medaled for the first time since Salt Lake City. Switzerland and Norway, both men's medalists in three of the past five games, were locked out this year, so they're obviously displeased. And the travails of the American teams continue apace.
The usual hijinx were alleged, of course, and nobody is happy, naturally, and it won't matter in the long run, obviously. The games were a big success for the hosts, and for Kazakhstan, who inexplicably medaled in a sport nobody ever expected them to. For the Americans, the doldrums in which their singles and pairs skaters find themselves mired is troubling. The last time the USA failed to medal in singles: 1936. The Asian rise in the sport failed to progress, as Japan and Korea actually combined for one fewer medal than they had at Vancouver, but they're both clearly a permanent force to consider. As for farewells, we can't forget that we saw four-time Olympian Evgeni Pluyshenko leave the ice for the final time in his Olympic career... this time, during warmups when he injured his back, which cost the Russians any chance of medaling in the men's singles.
Four new events -- the Ski Halfpipe and Ski Slopestyle -- swelled the total medal count from 18 to 30 this year, allowing lots of chances for countries to get on the board. The Canadians and Americans have to be pleased with their performances; and the French are certainly ecstatic over their medal sweep in Men's Ski Cross. Norway, meanwhile, was the only team to medal more than once in Vancouver yet be shut out in Sochi, so they're not at all thrilled.
Canadians: happy as clams. Switzerland: thrilled at a bronze. USA: irritated as hell, but at least the women won silver. Russia: Putin may be killing people with his bare hands as we speak. Meanwhile, we say goodbye to lots of folks who've been around ever since the Olympics began allowing professionals, but none moreso than Finland's Teemu Selanne, who didn't just show up for a token appearance -- he ended up among the scoring leaders for the entire tournament. The final punctuation for hockey: Canadian Hayley Wickenheiser was the other athlete elected to the IOC.
Just a run-of-the-mill Olympics in luge for the Germans. The Russians, who did not medal in Vancouver, have to be content with their showing, and a medal for the United States was a pleasant happenstance. Disappointed? Nobody. Everyone who won a medal in Vancouver won as many (or more) in Sochi, thanks to the addition of the team relay event.
A huge, huge disappointment for Team USA in this event. The Americans were in Norway's position in Vancouver, grabbing a gold and three silvers; they came up empty this year. Norway, on the other hand, can exult, having been shut out in Vancouver and rebounding for a big games in Sochi. Germany also performed much better this Olympics than last, when all they came away with was a single bronze.
Another massive disappointment for the Americans, salvaged only by a crash between the Dutch and Chinese in the Men's 5000m relay. Korea will also be displeased with their overall results, having won eight medals in Vancouver. Russia, however, was the big winner: they went from being shut out in 2010 to five medals on home ice. This event will be absolutely insane in four years. Be ready.
In a sport with only two medal events, it's really easy to see who won and lost compared to prior results. Team USA did not medal in 2010, so their silver and bronze can be considered a huge success. Russia doubled their medal count, while Canada and Germany won three medals between them in Vancouver, and struck out in Sochi.
Weird medal distribution. There were four events; Germany and Poland won all the gold, but five other teams split the eight silver and bronze medals. The event was an unqualified success for Slovenia and Japan, neither of whom medaled in Vancouver but who each picked up a pair here. Switzerland, on the other hand, suffers the disappointment of no medal after Simon Ammann took two golds in 2010.
The medal count exploded in Snowboard from 18 to 30; just as with Freestyle Skiing, this was the result of adding two events (Parallel Slalom and Slopestyle). As a result, even though Team USA matched their 2010 medal count, it's a bit of a disappointing final tally. Of course, had Vicnot defected to Russia, it would he five golds and seven medals... and Russia would not have improved from one medal in Vancouver to four at home. Switzerland, Japan, Germany, and Slovenia will all be happy at their results, having not medaled in 2010 (or, in the case of Japan and Slovenia, ever before).
Well, we know who's happy here, don't we? One of the most dominating performances ever by a single nation in a single sport. The Poles have to be thrilled to triple their 2010 medal total in the face of such a display, and Russia's not terribly put out by their performance. Everyone else is, but most especially Team USA. The country with the third-most medals in the sport's history came away completely empty-handed, and there's going to be a great deal of soul-searching at US Speedskating over the next four years. There's a suggestion that the insistence on training at altitude for a contest near sea level may have been a tragic error.
In all, it was a successful Olympics for the hosts; although the internet made a killing cracking jokes at their expense early in the games, the proceedings went on with very little controversy or disruption. Sure, there was the usual nonsense involving figure skating, and a few questionable judging decisions here and there. But there were no reports of chaos in the Olympic facilities, the venues were secure, and by all reports the experience was a pleasant one for the vast majority of attendees and participants.
For Team USA, it was a mixed bag, but on the whole a successful games. It's hard to win the medal count on foreign soil in the winter, and the Americans came oh so close to doing just that. Yes, the showings in hockey and speed skating are a blight on these games for the United States. But there were successes, and perhaps more importantly there were signs of real progress in sports which the Americans just haven't been good at in the past. That progress didn't result in medals, but it certainly gives hope that those droughts will end, perhaps in 2018.
As a final note, covering the Olympics might seem to be an odd thing for a single-team focused college blog to do, but the urge was uncontrollable. The Olympics are the target of a lot of cynicism and criticism, and it's undeniable that it's almost all warranted. But the games themselves -- the pouring out of one's very being for a short period of time, the training that leads up to it, the joy of the competitors when they succeed, and even the competition, which is often a great deal friendlier and more civil than our own everyday sports diet -- are still one of the greatest events of our time. There's a reason I did this, and it's because I absolutely love it; it wouldn't matter to me if nobody ever read any of these posts. Luckily for me, I know people have been. If nothing else, it's a decent archive of a time-based reference for the games. I hope you enjoyed following along with me. Until 2016 and Rio, peace.