Thursday, April 24, 2014

Highs and lows of the Olympics

American star athletes have had inconsistent performances in their marquee events in the Sochi Games

Whether you watch the Olympics for the competition, in support of your country or to see the progress on Bob Costas’ pink eyes, there has been something for everyone in the XXII Winter Olympics.

Most of the 230 American Olympians entered Sochi with a chance to cement their legacy on a world stage. Many unknown stars have made an impact by simply representing their country.

Blunders
After pulling out of snowboard slopestyle due to a minor wrist injury and poor course conditions, Shaun White, the most recognized U.S. winter Olympian, stumbled in his pursuit of capturing his third straight Olympic gold in halfpipe, finishing fourth. The rituals of doing the same thing at every Olympics, such as going to the opening ceremony, did not help White when he faced terrible halfpipe conditions, nearly breaking his board in half on the deck.

Along with White, Shani Davis and the entire speed skating team failed to live up to expectations. Davis was defeated in all three speed skating events, and his best finish was eighth place in the 1,000-meter race. America failed to capture any medals in any event, while the Netherlands raked in 16 of their 17 total medals in speed skating, giving them the early lead in the overall medal count.

The Spectacular and Unexpected
Although White did not achieve his glory, he opened the door for 20-year-old Sage Kotsenburg to win his first gold medal in snowboard slopestyle. Kotsenburg gave the Americans their first gold medal in the Olympics by performing a trick that he claims to have never attempted before.

pride — Americans flaunt their colors. Photo credit: Tim Hipps

Pride — Americans flaunt their colors. Photo credit: Tim Hipps

Unknown to world before his bronze finish in the skelton, Matt Antoine ended a 12-year drought for the Americans. In his final heat, Antoine finished with a time of 56.73, 0.01 seconds faster than Latvian favorite Tomass Durkus.

Another athlete who has caught the eye of millions across the world is 15-year-old Russian figure skater Julia Lipnitskaia. After a mere three minutes, Lipnitskaia had the world mesmerized with her short program, and her program in the finals has become one of the most anticipated events of the Olympics.

While Russia has had a solid outing in the figure skating short dance program, the American team of Meryl Davis and Charlie White, who have been dancing for 17 years, clinched their first gold medal, defeating the 2010 gold mealist Canadians Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir. Davis and White scored an Olympic record 195.52.

After two lapses during the first week of the Olympics, Bode Miller finally capitalized on his opportunity to tie Bonnie Blair as the second-most-decorated winter Olympian in U.S. history when he captured bronze in the super-G alpine skiing event. Miller emotionally wept on the podium, dedicating the victory to his younger brother, Chelone Miller, who passed away last year after a seizure.

Miracle on Ice 2.0
In the most anticipated hockey game of the preliminary round of hockey, the U.S. team took on the Russians in their home country. Although the landscape has changed drastically since the miracle on ice in 1980, the U.S. still entered the competition with a chip on its shoulder.

After being tied 2-2 at the end of three back-and-forth periods and a scoreless overtime, the U.S. and Russia headed to a shootout. During the shootout, the miracle on ice part two occurred. As the underdog spirit would suggest, 27-year-old Washington native T.J. Oshie was the unknown athlete who created a legendary Olympic moment for the U.S. Oshie took advantage of International Ice Hockey Federation shootout rules, scoring four of six shootout attempts, outdueling Russian superstars Ilya Kovalchuck, Pavel Datsyuk and goaltender Sergi Bobrovsky en route to becoming an American hero.

The win helped ensure that the U.S. won their group, going undefeated and outscoring their opponents 15-4 in three games. By winning the group, the U.S. clinched an automatic bye into the quarterfinals, where they will compete Wednesday against either Slovakia or the Czech Republic.

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