Friday, August 22, 2014

Sochi passes the torch

The Americans finished second in the total medal count to host country Russia

making their nation proud — Russia took the crown as the top nation in the Winter Games. Wikimedia

Making their nation proud — Russia took the crown as the top nation in the Winter Games. Wikimedia

Olympic expectations for Team USA are always extraordinary. Some athletes live up to the hype, while some falter under the bright lights. Despite finishing second in the medal count to host country Russia, the United States still came home with 28 medals.

One sport the U.S. had high expectations for was hockey.

Four years ago, Sidney Crosby buried the U.S. men’s hockey team’s chance of securing its first Olympic gold medal since 1980. However, the Americans entered the tournament this time with revenge on their minds and appeared poised to gain redemption after the heartbreaking loss from the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver.

The U.S. entered the semifinal matchup with tournament favorites Canada riding a wave of momentum after outscoring its first four opponents 20-6. Canada had underachieved, as it struggled to score and scraped by a Latvian team in the quarterfinals that featured just one NHL player.

Despite the two teams going in seemingly opposite directions, the results on the ice showed how competitive this rivalry has become.

The sole difference between the two teams was a deflection by a player who did not even receive an invite to the Canadian Olympic camp.

The unexpected hero, Jamie Benn, seized the moment, scoring the only goal of the matchup as he deflected the puck into the net on a pinpoint pass from the point by defenseman Jay Bouwmeester.

The 1-0 loss to the Canadians, who went on to defeat Sweden for their second consecutive gold medal, was just the beginning of the misery for the Americans.

Less than 24 hours later, the Americans showed up on the ice flat, losing the bronze medal match to Finland 5-0.

Just like the men’s team, Canada was the thorn in the side of the USA’s women’s team as well. Four years ago, the women lost to Canada in the gold medal game in Vancouver, and the two teams squared off again in Sochi for the same prize — a gold medal.

For 56 minutes, America dominated the ice, displaying their quickness and physicality against the Canadians. With a 2-0 lead with less than four minutes remaining in the final period, it seemed the U.S. had it’s first gold medal since 1998 wrapped up.

However, the Canadians had a different idea. Three minutes was all Canada needed to tie the game at two and force overtime. In extra time, Canada capitalized on a five-on-three advantage, scoring the go-ahead goal to earn its fourth straight gold medal.

Despite the disappointments from the hockey teams, other Americans thrived in their opportunities to seize gold.

Alpine skier Ted Ligety captured a gold medal in men’s giant slalom and became the first male American skier to win two Olympic gold medals.

In the women’s slalom, 18-year-old Mikaela Shiffrin of the U.S. made history as the youngest winner of a gold medal in the event.

Sports the U.S. usually thrives in, such as individual figure skating and speed skating, laid goose eggs in the medal department for the first time since the 1936 and 1984 Olympics.

However, the U.S. made up for their lack of medals in figure skating and speed skating in the debut of halfpipe freestyle skiing at the Olympics, as David Wise and Maddie Bowman each took home gold.

Although stars such as Shaun White and Shani Davis came home empty-handed, new stars such as Shiffrin, Wise and Bowman shined in their opportunity to represent their country and displayed that at the Olympics, anything is possible.

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