The United States brought a record 230 athletes to Sochi to compete in this year’s Olympic Winter Games, and that large number of competitors led to a wide variety of expectations and performances. With the games ending on Sunday and most of the events completed, here is a look back on some of the U.S.’s best and worst moments in Sochi.
Best Performance: Freestyle Skiers and Snowboarders
Traditionalists may not like the inclusion of freestyle events like halfpipe and slopestyle, but the U.S. won’t be voting for them to go away anytime soon. The U.S. teams have been a consistent and dominate force in the freestyle events with eleven total medals including five of the seven U.S. gold medals to this point. This includes an American sweep of the inaugural men’s skiing slopestyle event, only the third occurrence of a sweep in U.S. Winter Olympic history.
Best Surprise Performance: Erin Hamlin
Hamlin is a former world champion in women’s singles luge so maybe she isn’t really a “surprise” because she has proven her ability to contend. However she earned a bronze medal in an event (singles luge) that no U.S. Olympian had ever medaled in. That fact alone makes her accomplishment notable and a nice surprise for the U.S. team in a sport dominated by Germany.
Most Inspirational Performance: Noelle Pikus-Pace
Pikus-Pace is not the only parent to compete in Sochi but her family life as a mom off the track has been publicized and commercialized by U.S. media during these games. She is one of the best in her sport of skeleton for years but had never won an Olympic medal before this year. When she raced through the finish for silver, her reaction was priceless as she climbed over the railing to embrace her husband and two young children. It was an inspiring moment and allows Pikus-Pace to retire on Olympic winning terms.
Best Game: U.S. vs. Russia Hockey Game
The “Miracle on Ice” game of 1980 will always be the measuring stick for U.S. hockey, but the U.S.-Russia game last Saturday was probably the most memorable U.S. hockey game since. The game was loud and intense from start to finish as the home crowd tried to fuel Russia to a win. The U.S. proved up to the task however, and eventually won in an eight-round shootout with sharpshooter T.J. Oshie making four of six shots and goaltender Jonathan Quick stopping five shots in the net. The U.S. still has work to do to win a medal in Sochi as they face archrival Canada on Friday in the semifinals, but the Russia game will go down as one of the most exciting in U.S. hockey history.
Worst Performance: The U.S. Speed Skating Team
On the first day of competition in speed skating, the U.S. team brought out brand new suits designed by Under Armour and Lockheed Martin, a U.S. defense contractor, that were supposed to be the most technologically advanced in the world. The team however, fell flat and has not won a single medal in men’s or women’s competition. This medal drought includes the short track speed skaters who have also been shut out of the medals so far. To make matters worse, the supposedly amazing suits turned out to be an embarrassment as they needed to be switched out due to a possible design oversight.
Most Disappointing Performance: Big Name U.S. Stars
Shani Davis, Shaun White, Hannah Kearney and Bode Miller are all former Olympic champions with big name recognition and high expectations coming into the games. However, all four will leave Sochi disappointed. Speed skater Davis and snowboarder White looked to become the first men in any sport to win the same event in three straight Olympics, but both were left off the podium in all their events. Mogul skier Kearney and alpine skier Miller both earned a bronze medal in their respective disciplines, but as both were favorites to win gold, they will also walk away disappointed with their results.
Worst Game: U.S. vs. Great Britain Women’s Curling
The U.S. women’s curling team had a horrific performance against Great Britain on Feb. 11. The U.S. gave up seven (of a possible eight) points to the British in the fourth end (like an inning in baseball) which is unheard of at the Olympic level. This forced the U.S. to concede (a common and acceptable practice in curling) after only six ends with the score at 12-3, which is considered very early, as there are 10 ends in a full match. The U.S. curling teams have had an Olympics to forget with a combined overall record of 3-15 between the women and the men.