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Wednesday, March 5, 2014

In the Headlines: An Unconventional Recap of the Sochi Winter Olympics

If you’ve been isolated on the Mars Rover, you may not know the U.S. sent 230 athletes to Sochi and earned 28 medals, finishing second in the overall Olympic hardware count. Impressive, perhaps, despite the U.S. haul of 37 medals in 2010.  Once again, the U.S. won more bronze medals than any other country.  Hmm….exactly what does that say?

The U.S. won seven medals in freestyle skiing and five each in snowboarding and Alpine skiing.   
Notably absent were medals in speed skating.  Wonder which sports award the most hardware?  There are 36 medals granted to the top three in cross-country skiing and 33 Biathlon medals.  The U.S. didn’t win any of those.  Worse, not one American medaled in individual figure skating—something that hasn’t happened since 1936. No U.S. medals were earned in speed skating either, for the first time since 1984.
What is impressive? Meryl Davis and Charlie White won the first-ever U.S. gold in Ice Dancing with two flawless, pressure-ridden performances. The U.S. also won bronze in the figure skating team competition.  In this new Olympic sport, one athlete, or pair, from each country skates in men’s singles, ladies’ singles, pair skating and ice dance. However, these skaters perform the same routines they skate in the individual competitions. Solo.  Ehhhh…how is that a team competition?

And do you know how many total Winter medals the U.S. has captured? Of course you don’t—that would mean you have no life. Anyway, U.S. Olympians have garnered a whopping 2,681 winter medals.
What you may not know is 64 countries didn’t earn a single medal in the games.  Of those 64 countries, 18 countries had only one athlete competing.  Among these single-person teams are Mexico, the Virgin Islands, Zimbabwe, Thailand, San Marino and Bermuda—all sending a sole slalom (Alpine skiing) competitor.

Ireen Wust of the Netherlands took home five medals from Russia, winning two golds and three silvers to become the most decorated Sochi athlete. Not surprising since the Dutch won 23 of 31 speed skating medals (There were 10 competitions with one event having a tie for bronze). What’s more newsworthy is the Dutch contingent included only 41 athletes. 
And who knew the Russians could poke fun at themselves?  If you watched the impressive (if extremely lengthy) opening ceremonies, you know a mechanical display of the five Olympic rings malfunctioned. After Russia doctored the footage to hide the “oops,” the creative director of the ceremonies in Sochi donned a white T-shirt with a depiction of the Olympic ring flub and there was an “intentional” ring blooper in the closing ceremony.  The fifth ring remained closed for a few seconds, before finally expanding to complete the formation.
And it should come as no surprise the country who brought us the Faberge eggs created some very impressive medals. Each gold, silver, and bronze disc was constructed in a process taking 18 hours at a top jeweler in Moscow. Seven special gold medals containing fragments of the Chelyabinsik meteorite were awarded on February 15th, the one year anniversary of a meteorite that exploded over the Russia injuring more than 1,000 people.
Even more telling—the $51 billion price tag for the games—more than any Olympics in history. Does this mean the Russian economy is rebounding?
And finally, the one thing that ticked me off (amazingly, it has nothing to do with figure skating judging)... Viktor Ahn won three gold medals and a bronze in short track speed skating for Russia.  What’s the problem, you ask? After all, Eric Heiden won an unprecedented five gold medals in 1980. The issue (at least for me) is that Ahn won three gold metals in 2006.  For South Korea! I know, I know—people change citizenship all the time to compete in the games.  Still, that doesn’t seem the same as competing for more than one country.  What do you think? Should a person be allowed to compete for one country and then switch allegiance?

Robin Weaver
Author of Blue Ridge Fear, Artifact of Death, and The Secret Language of Leah Sinclair

COPYRIGHT © 2014 by Sugenia Robin Weaver



Anonymous said...

Charlie and Meryl rock.

Linda Lovely said...

The games have always been political and now there are few true amateurs competing. I guess the country switches shouldn't come as a big surprise. Interesting post. Regardless of politics, I was in awe of many performances by the athletes.

Ashantay Peters said...

I haven't watched the Olympics for many years. I'd rather see highlights and read someone's blog overview, thank you. Changing countries to compete? I believe athletes from other countries have played for the US in the summer games. Let Russia have the same edge. BTW, I believe the IOC foots part of the bill for the Olympics, paid out of TV revenues.

Lori Waters said...

I know everyone has an opinion, and this happens to be mine. I think the athlete needs to reside and TRAIN in the country they represent. Once you represent one country then you must stay with that country for the rest of your career. And don't get me started on one coach representing two different countries:)

Sarah Raplee said...

Very interesting post, Robin!

Judith Ashley said...

Thanks for an interesting post and summary, Robin. I watched some of the Olympics this year - the least ever since they've been televised and I had a television.

Caught some of the cross country skiing and loved Curling. Who knew it would be so mesmerizing to watch a 'rock' slide down the ice with people sweeping in front of it!

I made a conscious effort to stay out of the medal count coverage. I watch to see what people who have dedicated their lives to a sport can accomplish.

What I'd like to see less of is the "pre-coverage" of how the athletes are expected to do. My heart went out to athletes who were expected to shine and who only glowed. My goodness - only got a Bronze instead of a Gold? What does that say about us that we minimize their accomplishments?