Monday, February 24, 2014

Top 10 story lines from Sochi

As with any great sporting event, the Sochi Olympics had a mix of both triumph and tragedy over the course of the Winter Games. Here's a look at the top ten story lines - in no particular order - that came out of Russia over the past couple of weeks.

1) #SochiProblems

Before the Games actually began, the talk was all about #SochiProblems and the various calamities that visitors, namely the American media, had while getting set up in their respective hotel rooms. The hashtag inspired a number of different Twitter accounts but ultimately fizzled out as the competition began. The lone wolf wandering the hotel room turned out to be a prank masterminded by Jimmy Kimmel, and controversies surrounding civil unrest and anti-gay legislation never came to fruition. One thing we did get was this lovely mashup by DJ Steve Porter entitled "Mo Sochi, Mo Problems."

2) Big name Americans falling short

-It seemed that night after night, the biggest story for fans of the American Olympic team wasn't about who took home a medal, but rather about which big name didn't. Shaun White failed to medal on the snowboard halfpipe, even after pulling out of the slopestyle event. Shani Davis finished a disappointing 8th in the 1,000-meter race, 11th in the 1,500 and 24th in the 500. Lindsey Jacobellis was again in the lead in the snowboard cross, and again took a tumble to keep her off the medal stand.

3) Stray dogs

While some of the Americans may not have performed as well as they would have hoped, the U.S. team showed their kind hearts on social media, especially taking notice to the stray dogs that found their way into the Olympic village. 
Many members of the U.S. team, from Jacobellis to goaltender Ryan Miller, have posted pictures and a few have even made travel arrangements to bring the puppies home with them. Russian billionaire Oleg Derpaska has even donated $15,000 to start up a charity to provide housing and look for homes for the stray dogs.

4) Slalom star

While almost all of the big-name American Olympians fell short, one potential star was born for the U.S. in Sochi. 18-year old Mikaela Shiffrin became the youngest gold medal winner in Alpine skiing, winning the slalom for the United States. While Lindsey Vonn missed the Games recovering from injury, Shiffrin stepped into her event and brought home gold. It may have not been a surprise to the skiing community, but Shiffrin will likely be a marketing fixture for the United States for future Winter Olympics.

5) Bob Costas

-While some high-profile Americans fell short, the majority of the buzz stateside was coming from those who just couldn't look away from Bob Costas' eye infection. He tried to gut through it at first, but shortly after, NBC had to call in Matt Lauer and then Merideth Viera to fill Costas' anchor role. Costas eventually returned to the anchor's chair this past Monday to the Olympic coverage with less discomfort, but was not immune to playful jabs from Lauer and the rest of his NBC colleagues.

6) Dutch speed skating

No country was as dominant in any one event as the Netherlands was in speed skating. The Dutch captured 23 medals - eight gold, seven silver and eight bronze - of the 26 offered in the sport, which accounted for all but one of the country's medals. The eight gold medals set a record for the most in a sport for any one country, and the Dutch captured 21 of the 30 individual medals available in the sport.

7) Host Russia wins the medal count

Russia became the first host country to win the both the gold and the overall medal count since Norway won in Oslo in 1952, coming away with 13 gold, 11 silver and 9 bronze medals. The Russians punctuated their medal count with four on the Games' final day, including sweeping the 50km cross country ski medal stand and earning gold in the four-man bobsled.

8) Canadian hockey

While the Russians did end up winning the overall medal count, Putin made no secret that is was the men's hockey gold that he coveted most. While Alex Ovechkin and the Russians came up well short, it was the Canadians that reigned supreme in both the men's and women's bracket. The women's gold medal game was as thrilling as any in recent memory, as the Canadians scored two goals in the final 3:30 to tie the game, before snatching the gold away from the U.S. in overtime. The Canadian men were a bit more dominant in the medal round, shutting down the Americans in a 1-0 semifinal win, before securing a 3-0 win over top-seeded Sweden in the gold medal game.

9) Figure skating controversy

To many, it appeared that 2010 Olympic gold medalist Yuna Kim of South Korea had performed more than well enough to claim her second straight figure skating gold, but Kim had to settle for silver after Russian Adelina Sotnikova was awarded gold by the judging panel. It seemed like a scandal could be in the making, due to some last minute judging switches, but so far, the South Korean Olympic federation has yet to file an official protest. The IOC, of course, is saying there's no controversy, but we've likely not heard the last on the topic.

10) #TaraAndJohnny

While there was no bona fide breakout star in competition for the United States, the two Americans that made a name for themselves, perhaps more than any other, were Tara Lipinski and Johnny Weir. They've been praised for their "quick, critical analysis" of figure skating and the duo has taken social media by storm as well. And good news for Tara and Johnny fans - they'll be providing analysis at the Oscars this Sunday and will be contributing to Access Hollywood as well.

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