As athletes from across the globe made their way home Monday, the world was left to reflect on the 17 days that were the Sochi Winter Olympics.
For Russia and its eccentric leader, President Vladimir Putin, the games will be deemed a smashing success. Fears of terrorist attacks, worries about protests against the nation’s anti-gay regulations and grumblings over unfinished hotels quickly melted away — much like Sochi’s snow — into stunning spectacles of athletic prowess. Russian athletes claimed 33 medals in the games, including Adelina Sotnikova’s gold in women’s figure skating. Taking the largest haul ever for Russia and biggest of the games, the home nation delivered on its promise to create a top-of-the-line event — at a cost of $51 billion — and return to athletic dominance in key events.
Just don’t mention the men’s hockey team ... there or back here in the United States.
Team USA’s hockey performance — including a loss to Canada with a spot in the gold medal game on the line and subsequent shutout loss to Finland for the bronze — was just one of a number of disappointments for the United States. The speedskaters, including two-time gold medalist Shani Davis, failed to live up to expectations as did snowboard pioneer Shaun White.
But the bright spots for Team USA ... they were simply dazzling.
Teen skier Mikaela Shiffrin won gold in the women’s slalom. At 15, she’s already dreaming of another in PyeongChang, South Korea, in 2018.
Ice dancing pair Charlie White and Meryl Davis skated their way to the first-ever gold for the U.S. in that event. Their performance was immaculate, the culmination of years of work together.
Joss Christensen, Gus Kenworthy and Nick Goepper swept the men’s slopestyle skiing event, vaulting a sport making its Olympic debut into the spotlight. Kenworthy later captured American hearts by announcing he was taking five Sochi stray dogs home with him.