Sochi 2014 came to an end on Sunday, February 23. With security threats in Sochi and a tense Russian political climate, uncertainty surrounded this Olympics. Nevertheless, the Sochi Games delivered all the expected spectacles, from the “oddities” of the Winter Games, like Jamaica’s bobsled team, to a healthy dose of Olympic spirit and sportsmanship, like Swiss Dario Cologna’s 30 minute wait at the 15km cross-country finish line to greet the injured last-place finisher.
The United States suffered more disappointment this year in ice hockey, as both the men’s and women’s teams lost to Canada in the knockout rounds of the competition. Canada reaffirmed its status as the team to beat with dominating performances throughout the tournament, while Russia’s campaign for Olympic glory on home soil ended disappointingly.
Russia and USA played with remarkable pace and intensity in a preliminary round match in front of 12,000 passionate fans packed into the Bolshoy Ice Arena.
After going down to a Pavel Datsyuk goal early in the second period, the United States were forced on the back foot early, but goals from Cam Fowler and Joe Pavelski ensured they were in the lead with 10 minutes to go in the third period. Russia quickly struck back with an equalizer three minutes later. Russia then scored what would have been a decisive third goal with only 5 minutes remaining, but the goal was controversially ruled to be off its moorings.
Extra time came and went without any further goals, and so the tie went into a shootout. After both teams missed two of their first three attempts, the game went into a sudden death shootout.
Team USA’s shootout specialist, TJ Oshie, took all of USA’s last five shots, and made three (including two to keep the match alive) to lead the USA to victory in the first ever USA-Russia ice hockey match on Russian ice.
Heading into the Sochi games, the United States was expected to pick up many medals in speed skating. But after a disappointing week in the long track events, resulting in no medals, they finally won a medal in a speed track event.
The Netherlands was the big winner in speed skating, taking home eight gold medals in a dominating display of speed skating.
For me, the most exciting speed skating event of this year’s Olympic games has to be the men’s 5000m relay speed skating final. With as many as 20 skaters on the ice at once, the event has the potential for utter chaos.
This year’s final was contested by five countries: USA, Russia, the Netherlands, China and Kazakhstan. With the Netherlands and China crashing midway through the first lap and Kazakhstan unable to keep pace with the leaders, the race for the gold medal very quickly became a question of which of Russia and USA would have the pace down the stretch.
For much of the race, the United States team members were content to sit in the slipstream of the Russian team, but finally made a move to take the lead with around 18 laps to go. The USA was never able to completely drop the Russian team though, and Russia’s eight-time short track Olympic medalist, Viktor Ahn, finally reeled in American JR Celski with six laps to go to take a lead that the Russians did not relinquish for the remainder of the race. Celski valiantly tried to chase Ahn down in the final lap, but the South Korean-born Russian had too much gas in the tank to be overtaken. China picked up the Bronze medal after finishing a distant third behind the leaders.
With his victory in the relay, Victor Ahn picked up his fourth medal of the Olympics, and reaffirmed his status as one of the greatest short track speed skaters of all time.