U.S. athletes produced a number of memorable moments at the Sochi 2014 Olympic Winter Games, ranging from the sweep of the podium in the inaugural men’s slopestyle skiing event to Team USA’s first Olympic gold medal in ice dance. Not all of the most memorable moments in Sochi resulted in a trip to the medal stand, though. Here is a look back at 14 memorable moments from the Sochi Games.
American Sweep In Slopestyle
Joss Christensen, Gus Kenworthy and Nick Goepper turned the Olympic Winter Games’ inaugural men’s slopestyle skiing event into their own American highlight show. The training partners and friends swept the slopestyle competition with Christensen landing a switch triple 1260 Japan in his final run to clinch the gold medal. Kenworthy, a four-time AFP rankings champion, finished with the silver medal, and Goepper, a two-time X Games gold medalist, captured the bronze medal. It was just the third time in Olympic Winter Games history that the United States had swept the podium, and the first time since men’s halfpipe snowboarders accomplished the feat at the Salt Lake City 2002 Olympic Winter Games. All three freeskiers became immediate celebrities once they stood on the same Olympic podium wearing smiles and medals. “If you have an Olympic medal, suddenly people look at you differently,” Goepper said. “It‘s kind of unique in a sense.”
Gold In Ice Dance
Was there really any doubt? Meryl Davis and Charlie White completed their road to Sochi by winning the first gold medal for the United States in ice dance. Their record skates came four years after they won the silver medal at the Vancouver 2010 Olympic Winter Games, finishing second to Canada’s Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir. Davis and White became the United States’ first ice dance world champions in 2011. In Sochi, Davis and White topped Virtue and Moir, who are also their training partners. Davis and White’s performances in both the short dance and free dance were nearly perfect, setting career-best scores in both (their 195.52 final point total was a world record). “In terms of our partnership, there’s never been a moment of doubt since 1997,” Davis said. The six-time national champions also helped Team USA grab a bronze medal in the inaugural Olympic team competition in Sochi. Davis and White both became the first U.S. figure skaters to win double medals at the same Olympic Games, as well as the first U.S. skaters to earn Olympic medals of every color. They celebrated by competing with different partners in “Dancing with the Stars,” and Davis won the nationally televised competition while White went out in the semifinal.
“We Did It! We Did It!”
Noelle Pikus-Pace’s Sochi moment struck an emotion every mom would love. Immediately after her final run in women’s skeleton delivered a silver medal, her first Olympic medal, Pikus-Pace leapt into the stands to get a hug from her husband, Janson, and two children, Lacee and Traycen. Pikus-Pace had retired after missing the podium by just one spot in Vancouver in 2010 and missed the 2006 Winter Games completely because of a fractured leg. After having her second child (Traycen), she and Janson decided that she should give it one last shot at a medal. “We did it! We did it!” they shouted after Pikus-Pace climbed over the rail and into the stands.
Super Finish For Weibrecht, Miller
In a moment only the Olympics could produce, all the physical pain disappeared for five-time Olympian Bode Miller and two-time Olympian Andrew Weibrecht in Sochi. Shoulder surgery? Ankle? Knee surgery? Weibrecht glided down the hill in Krasnaya Polyana for a second-place finish in the men’s super-G to win a silver medal, and the 36-year-old Miller was right behind him to tie for a bronze medal — his sixth career Olympic medal. After Miller became the oldest alpine skier in Olympic history to win a medal, he answered the obligatory “how does it feel” question with a one-word answer: “Old.” Weibrecht had undergone four surgeries on his shoulders and ankles since winning a bronze medal at the Vancouver 2010 Olympic Winter Games and almost retired. He had never finished in the top three at a world cup event. Yet now he had two Olympic medals. Miller’s path to the podium stand was even more emotional: knee surgery that caused him to miss the 2013 season, and the death of his brother. He was brought to tears after finishing the race. “Some days medals don’t matter,” Miller said. “Today it does matter.”
Team USA Flag Waver
The Sochi Olympic Winter Games were historic for Nordic combined skier Todd Lodwick. Not only did he become the first American to compete in six Olympic Winter Games, but he was selected to carry the U.S. flag at the Opening Ceremony in Fisht Stadium. “I couldn’t be more humbled and excited to be selected among all of the great athletes who were vying for this representation,” Lodwick said at the time. He had considered himself fortunate to be in Sochi after dislocating a shoulder in a crash six weeks before the Games. Lodwick’s first Winter Games were in 1994 in Lillehammer, where he finished seventh in the Nordic team competition and 13th individually at age 17. Along the way to Sochi 20 years later, he won an Olympic silver medal and finished among the top 10 in 10 of 13 events. He placed sixth in the team competition in Sochi. Lodwick actually retired after the Torino 2006 Olympic Winter Games, but then he returned to win two world titles in 2009 and his only Olympic medal in 2010.
Lipinski And Weir’s Fashion Alert
Say what you want about how sharp the American athletes looked in their gear during competition or at the opening and closing ceremonies. Nothing can top the outfits worn by Olympians Tara Lipinski and Johnny Weir, who are now broadcasters covering figure skating for NBC. They were the commentators for daytime figure skating coverage in Sochi for NBC Sports Network and were an immediate hit. Viewers tuned in just to see their outlandish outfits. The duo combined for more than 100 fashion items packed for Sochi, including 25 blazers and 22 pairs of shoes. Lipinski and Weir became so popular that they were contributors for Access Hollywood at the Oscars and NBC at the Kentucky Derby. They have since been promoted by NBC and are the network’s lead figure skating commentators as it heads to the PyeongChang 2018 Olympic Winter Games.
Bobsled (And Track) History
Elana Meyers Taylor and Lauryn Williams made a historic women’s bobsled run in Sochi despite finishing just one-tenth of a second behind two-time Olympic champion Kaillie Humphries of Canada. In winning the silver medal, Meyers Taylor (she was married after the Sochi Games) became the first woman to medal as both a driver and brakeman, and Williams was the fifth Olympian to win a medal at both the summer and Winter Games. Meyers was the brakeman for Erin Pac and won a bronze medal at the Vancouver 2010 Olympic Winter Games. She switched to the driver’s seat leading up to Sochi. Williams, a three-time Olympic sprinter, won a gold medal in the 4x100 relay at the London 2012 Olympic Games. Joining her in Sochi was London Olympic teammate Lolo Jones, a two-time Olympic hurdler, and Aja Evans, a sprinter at the University of Illinois. Jones and Williams became the ninth and 10th Americans to compete at both the summer and winter editions of the Olympic Games. Evans pushed driver Jamie Greubel Poser to a bronze medal, marking the first time the U.S. has put two women’s sleds on an Olympic podium.
Oshie’s Memorable Shootout
If you’re going into a shootout in ice hockey, then you’ll want T.J. Oshie of the St. Louis Blues to take the shot. Again and again. Oshie became the talk of Sochi after he scored on four of six shootout chances to give the U.S. men’s hockey team a 3-2 win over Russia in a preliminary-round game. For fans, the game was hyped as a rematch of the famous “Miracle on Ice” win by the United States over the Soviet Union in the final round of the Lake Placid 1980 Olympic Winter Games, only this time it was on Russian soil. “I’ve never seen anything like that,” U.S. defenseman Ryan McDonagh said of Oshe’s performance in overtime. Unlike the NHL, where a player is limited to one shot in a shootout, the Winter Games rules allow a player to shoot again after three players have participated in the shootout. Oshie has converted more than half of his shootout chances in the NHL. Team USA fell short of a medal, however, losing 5-0 to Finland in the bronze-medal game.
What’s With Bob’s Eyes?
First, NBC Olympics anchor Bob Costas’ left eye became red. Then his right eye became infected. When glasses couldn’t do the trick, the longtime Olympic TV host had to step aside for six days of the Sochi 2014 Olympic Winter Games as “Today” co-host Matt Lauer and also Meredith Vieira took over the hosting duties. One morning Costas said he woke up with both eyes swollen and crusted shut. The reason: conjunctivitis, more commonly known as pink eye. “It got to where I couldn’t look in the bathroom light without squinting and blinking and my eye watering,” Costas told the New York Times. His absence broke a streak of 157 consecutive Olympic primetime broadcasts for NBC, dating back to the Barcelona 1992 Olympic Games.
Dancing Kate Hansen
Luger Kate Hansen wants a good dance before she takes to the track, so prior to her runs in Sochi she’d be seen dancing to Beyoncé tunes loaded on her audio playlist. A video of Hansen’s prerace dancing went viral on YouTube, and spectators shouted at her to dance before her races in Sochi. “Honestly, in my world, I don’t care who’s staring,” Hansen told the Chicago Tribune. “I’m still going to dance.” Her moves even caught the attention of Beyoncé, who gave Hansen a shout-out on her Facebook page, and encouraged Hansen to dance on NBC’s live Olympic coverage. Hansen finished 10th in her Olympic debut.
Trapped In The Potty
Olympic bobsledder Johnny Quinn found himself locked in a Sochi nightmare before his Olympic competition ever began: He was trapped in his bathroom. He banged loudly on the door. No answer. He yelled. More silence. The rookie Olympian then used all 220 pounds of himself to punch holes in the door. His Tweet quickly went viral for all the world to see: “With no phone to call for help, I used my bobsled push training to break out. #SochiJailBreak.” Quinn gained more than 10,000 followers on Twitter as a result of the Tweet. He is a former football player at the University of North Texas, so the door really had no chance at survival.
Kenworthy And His Sochi Dogs
Freeskiing silver medalist Gus Kenworthy has a soft heart for dogs, especially dogs in need of some TLC. Four malnourished puppies and their mother in Sochi caught the attention of Kenworthy and photographer friend Robin Macdonald of Canada, so they made plans to bring them home after the Winter Games. One of the dogs died in New York City. Another one was given to the Humane Society, and Kenworthy’s mom took in a dog. The other puppies are named Mishka and Jake, and live with Kenworthy in Denver when he is not out competing. “They’re total cuddle bugs,” Kenworthy told People. The dogs stay with Macdonald in British Columbia during the season when Kenworthy is not home.
Putin Is In The USA House
Russia President Vladimir Putin clinked wine glasses with United States Olympic Committee Chairman Larry Probst during a surprise visit to USA House during the Sochi 2014 Olympic Winter Games. With the building surrounded by Russian security teams, Putin met with Probst and USOC CEO Scott Blackmun, and was given a tour of USA House by USOC CMO Lisa Baird. “The wine is good,” Putin was reported to have said. He was given a Team USA Nike jacket. Among the other approximate 100 attending the impromptu reception were U.S. Olympic champions Evan Lysacek and Eric Heiden.
Last-Chance Speedskating Silver
The drama was unbeatable. American speedskaters were down to their last chance for a medal on their final day in Sochi when the men’s 5,000-meter short track relay team delivered. J.R. Celski, Eddy Alvarez, Chris Creveling and Jordan Malone combined to win the silver medal, allowing US Speedskating to avoid a winless performance in Sochi. “It’s so relieving,” Alvarez said. “I literally feel like I just came out of a spa.” The United States has won 19 Olympic medals since short track made its Olympic debut in 1992, including six at the Vancouver 2010 Olympic Winter Games. The U.S. long trackers were shut out after winning four medals in Vancouver. The relay silver medal sent the skaters home on a good note, averting a complete U.S. speedskating medal shutout for the first time since 1984. “I told the guys, ‘We’re not going to let skating walk away without a medal,’” Malone said.
Paul D. Bowker has been writing about Olympic sports since 1990 and was Olympic assistant bureau chief for Morris Communications at the Atlanta 1996 Olympic Games. He also writes about Olympic sports for the Springfield (Mass.) Republican. Bowker has written for TeamUSA.org since 2010 as a freelance contributor on behalf of Red Line Editorial, Inc.