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Winter Olympics 2014: Memorable Moments from Sochi

Lindsay GibbsFeatured ColumnistFebruary 22, 2014

Winter Olympics 2014: Memorable Moments from Sochi

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    Robert Cianflone/Getty Images

    As hard as it is to believe, the 2014 Olympics are nearly over.

    The Winter Games gave us a nonstop two weeks of highs, lows and everything in between. A queen lost her crown in figure skating, a famous biathlete collected a historic medal haul and a legend's career came to an abrupt end.

    From heartbreak on the ice to heroics on the slopes, here are the moments from the Sochi Olympics that will stay with us.

USA's Men's Hockey Team Beats Russia in an OT Shootout

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    Clive Mason/Getty Images

    The Olympics might not have ended the way that USA and Russia's hockey teams had hoped, but together they were a part of a game that brought fans of the Olympics all over the world to their feet.

    Halfway through the Olympics, Russia and the United States met in a preliminary-round hockey match that was, to put it mildly, well hyped. For three periods and five minutes of sudden-death overtime, the two teams were equals. It was tense, aggressive and high-energy hockey that left the rivals tied at 2-2 going into a shootout.

    There, T.J. Oshie took over, hitting four of six shootout goals to help the USA clinch the momentous win.

    It didn't earn the U.S. a medal, and it wasn't quite a miracle on ice, but Americans and Russians will remember the game for quite some time.

Dutch Speedskaters Dominate, Sweep the Podium Four Times

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    Robert Hanashiro-USA TODAY Sport

    The speedskating competition in Sochi could easily have been confused with the Dutch nationals with the amount of orange that graced the podium over the two weeks of competition.

    In total, the Netherlands won 23 medals on the speedskating track, 10 more than any other country had ever won in a single Games. There were four complete podium sweeps, and both team-pursuit relays set Olympic records on the final Saturday of competition.

    The Netherlands took gold in eight of the 12 speedskating races, with the men winning 13 of the 18 medals in their races and the women taking 10 of 18. Ireen Wust led the team with five medals total: three silver and two gold. Sven Kramer, Michel Mulder, Jorrit Bergsma and Margot Boer all won multiple individual medals as well.

    The Dutch speedskaters left zero doubt as to who ruled the ice.

Shaun White Withdraws from Slopestyle, Doesn't Medal in Halfpipe

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    Nathan Bilow-USA TODAY Sports

    Shaun White is one of the most high-profile athletes in the world, let alone the Winter Olympics. In his third Games, the snowboarding superstar came into Sochi with high expectations from himself, media and fans.

    In contention in two events—the debut of snowboarding slopestyle and his favorite event, the halfpipe—most expected White to get a gold in the halfpipe and at least medal in the slopestyle. Instead, he went home empty-handed.

    Drama was everywhere in the slopestyle, where White withdrew less than 24 hours before the event was supposed to begin. He didn't feel comfortable on the course and wanted to save himself for halfpipe. But in halfpipe, he came in fourth place, unable to muster his best rides in the final.

    An athlete who had seemed superhuman for so long left Sochi looking more vulnerable than ever.

Ole Einar Bjoerndalen Becomes the Most Decorated Winter Olympian of All Time

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    Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

    By winning his 12th and 13th Olympic medals in Sochi, Norway's Ole Einar Bjoerndalen became the most decorated Winter Olympian in the history of the Games.

    The 40-year-old biathlete competed in six events in Sochi, winning the gold medal in the men's sprint and the mixed relay. He narrowly missed out on a 14th medal in the men's relay; although his third leg of the race was exceptional, the team finished in fourth place.

    Still, his sixth Olympic appearance was historic.

Russia Wins Its First Sochi Gold in the Team Figure Skating Event

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    Matthew Stockman/Getty Images

    With President Vladimir Putin in the house, Russia kicked off its gold rush by winning the debut of the figure skating team competition.

    A youngster and a veteran led the way to gold. After barely skating for the past few years, Evgeni Plushenko returned to the ice for his fourth Olympics and stole the show.

    Then, 15-year-old Julia Lipnitskaia continued her run of good form from the European Championships to bring the house down in her short program and free skate. Even though neither Plushenko nor Lipnitskaia medaled in the singles, their heroics in the team competition will stay with Russia forever.

Evgeni Plushenko Abruptly Withdraws from the Men's Singles Competition

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    Ivan Sekretarev/Associated Press

    Evgeni Plushenko has always had a flair for the dramatic, and his abbreviated time in Sochi was no exception.

    After helping his team win gold in the team competition, he said he would be able to compete in the men's singles event despite his chronic back troubles. He took the ice for the warm-ups, but when it was his turn to compete, he skated to the judges' table to withdraw from the competition. Apparently he had re-aggravated his back during practice, and he just couldn't carry on.

    The crowd was stunned. It was a devastating exit for the star, who was the only figure skater to win medals in four Olympic Games.

    Immediately afterward, he told the press that he was planning on retiring from the sport. However, have no fear—Plushenko is already back in the news and talking about competing in 2018.

The Dufour-Lapointe Sisters Take Gold and Silver in Freestyle Skiing Moguls

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    Guy Rhodes-USA TODAY Sports

    Freestyle skiing moguls turned into a family affair when Justine and Chloe Dufour-Lapointe from Canada took the gold and silver medal on the first official day of competition in Sochi.

    Three Dufour-Lapointe sisters competed in the moguls competition—19-year-old Justine, 22-year-old Chloe and 24-year-old Maxime. Justine and Chloe upset gold-medal favorite Hannah Kearney, who took bronze, while Maxime finished 12th.

    The attitude and support of the entire family captivated the world. Bruce Arthur of Canada.com spoke to Maxime about being the sister who didn't medal:

    There’s nothing I want to change. I was the best prepared I could have been. ... I made one small mistake, but the thing I’m going to walk away from the Olympics with is all my process. Everything is exactly as I should have done it. Now I have the Olympic champion and runner-up in my house, and I can learn from them.

Dario Cologna Wins 15-Km Classic in Cross Country, Waits for Last-Place Finisher

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    Paul Gilham/Getty Images

    Every Olympian has a story, and on this day, the winner and the last-place finisher combined for an Olympic moment for the ages.

    Switzerland's Dario Cologna won the 15-kilometer classic cross-country race in 38 minutes, 29.7 seconds to capture his second gold of the Sochi Games and his third Olympic gold overall. But instead of racing off to celebrate, he stayed around the finish line for the next 28 minutes to shake hands with Peru’s Roberto Carcelen, who finished the race in last place.

    Carcelen, who was the first Winter Olympian in Peru's history, was competing with a broken rib that he suffered in the lead-up to the Olympics. Alone on the course for more than 10 minutes, he grabbed the Peruvian flag for the final stretch and soaked up the applause of the crowd. Then, as he crossed the finish line, the champion hugged him.

    Simply by waiting nearly 30 minutes, Cologna embodied the Olympic spirit and provided a lasting image of sportsmanship in Sochi.

Women's Ski Jumping Finally Makes Olympic Debut

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    Charlie Riedel/Associated Press

    At long last, women could fly at the Winter Olympics.

    Men's ski jumping has been a part of the Games since the Winter Olympics debuted in 1924, but it took 90 years for the IOC to allow women to ski jump as well. After a lengthy battle led primarily by American Lindsey Van, women's ski jumping finally made its debut in Sochi.

    Sarah Hendrickson, the 19-year-old American who won the World Championships in 2013 before suffering a terrible knee injury that kept her off skis all season, was the first to jump in the competition. Carina Vogt from Germany won the gold.

    However, the women weren't satisfied to just be in Sochi—now they want to have as many medal chances as the men do.

    Kelly Whiteside of USA Today reported on the ongoing battle, as relayed by DeeDee Corradini, president of Women's Ski Jumping USA. "Now we have to work on 2018 getting women on the large hill and a team event," Corradini said. "As soon as Sochi is over we start working on that."

Adelina Sotnikova Upsets Yuna Kim for the Gold in Women's Figure Skating

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    Jeff Swinger-USA TODAY Sports

    Coming into Sochi, 17-year-old Russian Adelina Sotnikova had been completely overshadowed by the hype of 15-year-old Russian Julia Lipnitskaia.

    South Korea's Yuna Kim was the heavy favorite for gold, but Lipnitskaia was in the conversation as someone who could upset her. Nobody predicted that Sotnikova would actually take the top spot on the podium.

    But she skated a stunning short program to put herself within striking distance of Kim and then nailed her difficult free program to win the top spot on the podium. Though the decision is rife with controversy—a constant in figure skating—the gold is Sotnikova's to keep.

Canada's Women's Hockey Team Wins the Gold Medal over USA in OT

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    Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports

    There's no denying it—Canada owns women's hockey at the Olympics.

    The United States came into Sochi as the favorite to win its first women's hockey gold medal since 1998, thanks to recent wins over Canada, including at the World Championships last year.

    But Canada got the best of Team USA twice during these Games—once during the preliminary rounds and then again in the exciting gold-medal game. The Canadians came back from being down two goals with about three minutes left to tie it up and then win in sudden-death overtime.

    Canada has now won four straight Olympic gold medals in women's hockey, and the United States will have to wait another four years to get revenge.

Tina Maze and Dominique Gisin Tie for Gold in Women's Downhill

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    Jack Gruber-USA TODAY Sports

    When athletes are skiing down slopes at speeds topping 100 miles per hour, it seems unlikely they will match times down to one-hundredths of a second. However, that's exactly what happened to Tina Maze and Dominique Gisin in the women's downhill when they tied for the gold medal.

    Maze, who won two silver medals in Vancouver, is a Slovenian pop star who had high hopes coming into these Games after a record-breaking 2013 season. She also won a gold in giant slalom in Sochi and subsequently announced her retirement from the sport.

    Gisin was the big surprise of the race. The 28-year-old Swiss hadn't won a World Cup downhill race since 2009, and she finished 2013 at 19th in the standings.

    This was the first time in Olympic history that there had ever been a tie for the gold medal in an Alpine event.

Freestyle Skiing Halfpipe Volunteers and Competitors Pay Tribute to Sarah Burke

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    Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

    Emotions ran high at the debut of women's freestyle skiing halfpipe, and not just because medals were on the line.

    Participants paid tribute after tribute to Sarah Burke, a pioneer of the sport who was the driving force toward getting the event on the Olympic roster. She passed away after a training accident in 2012. 

    Before the event began, volunteers skied down the halfpipe in the shape of a heart as a way of remembering Burke on the momentous day that she had fought so hard for. Her Canadian coach also put some of her ashes on the pipe.

    The medal winners remembered her as well, as reported by Andrew Bucholtz of Yahoo Sports:

    "Sarah inspired us on snow and off snow," said gold-medal winner Maddie Bowman of the United States. "I think she would have been very proud (today). I sure hope I and everyone else made her proud because we would not be here without her."

The U.S. Speedskating Team Doesn't Medal in Sochi, the Suits Get Blamed

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    Patrick Semansky/Associated Press

    The U.S. speedskating team came into Sochi with high expectations, as Shani Davis and Heather Richardson were both supposed to medal in multiple events.

    However, the team struggled from the beginning of the Games, and soon competitors blamed their Under Armour suits. These highly touted suits had not been tested at all in competition, and many thought that a design flaw—a hole in the back that was supposed to allow heat to escape—was actually slowing down the skaters.

    The U.S. officials ended up getting permission to use the old suits that the U.S. team had been successful with in the World Cup circuit, but by the time they arrived during the first weekend of competition, the damage was already done. Whether it was the suits or not, the controversy got into the heads of the competitors and affected their confidence.

    The speedskating team went home empty-handed for the first time in 30 years. It's safe to say that from here on out, the U.S. team will try out new suits before Olympic competition begins.

Meryl Davis and Charlie White Win the USA's First Gold in Ice Dancing

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    Ryan Pierse/Getty Images

    Ice dancing is often an overlooked discipline of figure skating, but in Sochi, Meryl Davis and Charlie White took the sport to new heights.

    Spurred on by Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir, their Canadian rivals and the 2010 gold medalists, Davis and White knew that nothing less than perfection would win the gold. Under immense pressure, the pair managed to skate almost perfectly in all four of their programs, both in the team competition and the ice-dancing showdown.

    They set personal-best scores and broke world records in the process.

    Their gold medal was the only individual medal for the U.S. in figure skating during these Games and the first-ever Olympic gold in ice dancing for Team USA. Together, they managed to make ice dancing one of the most talked-about events in Sochi and show everyone the power of a twizzle.

Lauryn Williams Becomes the Fifth Athlete to Medal in Summer and Winter Olympics

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    Scott Halleran/Getty Images

    Lolo Jones might have been the Summer Olympian grabbing the headlines coming into Sochi, but it was Lauryn Williams who walked away with the silver medal.

    Jones actually recruited Williams to bobsled last year, and Williams took to the sport right away. The 30-year-old former track star already had a silver medal in the 100 meters from the 2004 Games in Athens and a gold medal in the 4x100-meter relay from London.

    Thanks mostly to her explosive speed, she became the push athlete for the USA 1 sled driven by Elana Meyers, and the two teamed up to grab the silver medal.

    Williams was split-seconds away from becoming the only Olympian to ever win gold in both the Summer and Winter Games, but her silver still puts her in rarefied territory—only four other athletes have medaled in both.

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