There truly is no place like home when it comes to the Winter Olympics and Russia.
The host country took advantage of familiar ice, snow and everything in between at the 2014 Games in Sochi by finishing atop the medal count race with an impressive 33 medals. Among those 33 podium finishes were 13 golds, which was also the most of any nation.
Among the sports that Russia dominated was figure skating, with the gold medal in the team competition behind the brilliance of Julia Lipnitskaia and the gold in the ladies' individual event from Adelina Sotnikova.
The real question from a Russian perspective is whether winning the overall medal tally and taking home the most gold medals is enough to compensate for the sting of losing in the quarterfinals in the men’s hockey tournament.
The United States checked in at second place in the medal count, with Norway, Canada and the Netherlands rounding out the top five.
From an American perspective, it was an Olympics filled with ups and downs.
On the one hand, the 28 medals were the most for the Red, White and Blue at a Winter Olympics held outside of North America, but it’s hard not to compare this year’s effort to the 37 medals brought home at the 2010 Games in Vancouver. That was the most-ever podium appearances by any nation in one Winter Olympics.
Many of the marquee names heading into these Games failed to medal, including Shaun White, Shani Davis and the men’s hockey team. Gracie Gold took home a bronze in the figure skating team competition, but she was one spot off the podium in the ladies’ individual event.
However, there was complete dominance from Meryl Davis and Charlie White in the ice dancing and two podium appearances from Steven Holcomb and Steve Langton in bobsledding. Tim Reynolds, an Associated Press sports writer, pointed out that they were the multiple-medal winners in Sochi:
There was also the birth of a new superstar on the ski slopes, as Mikaela Shiffrin became the youngest woman ever to win the gold in the slalom.
If her comments to reporters that were passed along by Paul Myerberg of the USA Today are any indication, there is plenty of success to come at the 2018 Games:
I'm still young and I still have a lot of strength to gain over the next few summers of conditioning and the next few winters of skiing. I don't want to push myself too far too fast and definitely don't get greedy, but at the same time, I'm a dreamer.
So right now I'm dreaming of the next Olympics, winning five gold medals. Which sounds really crazy. Sorry I just admitted that to you all.
Another marquee story from the 2014 Olympics was the performance of the Netherlands in the speedskating events. Yes, head coach Jillert Anema made some headlines with his comments on the United States, but the real story was the 23 medals, eight of which were gold, that the Dutch won in the various competitions.
Netherlands finished in fifth place in the overall medal count, and 23 of its 24 podium appearances came in speedskating.
Elsewhere, Canada was strong as usual in the Winter Games.
Its hockey team was filled with elite NHL talent and it showed throughout the tournament. The Canadians defended their gold medal from Vancouver, knocking off the Americans in the semifinals and the Sweden team in the championship match.
Safe to say, those on the Canadian team won’t mind the additional fatigue once the grueling NHL schedule starts back up again. A gold medal around your neck has a funny way of making the extra games worth it.
Looking forward, two questions remain now that the Olympics are officially in the rearview mirror.
As with any Olympics, what will happen next with the additional sporting venues and the extra hotel rooms in Sochi?
Mark Kramer of Harvard University’s Davis Center for Russian and Eurasian Studies did not sound optimistic, via Barry Svrluga of The Washington Post:
I doubt Putin is going to want to channel large amounts of scarce funding to bolstering all these facilities once the Olympics are over and begin to fade from memory…Putin has channeled ample funds to his native city, St. Petersburg/Leningrad, and he is fond of Sochi, but in the list of priorities, it’s not going to rank high. Hence, I expect that Sochi will end up with a lot of facilities and hotels that are going to be pretty useless five years from now.
At least the Fisht Olympic Stadium, which was solely used for the Opening and Closing Ceremonies in the Games, will be a featured site for the 2018 World Cup.
The other post-Olympic question is how the 2018 Games in South Korea will unfold.
Will Russia be able to defend its medal count title? How will the traditional powerhouses of Canada and the United States fare? Finally, will South Korea receive a boost from its home fans?
For now, Russia has Winter Olympic bragging rights for the next four years.
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