The outcome of the final day at the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia should shock no onlookers, as the host country dominated the events to finish on top of the overall medal standings.
Russia took home four of the seven medals on Day 16, including two gold medals to give the Russians 33 total medals and 13 top-podium finishes:
In fact, Russia dominated on its home turf in more ways than one:
In final #Sochi2014 medal count, Russia takes most overall and most gold medals; US 2nd in most overall and 4th in most gold.— ABC News (@ABC) February 23, 2014
The United States was not far behind with 28 total medals, while Norway, Canada and the Netherlands predictably rounded out the rest of the final table.
While the day was surely a bit hollow with its team not playing in the final hockey game after being eliminated in the quarterfinals, the other athletes in action made sure to help the country and its fans forget about the colossal disappointment:
|Bobsled||Four-man Heat 4||Russia||Latvia||United States|
|Cross Country||Men's 50km Mass Start Free||Alexander Legkov (RUS)||Maxim Ylegzhanin (RUS)||Ilia Chernousov (RUS)|
|Hockey||Men's Gold-Medal Game||Canada||Sweden||Finland|
Day 16 started with a bang as the four-man team of Alexey Negodaylo, Dmitry Trunekov, Alexey Voevoda and Alexander Zubkov posted a total time of 3 minutes, 40.60 seconds after a track-record time of 54.82 seconds in the first heat to beat out both Latvia and the United States for the top spot on the podium.
The Russian performance was a highlight and helped to secure the top spot in the standings, but as ESPN's Paul Carr points out, the U.S. team shattered a longstanding trend of inadequacy in the sport thanks to its bronze medal:
Steven Holcomb & Steve Langton are 1st Americans to win 2 bobsled medals at a Winter Olympics since 1952.— Paul Carr (@PCarrESPN) February 23, 2014
As great as the bobsled team was, the athletes in the men's 50-kilometer mass start were the highlight of the day for Russia.
The all-Russian podium secured the country's place atop the standings. Alexander Legkov, Maxim Vylegzhanin and Ilia Chernousov were able to fend off Norway's Martin Johnsrud Sundby as each crossed the finish line within a second of each other.
Legkov told reporters after the victory how much it meant to himself and the country, as captured by the Associated Press via ESPN:
"To win a gold medal on the final day, and win the medals table for Russia, I couldn't be happier," Legkov said.
"This is priceless," said Legkov, who earned his first Olympic gold when he finished in 1 hour, 46 minutes, 55.2 seconds. "It's more valuable than my life, I can't express how I feel. For 15 years I've been trying for this result."
The final event did not see Russia compete for a medal, but it did help Canada secure its own spot near the top thanks to a 3-0 win over Sweden in the men's hockey final. Sidney Crosby finally scored a goal to silence the critics, while Jonathan Toews and Chris Kunitz pitched in to humble the Swiss.
Another storyline from the game was Nicklas Backstrom's absence, as he was unable to play after testing positive for a banned substance. That substance turned out to be an allergy medication, according to Swedish Olympic Committee spokesman Bjorn Folin, per Larry Lage of the Associated Press (via Yahoo! Sports).
While the win is great for Canada, it was surely a sour moment for the host country. As TSN's Dave Hodge points out, there were those who believed a top finish in the standings meant little unless it was Russia celebrating a hockey gold on the final day:
I'd point out that Russia tops the medal standings, except Russia said that wouldn't matter without hockey gold. So I won't.— Dave Hodge - TSN (@TSNDaveHodge) February 23, 2014
Russia turned out to be far from the only country with an issue about the Games' final standings.
As Bleacher Report's Dan Levy illustrates, every country had some sort of complaint—except Norway, a country that can just be happy to sit in the standings with the big boys:
USA finished with more medals than Canada. Canada won more gold, both hockey. Russia won most medals, most gold, no hockey. Who won? Norway.— Dan Levy (@DanLevyThinks) February 23, 2014
Regardless, Russia has no choice but to be happy with the results. After all, the country reportedly spent in the neighborhood of $50 billion on the event. Dan Gardner puts it best:
So it looks like Russia will win the medal count. And it only cost $50 billion.— Dan Gardner (@dgardner) February 23, 2014
Plenty of history was made as a result of the expenditure and great performances from the Russian athletes, as Nick Zaccardi of NBC points out:
RUS extremely likely to win total medal count for first time at OWG (USSR did as recently as 1988). Last host nation to do so NOR in 1994.— Nick Zaccardi (@nzaccardi) February 22, 2014
Like it or not, the host country was the best performer at the 2014 Winter Games. Russia excelled in a variety of areas on seemingly familiar courses and took advantage of horrific disappointments by some of America's top talents such as Shani Davis.
While not the result many wanted in one way or another, Russia had the talent to win both the overall medal tally and the gold count—which leaves no wiggle room for discussion as to which country was the best in Sochi.
On the hockey front, the Americans have to be disappointed. The women's team lost a heartbreaker in Sochi to Canada for gold, while the men's team couldn't overcome their Canadian opponents either and ultimately failed to medal at all. Canada secured its dominance in the sport. Now, some of the biggest ice hockey stars will turn their attention back to NHL action.