Russia defended its home turf with aplomb.
For much of the 2014 Olympic Games, the host nation sat just off the lead for total medals in Sochi. But the Russians ran rampant in the final couple of days, culminating with four of the seven total medals on Sunday to capture both the overall and gold medal crowns.
If you judge by total medals, the United States finished second with 28, which was well off Russia's pace of 33. In terms of gold, Norway (11) and Canada (10) were next in line behind Russia (13).
Here's a look at the final medal tally, along with some of the top highlights from the XXII Olympic Winter Games:
Sportsmanship Conquers All
There were a total of 295 medals (not divisible by three because of ties) handed out over the past two weeks, but my personal favorite moment from Sochi doesn't involve one.
During the men's cross-country sprint semifinal, Russia's Anton Gafarov crashed and broke a ski. He was determined to finish, despite being well behind the other competitors, but tumbled again coming down the hill because of his damaged ski.
It was quickly turning into a heartbreaking scene, but Canadian coach Justin Wadsworth raced to Gafarov's rescue and gave him a new ski to assist him across the finish line.
TSN's Mark Master offered his praise for the coach's honorable act:
Wadsworth didn't receive a ton of worldwide attention, but his action embodies what should be the true spirit of the Olympics.
Countries Sticking to Their Strengths
We saw some truly transcendent performances on various stages in Sochi.
Perhaps the most impressive of all was Netherlands' dominance at Adler Arena. Of the country's 24 total medals, an astounding 23 came via speedskating, while the other one was on the short track.
ESPN's Paul Carr gave some perspective with a couple of unbelievable numbers:
Although pretty much every Dutch athlete did what he or she wanted on the oval—Netherlands captured four podium sweeps—Ireen Wust was especially unstoppable, finishing with three golds and two silvers.
Gerard Dielessen, the secretary general of the Dutch Olympic committee, talked about his country's dominance, via USA Today's Paul Myerberg:
We are not ashamed by winning such a level of medals, of course, because we trained very, very hard.
And we want to dominate that sport. So the distance we have now between (Netherlands) and the other countries, we are proud of that. It's a challenge for us to keep the distance. It's (expletive) to say that we are ashamed of us for winning such a lot of medals. It is ridiculous.
What we say to the other countries, well, they failed. They have to train harder.
Of course, we had other countries excelling in particular sports, as well.
Seventeen of Norway's 26 total medals came via cross-country skiing or the biathlon, while extreme sports (freestyle skiing and snowboarding) accounted for 12 of the USA's 28 medals. To a lesser, but still just as dominant extent, Canada grabbed all four golds in curling and hockey.
For Norway, Marit Bjoergen's three gold medals pushed her to six career golds, which tie her for the most ever for a female at the Winter Olympics.
USA Today's Maggie Hendricks put it simply:
Lesson learned from Sochi: Find your niche and stick to it.
The Photo Finish
It was only a quarterfinal, but it was undeniably the most dramatic, memorable finish from Sochi.
During the men's ski cross event, Switzerland's Armin Niederer, Russia's Egor Korotkov, Sweden's Victor Oehling Norberg and Finland's Jouni Pellinen were headed for the finish line. With only the top two advancing to the semifinals, the quartet was dead even heading down the final stretch, as Yahoo! Sports showed us:
Suddenly there was a crash. Niederer managed to get out of the way and across the finish line, leaving the other three to crawl/dive/scrap their way to the end:
Korotkov managed to earn the second spot, but most will only remember the thrilling end.
Russian Teenage Figure Skaters Captivate the World
During the team competition, 15-year-old Julia Lipnitskaia put on a beautiful show, transcending the competition and helping Russia to a gold medal.
With moves such as this one, via BuzzFeed Sports, she became the talk of the Olympics:
Compatriot Adelina Sotnikova, who entered Sochi as the more acclaimed skater—although she is just 17 herself—took a backseat to her teammate. But during the women's individual competition, she took back the limelight with an unbelievable performance in the free program to capture gold.
Sotnikova's win was slightly controversial—some believed Yuna Kim and Carolina Kostner were better—but Russia's young talent impressed on the figure skating ice nonetheless.
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