Now that the seemingly inextinguishable flame of the Sochi Games has been blown out by a giant crying bear, it is time to put the Winter Olympics to bed.
It was an emotional journey full of personal and team triumphs and failures. Did we expect anything less?
That's what makes the Olympics so riveting.
Sure, each sport in the Olympics has its own fanbase. But what make this collective event so engaging for the public are the stories of the athletes and the fact that all of them have dedicated their lives to try and coax their best performances in a very short window and in a very bright spotlight.
With 33 total medals, host nation Russia collected the most hardware from these Olympics. That includes a nation-leading 13 gold medals.
With 28 medals, Team USA had the second-highest medal haul, but with 12 bronze and nine golds, the Americans were fourth in gold medals.
Have a look at the tally for yourselves, and then I'll move onto my top takeaways from the 2014 Olympics.
At second in total medals, it is easy to heap praise on Team USA. Chairman of the United States Olympic Committee Larry Probst, per the Associated Press via ESPN.com, did: "I couldn't be more proud of our Olympic team."
Meanwhile, Alan Ashley, managing director of sport performance for the USOC, is voicing his support for this team.
"We came here to compete," Ashley was quoted in the same Associated Press article. "We came here with a great team and they've done a great job. Things don't always shake out exactly the way you think they're going to, but the surprises are sometimes way more surprising than the disappointments."
I appreciate the efforts of these gentlemen to show pride in the athletes who were giving their all, but come on? How un-American is the statement "We came here to compete?"
Team USA is not spending millions upon millions of dollars in a non-stop effort to fund an Olympic team that merely competes. It is doing it to win. And there was not enough winning going on.
The biggest problem with this year's team is that the surprises did not outweigh the disappointments.
The speedskating team was at the heart of the disappointment. With gold-medal favorites Shani Davis and Heather Richardson heading up the team, the group was expected to clean house. The long-track team won only one medal (silver) at these games.
In all, Team USA sent more athletes and competed in more events than in 2010 but came away with nine fewer medals.
I wouldn't pay any heed to comments from anyone in the USOC that speak to contentment. That is a group that has to be collectively frustrated, and I would expect vast changes within the program in the next four years.
The Netherlands Are Speedskating Super Powers
Even had the American speedskaters come forth with better efforts, Team USA was never going to be able to compete with the Netherlands on the ice.
The small country essentially rewrote the book of Winter Olympic dominance for a single sport. ESPN's Paul Carr helped highlight this:
Ireen Wust was the most dominant of this super group. She took home five medals and became just the 10th athlete of all time to do so in a single Winter Olympics.
Canada Loves Its Hockey
In order for this to be a top takeaway, something extraordinary must have happened. I mean, if you know anything about Canada, beyond being able to point it out on a map, you know that the expansive and sparse country is big on hockey.
Well, something extraordinary happened:
As Joe Raso tweeted, the gold-medal game between Canada and Sweden was shown in at least one church.
Canada cruised to a divine 3-0 victory in the gold-medal game, which leads me to believe that the church pictured above was spared some less-than-holy language.
Success for Russia?
This question is so close to being a resounding yes.
The Russians won the most gold medals and medals. Sure, there were some complaints with some of the venues and warm conditions caused a few headaches, but for the most part, events went smoothly and the opening and closing ceremonies were a riveting showcase.
The Russians also returned to dominance in pairs figure skating, and Adelina Sotnikova was the first Russian woman to take gold in the women's figure skating competition.
Still, there was one failure so glaring that it will stand as a cloud over these games for the host nation and send bears everywhere into despair:
The Russian men's hockey team fell 3-1 to Finland in the quarterfinals and failed to medal.
As Chris Chase recounts for USA Today, heading into these games, it was widely said that:
Russia could go without a medal in the first 97 events in Sochi, but as long as the hockey team won gold on the final Sunday of the Games, the 2014 Winter Olympics would be a rousing success.
Russia has lots of wonderful memories to ease the pain of the hockey failure, but those successes aren't great enough to erase that pain.
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