Sochi 2014 Olympics: Medal Haul Not Indicative of Massive American Failure

Richard LangfordCorrespondent IFebruary 24, 2014

Shaun White of the United States hits the edge of the half pipe during the men's snowboard halfpipe final at the Rosa Khutor Extreme Park, at the 2014 Winter Olympics, Tuesday, Feb. 11, 2014, in Krasnaya Polyana, Russia. (AP Photo/Andy Wong)
Andy Wong/Associated Press

Team USA managed to walk away with more total medals than any country other than host nation Russia, but that can't hide the fact that this was a disappointing addition to America's Olympic history. 

For starters, the second-place finish in the race for overall medals, seen just below, is misleading. 

The majority of the Americans' hardware is gold...but it's a dingy gold. Wait, it's not gold at all. It's bronze. Team USA came in first place for coming in third place at these games. 

Needless to say, the proud, competitive American spirit was not built on coming in third.

In light of this, I can't be convinced that Alan Ashley, managing director of sport performance for the USOC, is convinced of his following comment, which comes to us from the Associated Press via

We came here to compete. 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.

What else is Ashley going to say? I admire his stance to support the team and all the men and women who worked so hard to compete in Sochi. They certainly don't need to be pelted with public disappointment upon return. 

That, however, doesn't change the fact that it was a disappointment, and I expect Ashley and the rest of the USOC would private. 

The ambitious Team USA doesn't fork over millions of dollars to come in third. 

We don't need to look solely at the bigger pile of bronze medals than gold medals to see this was a lackluster trip for the Americans. 

Team USA sent more athletes and competed in more events than in any other Winter Olympics, and yet it still finished with nine less medals than it pulled from Vancouver 2010. 

Now, there is always more to the story than just stats, and this one is no exception. 

Had Team USA rode into Sochi with an untested group carrying light medal expectations, this performance wouldn't be all that troubling, but that was far from the case. 

That leads me to the last part of Ashley's comment: "the surprises are sometimes way more surprising than the disappointments."

First of all, disappointments are surprises, too. So, I guess in that way his comment is correct. I have to believe, however, that he meant athletes who surprised by overachieving. 

Sure, the Americans had some of those. For instance, Kaitlyn Farrington taking gold in women's snowboard. highlights the nine American gold medalists in the link below:

Still, the disappointments outweigh those surprises. 

Superstar veteran Shaun White couldn't match Farrington's performance on the men's side. In fact, the two-time defending gold medalist didn't medal at all. The U.S. hockey team, full of NHL stars, lost to Canada in a semifinal matchup and then was destroyed 5-0 by Finland in a battle for the bronze. 

ESPN's Pierre LeBrun passed along his colleague Scott Burnside's take on the failure that includes Team USA captain Zach Parise calling the effort "embarrassing."  

The biggest disappointment, however, came for the long-track speedskating team.

The star-studded group entered with huge expectations and left with a single medal, as The Boston Globe points out: 

With gold-medal favorites Shani Davis and Heather Richardson leading the men and women, the team had talent, form and experience. 

Patrick Semansky/Associated Press

There are bountiful triumphant personal stories among the members of Team USA, but the collective impression left by this team is one of disappointment.