2014 Olympics: Team USA Must Regroup for Stronger 2018 Run

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2014 Olympics: Team USA Must Regroup for Stronger 2018 Run
Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

For many nations, finishing the 2014 Olympics in the top five of the medal standings would be considered a success, but Americans expect nothing less than first place every four years.

Unfortunately, Team USA's venture into Sochi this February didn't live up to expectations.

The United States finished in second place behind Russia for the overall medal lead with 28 total (to Russia's 33), but both Canada and the Netherlands finished ahead of the Americans when it came to gold medals won.

Here's a look at the top five at the conclusion of the 2014 Games:

After leading all nations with 37 total medals at the 2010 Winter Games in Vancouver, the United States was expected to continue dominating in similar fashion this time around. 

Heading into the opening ceremony, Americans were considered favorites to win gold in a few speedskating events, with repeat gold-medal winner in the men's 1,000 meters, Shani Davis, leading the charge. 

Along with Davis, Heather Richardson and Brittany Bowe led a strong female team, and more than a few podium finishes were expected. 

Unfortunately, American speedskaters couldn't manage a single medal—not one podium finish—and it left a bitter taste in the mouth. 

Matt Dunham/Associated Press

"We came in being one of the most decorated disciplines in the Winter Olympics and we come away with zero medals," Davis said, as noted by Beth Harris of the Associated Press (via SFGate.com). "It's horrible."

The failure of the men's hockey team to medal was equally frustrating—both for the athletes and fans alike. 

Team USA had annihilated the competition leading up to the semifinal game against Canada, scoring 20 goals in four games to that point (five goals per game). But when it came time to perform under pressure, Zach Parise and his teammates couldn't deliver. 

The team ended up getting shut out 1-0 against Canada and then once again in more embarrassing fashion, 5-0, in the bronze-medal game against Finland. 

ESPN's Scott Burnside had a reasonable theory for the collapse: "The stark reality of the situation is that Team USA peaked exactly one week earlier."

Whatever the case, instead of an expected (or at least hoped-for) gold medal, Team USA struck out completely, which stung all the more after the silver-medal finish by the women's team.

Matthew Stockman/Getty Images

Shaun White and Gracie Gold both failed to medal, as well, further illustrating the good-but-not-great Olympics had by the Americans in Sochi

Certainly, there were plenty of triumphant moments, as well. 

Coming in second overall in the medal tally and winning nine gold medals will do that for a nation. 

But there's no doubt Team USA fell dramatically short of expectations this winter. 

Going forward, there's going to be an influx of new talent as many of the old guard call it a career. It's hard to imagine Bode Miller coming back for another go-round at the age of 40, and the same goes for Ted Ligety, who won his second career gold medal this winter. 

Will Team USA bounce back in 2018?

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Furthermore, after a few NHL players were injured in the Games, there's no guarantee pro players will even be a part of the 2018 Games in Pyeongchang, South Korea. 

There is a lot of uncertainty facing Team USA as it heads home without meeting its goals. 

Developing strong juniors programs in sports like speedskating, cross-country and ski jumping is needed in order to ensure America is able to improve and sustain success in the future. 

 

Follow me on Twitter @JesseReed78 

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