The 2014 Winter Olympics came to a close on Sunday, with the closing ceremony heralding in the extinguishing of the Olympic flame in Sochi.
With four long years to wait until the action picks back up in Pyeongchang, South Korea, it’s time to take a look back on the two-plus weeks of incredible events, athletes and finishes in Russia.
Let’s take a look at the final medal count, recap some of the marquee events that helped to shape this tally and highlight what’s ahead in 2018.
Final Medal Standings
Marquee Events from Sochi
To no one’s surprise, Canada would prove to be the world’s premier superpower in the sport of hockey during the 2014 Winter Olympics. The North American country won gold at the conclusion of both the men's and women’s tournaments, but it didn’t come easy for either side.
The gold medal-winning men’s squad narrowly escaped Latvia and the United States during the knockout stage of the event before obliterating Sweden 3-0 in the championship game.
The women’s road to the final was easier, but Canada was immensely fortunate to win gold. The team faced the United States in the final and was staring down a 2-0 deficit with just over three minutes left in the final period.
What happened next was magic that only the Olympics can conjure, as Brianne Jenner netted a sloppy goal to cut the lead to one. The Canadians pulled their netminder shortly after, bringing six skaters into the zone to try and find a miraculous equalizer.
The Americans repossessed the puck and fired a cross-ice shot at the wide-open target—hitting pipe on what would have surely been the winner for the gold-starved nation. Canada would rebound, fly down the ice and tie the game on a Marie-Philip Poulin goal with less than a minute to go.
At the time, Fox Sports Live called it a “game of inches”:
Poulin would again find the back of the net in overtime, giving Canada one of the most improbable first-place performances in Sochi.
Canada has now won gold on the men's and women’s side in back-to-back Olympics, first defending the home ice in Vancouver and then traveling to Russia to repeat.
You can bet your bottom dollar that this country will be back in four years at Pyeongchang and looking for a three-peat by winning on both sides of the ice for the third consecutive Winter Games.
While Canada earned two gold medals for its dominance of the sport of hockey, the Dutch’s mastery of the speedskating discipline earned them eight gold medals and 23 total medals in 12 events.
Those numbers represent Olympic records, breaking the mark of six golds that the Soviet speedskaters set at the 1960 Squaw Valley Games. It also shattered East Germany’s mark of 13 total medals in the 1988 Calgary Olympics, as per ESPN.com news services.
Ireen Wuest comes out as the most decorated of the Netherlands’ contingent of speedskaters, earning two gold and three silver from the five events she participated in.
She became just the eighth athlete to win five medals at a single Winter Games, and the 27-year-old is just two medals away from holding the all-time record for most podium finishes in the Winter Olympics, as per Nick Zaccardi of NBC OlympicTalk.
Will the Dutch fare as well in speedskating come the 2018 Games?
While the Dutch owned the sport, the Americans struggled to find the podium in a discipline they usually have some success in.
Shani Davis, the veteran speedskater who won gold in the 1,000-meter in 2006 (Turin) and 2010 (Vancouver), failed to live up to expectations and finished in eighth place during his best event.
He told Beth Harris of the Associated Press (via SFGate.com):
We came in being one of the most decorated disciplines in the Winter Olympics and we come away with zero medals. It's horrible.
It’ll be interesting to see if the 31-year-old continues to try to compete at the highest level or ends up hanging up his skates after this embarrassing showing in Sochi.
Pyeongchang is a long ways away, but that doesn’t mean that there is much, if any, time off for the athletes hoping to compete in the 2018 Games.
Many competitors who were too young to compete this year, failed to medal or are even hoping to defend their podium finishes are likely training hard to get ready for South Korea and bring gold and glory home to their country.
If you found a sport or discipline that you enjoyed during the Sochi Games, make sure you tune in and track these athletes as they compete in World Cup, World Championship and other notable events over the next few years. It’ll have you prepared to see what they can do against the best in the world when the Olympics come back around in February of 2018.