Team USA finished second in overall medals in Sochi, but the team still failed to live up to expectations.
The Americans led all countries in bronze medals and picked up only nine gold medals.
Alan Ashley, managing director of sport performance for the USOC, did his best to downplay the disappointment in the following quote provided by the Associated Press (via ESPN.com):
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.
I don't know about you, but his statement that "the surprises are sometimes way more surprising than the disappointments," not only doesn't make a lot of sense the way it is worded, but it feels a tad hollow.
At any rate, there is nothing anyone can do about those results except look towards the future and try to improve them. That leaves a lot of work to be done for the Americans over the next four years.
Luckily, there are many promising athletes from this year's team who have the youth and talent to return as better competitors for the 2018 Winter Games in Pyeongchang, South Korea.
Here are the three athletes I have my eye on.
Gracie Gold, Figure Skating
Gracie Gold had an excellent trip to Sochi. She just missed the podium in fourth place, but she earned lots of respect and legions of new fans.
US Olympic Team helps highlight this:
Gold is just 18 years old, and she has had a late surge up the international pecking order of figure skaters.
After winning nationals and then coming in fourth in Sochi, she now has excellent experience to draw on moving forward and four years to train, adding a few touches to her program that will allow her to make the podium next time around.
With silver medalist Yuna Kim retiring and bronze medalist Carolina Kostner unlikely to return in 2018, when she'd be 31, there is room for Gold to move up. That is exactly what she'll do.
Maggie Voisin, Freestyle Skiing
Freestyle skier Maggie Voisin didn't compete in the Olympics despite being part of the team. She suffered an injured ankle in a slopestyle training run and wasn't able to make the competition.
The injury very well could have cost her a medal. She was coming off of a silver medal in the slopestyle event at the X Games.
I can't imagine how frustrating that experience must have been for Voisin to get that close to a huge dream like competing in the Olympics after four years of training and then watch it slip just out of reach.
Of course, that four years of training started for Voisin when she was 11 years old. For those of you not here for math, I've taken out my calculator and determined that means she will be just 19 in 2018.
I expect Voisin to come back better than ever for the 2018 Olympics.
Mikaela Shiffrin, Alpine Skiing
Mikaela Shiffrin is going to have a hard time improving upon her results. She took the gold in women's slalom.
Still, this is Alpine skiing were talking about here, and one gold is just the tip of the iceberg. Shiffrin is just 18 and loaded with talent. Apparently she has a bit of confidence as well.
Paul Myerberg of USA Today passed along that Shiffrin has her eye on five gold medals next Olympics. That would be in: downhill, super G, giant slalom, slalom and super combined. Shiffrin told reporters:
I'm still young and I still have a lot of strength to gain over the next few summers of conditioning and the next few winters of skiing. I don't want to push myself too far too fast and definitely don't get greedy, but at the same time, I'm a dreamer.
So right now I'm dreaming of the next Olympics, winning five gold medals. Which sounds really crazy. Sorry I just admitted that to you all.
I'm impressed with how Shiffrin can sound so confident and humble at the same time.
Oh, I'm also impressed with her feats at these past Games, and I'm not going to bet against her picking up multiple medals in 2018.
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