One Last Look at the XXI Winter Olympics

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One Last Look at the XXI Winter Olympics
Matthew Stockman/Getty Images

All the medals have been given out and the torched has been passed to Russia. The closing ceremonies have put an end to the XXI Winter Olympic in Vancouver, Canada.

In a sports world moves on as quickly as an event is over and gives no time for reflection. Before the Winter Game leaves every sports fans consensus, let’s take one last look back at the Vancouver Games.

The next games are in 2014 in Sochi, Russia and many of the stars we saw in these games might not return in four years. Let’s savor all of what we saw in a little more than a fortnight.

 

Remembering Georgian luger Nodar Kumaritashvili

Even before the opening ceremonies took place tragedy struck the Vancouver Games. In a practice run before the start of the Luge event Georgian Nodar Kumaritashvili was killed.

The high speeds of the Whistler track and uncovered steel beams at the bottom of the track contributed to Nodar’s death.  Nodar’s teammate so shaken up by his death also withdrew from the Luge event.

To give credit to the Whistler staff, they moved quickly to make sure the events would not be repeated. The exposed steel beams were covered and the start of the event was moved to reduce the speeds at which competitors could reach.  

In any athletic event athletes put their careers and life at times on the line. When it happens that an athlete is severely injured or killed, they should not be forgotten and should be remembered.

Streaks ended at the XXI Winter Games

There were several streaks ended at these Winter Games. Some of the biggest streaks broken involved American athletes.

The streaks broken by Americans were both good and bad. The best thing is that the majority of the streaks broken were good for the Americans.

The first streak broken by the Americans was winning a medal in the Nordic Combine. The United States had never won a medal in this event until these games.

Not only did the U.S. win a medal they won four medals including one gold medal. Johnny Spillane won two silver medals for the U.S. and three overall with inclusion of the team event.

Another breakthrough in these games was in women’s Short Track Speed Skating as Katherine Reutter won a medal in the 1000 meters. The 1000 meters, was event that no U.S. Women’s athlete had ever won a medal in and Reutter was the first.

The U.S. also broke a 62 year gold medal drought in the Men’s Four Man Bobsleigh. It had been since 1948 that the U.S. had last won a gold medal in the four man bobsleigh.

Figure Skating saw the most streaks broken in these games. Russia failed to win a medal in Pairs Figure Skating for the first time since 1960 as either the USSR or Russia.

China won its first gold medal ever in figure Skating with a gold medal in Pairs Skating as well. What is more, the Chinese pair won the first ever medal for their country as well.

South Korea won its first gold medal in a sport not called speed skating for the first time with a medal in Ladies Figure Skating. Also Japanese skater Mao Asada landed the first ever triple axel in ladies competition.

The host country Canada saw its ice dancing team become the first North American team to win the gold medal. The win by the Canadians ended a 34 year streak by Europeans winning the gold medal.

This is also the first winter games that saw no European skater, pair, or dance team win a gold medal since 1960, the first time in 50 years. The biggest streak ended as far as in the United States has to be that no American Ladies Figure Skater won a medal for the first time since 1964.

 

Comebacks from injuries and retirements to win medals

These games saw a ton of medal winners who came back from retirement or injuries. First in Pairs Figure Skating, with Shen Xue and Zhao Hongbo coming back from retirement to win the Gold.

One of the gutsiest comebacks from injury has to be Slovenian skier Petra Majdic who crashed in practice. Majdic then came back to win a bronze medal and it was found out later she won this medal after breaking four ribs and a collapsed lung.

Skier Lindsey Vonn was the most talked about athletes in these games. Vonn had an injured shin and with weather problems postponing the skiing events, she was able to heal up and win a gold and bronze medal. That was until she re-injured herself with a broken small finger and was done at Vancouver.

 

Cold War heats up once again between the U.S. and Russia, this time over figure skating

The men’s gold and silver medal winners in figure skating took two different routes to their medals. Evgeni Plushenko the silver medal winner attempted the toughest move in men’s figure skating landing a quad in competition.

Evan Lysacek was sound technically and showed more passion in his program, even though it did not contain the tough elements that Plushenko’s program did. The Russians’ program contained the quad but was not as technically sound as the American was.

After winning the gold, Lysacek was happy and classy after beating the defending Olympic champion from 2006. On the other hand Plushenko was upset that a skater who did not perform a quad was given the gold over him.

Other skaters came to the aid of both taking the stand of either the quad was the move that should have delivered the gold or that overall performance matters most for the gold. Figure skating being a sport in which winners are judged for their scores is use to this kind of controversy.

Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin and other famous athletes decried the judge’s decisions at the Vancouver games.  This caused Lysacek to have to defend his winning of the gold medal stating the scoring system in place is what helped him win the gold as well as a strong overall skating performance.

Both Plushenko and Lysacek have said they are going to attempt to make the games in 2014.

Those games will be on Plushenko’s home soil of Russian.

 

Who really owned the podium and is the United States a Winter Power?

Canada boldly stated that they wanted to “own the podium” for these Olympic Games on home soil. The first week of the games looked like a disaster for the Canadians after a slow start.

In the end the XXI Winter Olympics the Canadians had set a new record for gold medals with 14 and finished third in overall medal count with 25.

Finishing just ahead of the Canadians with 30 overall medals was Germany. The Germans finished with 10 gold medals as well and the only other country with double digit gold medals.

For the Canadians it was mission accomplished after winning the gold medal in both Men’s and Women’s Hockey. The pressure to win the gold in hockey was greater on the Canadian team then another in an Olympic games.

The United States finished with nine gold medals overall and 37 medals overall. This was the best showing for the American team in the winter games.

Vancouver gave the United States more medals on home or foreign soil. The 37 medals gave the U.S. more medals than any other country at these games.

The question becomes who owned the podium. Did the Canadians own it by winning more gold medals than any other country or did the U.S. by winning the most medals overall.

That question all depends on what matters more to a particular individual. Some people think that winning the most gold medals means more than winning the most medals.

Others think that winning the most medals count more than just gold medals.

If only the gold mattered then why would the Olympics hand out silver and bronze medals?

Everyone has the right decide how to weigh the medals won in the Olympic Games. That being said the host country always wants to win the most gold medals and overall medals.

For these games, Canada has to be at least happy to have won the most gold medals after such a poor start. Some of the winter games powers struggled in these games like Russia and Norway.

This helped both the U.S. and Canada reach their medal totals. If the classic winter powers had been as competitive in Vancouver as in previous games owning the podium for the U.S. and Canada would have been a lot harder to achieve.

Perhaps the biggest question could be is the United States ready to become a power in the winter games. The past three Winter Olympics has seen the U.S. win 96 total medals.

The games in Salt Lake City and Turin helped the U.S. win 34 and 25 medals respectably before these games. Before Salt Lake the most medals won in a Winter Olympics were 13 twice at Nagano, Japan and Lillehammer, Norway.

Since 1960 and the Squaw Valley, California till the Nagano games the U.S. had won 104 overall medals. In the four games since the U.S. has nearly equaled what it took 38 years for the Americans to win.

The U.S. looks to be on the verge of becoming a power in winter sports like it has been in summer sports. Going into the 2014 games the progress the U.S. has made will be tested.

Will the U.S. take the next step and lead not only the total medal count but also the gold medal count. Or will the U.S. take a step back after four years and the winter games disappear from the public eye.

 

Vancouver will be remembered for the death of an athlete before the start of the games. It will also be remembered for the end of the opening ceremonies with a malfunction in the torch lighting ceremony.

The XXI Winter Olympics could also be remembered as the definite rise of the U.S. winter program. It also had some of the best athletic performances in a winter games.

The torch has been passed from Canada to Russia and now they get a chance to show the rest of the world what the country has become since communism ended. Sochi also provides a chance for Russia to bounce back, after a poor showing in these games with only 15 total medals, on home soil.

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