By Melinda Frank
The 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi concluded last week after 17 days of intense athletic competition featuring athletes from 88 nations.
Not surprisingly, host country Russia topped the overall medal count with 33 medals, 13 of them gold. Team USA ended up in second place with 28 medals. However, the athletes’ personal stories trump the medal count once again.
America fell in love with ice dancing pair Meryl White and Charlie Davis, who culminated their 17-year career by winning the first gold medal in American ice dancing history. Skeleton slider and mother of two Noelle Pikus-Pace came out of retirement to win a silver medal. Bode Miller, a 36-year-old veteran downhill skier tied for bronze in the super-G after losing his younger brother to a seizure last year. Bobsledder Steven Holcomb won two bronze medals in this Olympics after having extensive surgery to restore his deteriorating eyesight.
Sochi saw the introduction of 12 new Olympic sports, including women’s freestyle half-pipe skiing. The late Canadian skier Sarah Burke led the push to include the sport in the Olympic Games. American gold medalist Maddie Bowman — the youngest athlete to win gold in Sochi — dedicated her win to Burke, the woman who made her dream a reality.
Internationally, Canada dominated hockey once again with a gold medal sweep in men’s and women’s hockey. Russia’s 15-year-old Yulia Lipnitskaya amazed the world with her poise and drive in women’s figure skating, although the gold ultimately went to fellow Russian Adelina Sotnikova.
Several of Team USA’s favorites failed to medal. Snowboarders Shaun White and Lindsey Jacobellis and short-track speedskater Shani Davis were among the gold-medal favorites who fell short of the podium.
Team USA, of course, was looking for a repeat of the 2012 Vancouver Games and the U.S. athletes’ infamous sweep of 37 overall medals. Even though the U.S. came in second, these games were a showcase of the inspirational American spirit, a welcome phenomenon that is seen every four years.