As the Sochi, 2014 winter Olympics finally come to a close, team USA ended the event second in total medals, and fourth in gold. That’s respectable when you take in the fact that eighty-eight different nations compete. Although, in comparison to 2010 Vancouver Olympics, it’s nine less total medals than we had last time around. This being the case, many on the team are calling the games somewhat of a disappointment for the US.
While there were some who didn’t finish as well as they would have hoped, a new US starlet was born from these games: Mikaela Shiffrin. This came after winning a gold medal in women’s alpine skinning. The eighteen-year-old skier made history as the youngest person to even win an Olympic slalom gold medal. She is already making plans for the 2018 games in South Korea, “Right now, I’m dreaming of the next Olympics (and) winning five gold medals, which sounds really crazy,” Shiffrin said the day after her win. “I’m sorry I just admitted that to you all.”
There was also another bit of good luck for the US, although, some don’t think of it that way. Out of the nine gold medals won, five of them were in events introduced just this year. No other nation had more than two medals in these debut events. On the one hand, this allowed the US to up their medal count, and keep them competitive internationally. Though, had the Olympic committee not introduced these events into the games, would the US results be that much more disappointing? There’s no way to know for sure, but I am sure the nation is glad to have the medals nonetheless.
On a larger scale, seeing twenty-six nations earn medals at Sochi was fairly predictable. In the seven Winter Olympics held from 1992-2014, the number of nations to take home a medal has never been lower than twenty, and never higher than twenty-six. However, during that same period, the participating nations dramatically increased from sixty-four, to this year’s eighty-eight. This tells us that while it’s great to allow smaller, more remote countries to compete—it doesn’t seem to be affecting the competition too much.
Overall, team USA did a great job. We are still one of the most athletically competitive nations in the world, and are always a force in every event. While this time we may not have come out on top, 2018 in Pyeongchang will be an opportunity to medal in both the newer and older events. Let’s get back to our speed skating and cross-country skiing roots!