Sochi Winter Olympics live up to high expectations

Andrew Adelhardt and Peter Kirgis, Andrew Adelhardt, and Peter Kirgis

On Feb. 23, the most expensive Winter Olympics in history concluded in Sochi, Russia.  In the past, the Olympics has been unique because it is one of the only events in which athletics and politics have common interests.  As a result, the Olympics have created some of the most dramatic moments in sports history.

In 1980, at the heart of the Cold War, the “Miracle on Ice” happened, where a bunch of college kids from the United States upset the mighty Soviet Union (a team that had won every Olympics since 1960) in one of the most improbable and memorable moments of US Olympic history.

Olympic moments like this one are important both for their athletic merits as well as their political relevance.  In Sochi, countless athletes tried to earn medals to help their country improve in the standings.  In events that range from ski jumping to skeleton, athletes from all countries tried their hand in some of the craziest and most difficult sports.

 

Hockey

Hockey is one of the Olympic sports that receives viewership and support from fans from almost every country.  Hockey was also a chance for the United States to shine in a European-dominated games.  The United States Hockey Team received a silver medal in Vancouver after losing to the Canadian team on a heartbreaking overtime goal by Pittsburgh Penguins superstar Sidney Crosby in 2010.  The Americans looked  for revenge against the Canadians, but they fell short by a goal in the semi-finals.  Canada went on to win the gold medal.  No North American hockey team, until this year, had won gold in an Olympics in Europe since Canada  in the 1952 Olympics in Olso.

 

Aerials

When skiing, the most panic sets in the second you find your skis are off the ground.  Imagine being upside-down 65+ feet in the air.  This year’s Olympic champion from Belarus, Anton Kushnir, completed a “back double full-full-double full,” which is five twists packed into three head-over-heel flips.  His jump is considered the maximum difficulty possible in the event.  During the last Winter  Olympics, American Jeret Peterson won with his famous “Hurricane,” another set of five twists, but with three twists in the middle of the jump.  Peterson committed suicide in 2011 and was surely missed in Sochi.

 

Snowboard Cross

Alex Deibold, a 27-year old from Vermont, had never been the star American snowboarder.  When neither American favorite made the final round, Deibold was suddenly in the spotlight.  He was the underdog, and he had beaten out stronger competitors, so why couldn’t he achieve his next goal and get on the podium?  With a great run, Deibold did just that.  After barely making the Olympic team, Deibold had achieved the highest honor in winter sports, an  Olympic medal.

 

Nordic Combined

The Nordic Combined is considered a tougher event in the Winter Olympics.  It merges some of the scariest and the most enduring events in winter sports: ski jumping and cross-country skiing.  It is rare for athletes to possess the courage to jump 132 meters in the air, and then ski 10 km as fast as they can.  The ski jump is the first event, and the winner starts the cross-country ski first.  The skiers  start in order based on the distance of their jumps.  Norway dominated the event, which came as no surprise, considering it is named after their country.  Norway’s Joergen Graabak and Magnus Hovdal Moan took gold and silver, respectively.

 

Alpine Skiing

Alpine skiing combines speed, strength and precision.  Athletes participate in combined, downhill, slalom, giant slalom and Super-G, which forces the skiers to have a broad set of skills.  The alpine skiing events are most well known for their speed. During the Super-G, skiers speed up to 90 mph  down the 1.5-mile course.  Although the warm weather in Sochi made it difficult for skiers, the events were a success.  Some top finishers included Matthias Mayer, Dominique Gisin, and Bode Miller.

 

Skeleton

Skeleton takes place on the sliding track where the luge and bobsled also take place.  Rather than luge, in which athletes lie on the sled with their feet first, skeleton athletes sprint down the beginning of the track and dive headfirst.  As they speed down the 1,365-meter track, skeleton athletes apply pressure and shift their weight to steer while still maintaining speed.  The United States, Russia and Great Britain were projected to be the strongest teams, and that proved true.  Elizabeth Yarnold of Great Britain had a great showing and won gold in the skeleton.

 

Slopestyle

Making its Olympic debut, slopestyle skiing and snowboarding combines the grace of acrobatics and the flying ability of aerials.  Traditionally an X-games event, the Olympic committee decided to add this thrilling event to its repertoire.  With the majority of the competitors from the United States, the US had high hopes for the event.

In men’s skiing, the United States achieved its goal of sweeping the podium.  Joss Christensen was the United States’ top competitor, and took gold.  In the snowboard event, Jamie Andersen took gold for the women.  With much positive feedback regarding the event, the Olympic committee has high hopes for slopestyle in the future.

 

In the end, the host country, Russia reigned victorious, leading the medal count with 33.