The 25 Best Moments of the Winter Games 2014
As the 2014 Winter Olympic Games drew to a close, there was no shortage of memorable moments to take away. Whether it was 18-year-old Mikaela Shiffrin winning gold in the slalom, Ted Ligety mastering the slopes or the agonizing exit of the U.S. men's and women's hockey teams, Sochi provided unforgettable competition. Here's a look at some of the most compelling images from the final week of the 2014 Olympiad.
1. Hot Night on a Cool Track
American two-man bobsled crew Steven Holcomb and Steven Langton won the bronze medal in Sochi, the first time the United States had medaled in that event in 62 years. They weren't done yet, though. Both athletes were part of the four-man bobsled team that also won bronze -- by three-hundredths of a second. That made Holcomb the first American bobsled pilot in 62 years to win multiple medals at an Olympics.
2. Fogged Out
Weather was a concern heading into the 2014 Winter Olympics. Unseasonably warm temperatures turned snow to slush on the ski slopes, and fog crept in to delay events such as snowboarding and the biathlon. But the challenge proved to be temporary, as athletes got a chance to complete every event by the time the Sochi Games ended.
3. Just in Time
Coaches always tell athletes not to celebrate until the event is over, but apparently Norwegian Emil Hegle Svendsen didn't get the message -- and it nearly cost him a gold medal in the 15K mass start cross-country. As Svendsen threw up his arms in early celebration, France's Martin Fourcade lunged for the finish line. The Norwegian won by a matter of inches.
4. Fall Down, Stand Up, Win Bronze
Italy's hopes for a gold medal in the women's short track 3,000-meter relay final crashed when Arianna Fontana fell to the ice. But she got back up and her team finished the race, which turned out to be a medal-worthy performance. Italy captured a bronze in the event, behind South Korea and Canada, when China's team was disqualified.
5. Ligety Splits
The last time Ted Ligety had won a gold medal in the Olympics, he was a 21-year-old unknown who stunned the competition by taking the combined in Turin in 2006. Eight years later, he entered the Winter Games as one of the favorites but was kept off the podium early on. He could not be denied in the giant slalom, winning gold again and becoming the first American male with two alpine skiing gold medals.
6. Gold Standard
Gracie Gold didn't win an individual medal in Sochi, placing fourth in women's figure staking. But the 18-year-old shone while skating two clean programs at the Olympics, and she says she'll be back in 2018. She'll have some competition, however: Teammates Ashley Wagner and Polina Edmunds also said they have no intention of hanging up their skates just yet.
7. Ovie and Out
The Russian men's hockey team was under immense pressure to win gold in front of the home-country fans, but it was a disappointing Olympics for Alexander Ovechkin and company. They entered as one of the gold medal favorites but lost to the United States in a shootout in the group stages, and then fell to Finland, 3-1, in the quarterfinals. The Russians exited the competition with nothing to show for their efforts but a whole lot of criticism from the locals.
8. Flying High
Not many athletes get the scenic views that ski jumpers did in Sochi. France's Jason Lamy-Chappuis, who carried his country's flag in the opening ceremonies, was more focused on his landing spot than the surrounding mountains, however, which helped him finish in fourth place in the team Nordic combined event.
9. Gold-Medal Lunge
Sometimes the difference between gold and silver is as narrow as a single ski. In the team Nordic combined event, Norway's Joergen Graabak and Germany's Fabian Riessle sprinted the last 100 meters to the finish line. Graabak crossed first to give the gold to Norway -- three-tenths of a second ahead of Germany.
10. Iron-Willed Curlers
Curling might look like a game you and your friends could play in your backyard, assuming the yard was made of ice. But the game requires skill, athleticism and concentration, a winning combination the Canadians used to dominate the events in Sochi. Canada's men's and women's curling teams came away with the gold.
11. Heartbreaking Defeat
Sometimes you win silver. Sometimes you lose gold. For the U.S. women's hockey team, it definitely felt like the latter. America led Canada, 2-0, with 3:26 to play, but after Canada scored to make it a one-goal game, a shot by the Americans went off the post in Canada's empty net. Then, Marie-Philip Poulin tied the game with less than a minute remaining and scored the game-winner in overtime to give the Canadians their fourth consecutive women's hockey gold.
12. Hitting the Ice
South Korea's Haejin Kim felt the pain of a missed jump when she landed poorly on her way to a 16th-place finish in Sochi. But that wasn't the women's figure skating result that caused the most pain in her home country. Yuna Kim, the defending Olympic gold medalist, took silver this time in a controversial decision as Russia's Adelina Sotnikova skated away with the gold.
13. 18 and Golden
Mikaela Shiffrin became the youngest Olympic slalom champion in history by coming up huge on her sport's biggest stage. After finishing fifth in the giant slalom earlier in the week, she was more than ready for her next event, and it showed. Her lightning-fast slalom runs swept her toward a gold medal past Austria's Marlies Schild, whom Shiffrin idolized growing up.
14. Swedish Fish
Henrik Lundqvist had every reason to celebrate at the end of his team's performance against Finland in the men's hockey semifinals. The Swedish goalie helped lead his team to a 2-1 victory that got his squad to the gold medal game over its traditional hockey rivals. The good fortune ended there, however, as Sweden lost to Canada, 3-0, on the final day of the Olympics.
15. A Walk in the Clouds
This isn't a scene from a science fiction movie about skiing across the sky. But Ukraine's Vita Semerenko had reason to feel like she was in a dream in the biathlon women's relay in Sochi. She and her teammates skied and shot their way to a gold medal.
16. Close...but No Victory Cigar
The United States and Canada appeared to be on a collision course from the opening face-off in Sochi, each winning their groups to set up a meeting in the medal round. The teams played close to even, but Jamie Benn put the puck past America goalie Jonathan Quick in the second period, and the U.S. found itself stonewalled by Carey Price at the other end. The result was a 1-0 victory for Canada, the second Olympics in a row where the Americans saw their neighbor end U.S. gold medal hockey dreams.
17. Build Another Trophy Case
They call the event the women's cross country mass start for a reason, but Marit Bjoergen wasn't trapped in traffic for long. The Norwegian led a sweep of the event, with countrywomen Therese Johaug taking silver and Kristin Stoermer Steira bronze. It also marked her third gold medal in Sochi and 10th medal overall, setting a record for the most medals won by a woman in Olympic history.
18. Shots Fired, Slope Awaits
For athletes such as Austria's Daniel Mesotitsch, the biathlon offers one of the biggest challenges in sports. After completing a grueling cross-country skiing lap, competitors must calm themselves to shoot accurately at a target. Austria did well enough to take the bronze medal in the men's 4x7.5-kilometer relay, finishing behind Russia and Germany.
19. No Medals for Fourth
An Olympics that began with such high hopes for the U.S. men's hockey team came to an abrupt end against Finland. Perhaps still feeling the effects of the previous day's loss to Canada, the Americans misfired on two penalty shots and lost, 5-0, to the Finns in the bronze-medal game. Though the shootout victory over Russia in the group round was one for the ages, the team American left Sochi without a medal.
20. Upside-Down and Out
Not all Olympic dreams end with success, or even the glory of finishing the race. For Canada's third four-man bobsled team, piloted by Justin Kripps, the second run ended in a scary-looking crash with the sled flipping over on one of the corners. Fortunately, all four Olympians walked away from the accident, but their quest for a medal was over.
21. Golden Again
Hockey-mad Canada places a lot of pressure on its Olympic teams to come home with the gold. In Sochi, both the men's and women's squads were up to the challenge. The women knocked off the United States in overtime, while the men capped the final day of the Winter Games with a 3-0 shutout of Sweden.
22. This Time, It's on Purpose
Who says Russians don't have a sense of humor? When performers re-created the Olympic rings in the closing ceremony, they took the form of four rings and one smaller blob, poking fun at an incident in the opening ceremonies when a glitch prevented one ring from displaying properly.
23. March of the Flags
As part of the closing ceremonies, hostesses walked into the stadium bearing the flags of each participating nation. This fits the overall theme of the Olympics, which traditionally emphasizes bringing nations together, regardless of political differences or hostilities, to compete peacefully in sport.
24. Mascot Party
Every Olympics has its mascots -- what better way to decorate souvenir T-shirts and pins? But the Russians gave theirs an expanded role in the closing ceremony. The polar bear blew out the Olympic flame, shedding a tear in the process.
25. Let's Get Down
The opening ceremonies at any Olympics are full of pomp and circumstance, with athletes formally marching in to prepare to compete. But the closing ceremony? That's a party! Music plays, hips sway and athletes from around the world soon are hanging out and celebrating what they've accomplished, getting to Sochi and participating in the games.
What Were Your Favorite Moments?
The flame of the Olympics has been extinguished for another two years until reconvening in Rio de Janeiro but the spirit of the Games lives on. From the dominance of the Norwegians in speedskating to the Canadians in hockey and to all of the athletes who competed, the Olympics showed that despite the outside pressures, it is still about sport. Did you watch the Winter Games this year? What was your favorite event? What were your favorite moments? Leave a comment and let us know.
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