Fortunately, the pre-Olympic threats never materialized, the problems of Sochi only briefly took center stage, and these Games will ultimately be remembered for how Russia “delivered” on its promise to present the world with a compelling Olympiad.
Much of the coverage over the past two weeks has shifted between the “hard” news of the actual Olympic Games to some of the lighter moments in Sochi. Twitter helped shape viewers' perspectives of the Olympics -- especially with the significant time difference – and some moments captured on social media were equally as indelible as the sports themselves.
Without further delay, the top moments from the Sochi Games.
10. The Opening Ceremony (and the stubborn snowflake)
A stirring tribute to Russia's history, including tributes to writers, musicians and dances all signaled the start of the Sochi Games two weeks ago on Feb. 7. Wonderful dance routines, colorful outfits, and the Americans' Bill-Cosby-inspired threads all made their international debut as well.
But viewers won't soon forget the plight of the stubborn snowflake, which failed to deploy properly and left four interlocking rings instead of five. Flub aside, the Opening Ceremony was a tremendous show and set the stage for the Games. It should also be noted that head of the IOC, Thomas Bach, took a rather strong stand in his opening remarks. Bach underscored that there should be no discrimination for any reason against any type of people and that the Games were meant to bring people together. It was an interesting contrast to Russia's public policy, to say the least.
9. Sportsmanship at its finest
Russian cross-country skier Anton Gafarov crashed during the men's sprint free semifinals, breaking his ski and jeopardizing his chances of even finishing the race. Gafarov tried, futilely, to finish the race while propelling himself using just his poles. He fell again.
(GIF via NBC)
Enter sportsmanship. Canadian coach Justin Wadsworth hustled onto the course with a replacement ski and helped Gafarov put it on, competitive spirit be damned. The Russian crowd went berserk as Gafarov finished the race nearly three minutes behind the leader.
(GIF via CBC)
“It was about giving Gafarov some dignity so he didn't have to walk to the finish area,” Wadsworth told the Globe and Mail. “We help because we know everyone works so hard in our sport.” And that's about all you need to know.
8. Bode Miller comes to reporter's defense
Bode Miller became the oldest Olympic medalist in alpine skiing when he took bronze in the Super-G – increasing his overall medal count to six, a record for U.S. skiers. But his medal was hardly the story after an emotional post-race interview saw Miller choke up as he remembered his late brother, Chelone. His brother died of an apparent seizure, which was believed to be related to a serious motorcycle accident in 2005.
NBC was widely critizicized for seizing on Miller at a vulnerable time, but Miller came to a very public defense of reporter Christin Cooper. It was both a telling and transparent moment for the enigmatic Miller and one that won't soon be forgotten.
I appreciate everyone sticking up for me. Please be gentle w christin cooper, it was crazy emotional and not all her fault. #heatofthemoment— Bode Miller (@MillerBode) February 17, 2014
My emotions were very raw, she asked the questions that every interviewer would have, pushing is part of it, she wasnt trying to cause pain.— Bode Miller (@MillerBode) February 17, 2014
7. Hendrickson's historic leap
It didn't matter that Park City's Sarah Hendrickson finished 21st out of 40 ski jumpers, because she had made history notwithstanding her disappointing finish. Hendrickson became the first female in history to ski jump at the Olympics. Her jump came just days after a Russian ski coach said, “If I had a daughter, I'd never let her jump – it's too much hard labor. Women have another purpose – to have children, to do housework, to create hearth and home.”
For decades, the sport had fought for Olympic inclusion but was repeatedly denied as male bystanders claimed it wasn't healthy or ladylike for women to ski jump. One critic reportedly claimed that a woman's uterus would fall out should she participate. Not so strangely, nothing of the sort happened.
Carina Vogt of Germany took the inaugural gold medal with a score of 247.4, which took into account her distance, speed and style. Jumpers from Austria and France took silver and bronze, respectively, while their uteruses (uteri?) reportedly remained intact. Check out the Miami Herald for an excellent account.
6. Canadian sisters take gold, silver
Canadian mogul skiers and sisters – 19-year-old Justine Dufour-Lapointe and 22-year-old Chloe – became just the second set of sisters to win gold and silver in the same Olympic event. Even more absurd, a third sister, Maxime, finished 12th.
Johane Dufour, the sisters' mother, told USAToday: “I'm so happy for my three daughters, all three Olympians, two medals at home. Incredible. I'm so anxious to grab and kiss them. I haven't had a chance the last three weeks, so bring me my babies!”
For a moving account of the scene, check out Bruce Arthur's take.
5. Dutch dominance
Where to begin with the Orange-clad Dutch team? Not that speed skating is one of the marquee sports of the winter Olympics, but the Netherlands utterly dominated. There were 36 medals available in speed skating and the Dutch won 23, including eight gold medals. All but one medal came in speed skating. The lone wolf? Short track speed skating, to bring their entire medal haul to 24.
Female speed skater Ireen Wust became the first athlete in Sochi to win five medals (two gold, three silver). “It has yet to sink in,” she told The Star. “I still don't realize what an exceptional performance I have achieved here.”
The Dutch's dominance coincided with the United States' disappointment, in both its performance on the oval as well as the performance of Team USA's equipment. Curiously, the Dutch coach blamed the United States' struggles on our emphasis on football, a sport, he said, which is played to kill each other.
4. Mikaela Shiffrin's Olympic debut
The 18-year-old skiing phenom didn't disappoint, becoming the youngest woman to win gold in the slalom. What's more, she was expected to do it, tripling the pressure as she performed in her first Olympics.
The ambitious Coloradoan already has her sights set on PyeongChang in 2018, where she says her goal is to sweep the alpine events – all five of them. That'd be downhill, super G, giant slalom, slalom and super combined.
“So right now, I'm dreaming of the next Olympics, winning five gold medals," she said to USAToday. "Which sounds really, really crazy. Sorry I just admitted that to you all.”
You do you, ‘Kaela.
3. USA's slopestyle sweep
The United States dominated in the inaugural Olympic ski slopestyle event as Joss Christensen, Gus Kenworthy and Nick Goepper swept the podium. It's the first time the U.S. has swept an event since it took all three medals in the men's snowboard halfpipe at the 2002 Games.
While Christensen may have taken gold by nailing the “triple” -- three flips with four full rotations – Kenworthy upstaged his teammate when he began adopting stray dogs left and right.
In fact, the paperwork necessary to bring the pups back to the U.S. has actually delayed his return trip home. Serves him right for hogging ALL THE PUPPIES.
puppy love is real to puppies. pic.twitter.com/krauCUPjOg
— Gus Kenworthy (@guskenworthy) February 11, 2014
2. Ukraine's unity
With their home country deeply divided in deadly protests against president Victor Yanukovych, the Ukrainian women managed to take gold in the 4X6-kilometer biathlon relay – Ukraine's first gold medal in in two decades. The win coincided with a groundbreaking moment in Ukraine's parliament, which voted to restrict president Yanukovych's power and hopefully curtail some of the violence, which has left dozens dead.
At the press conference after the race, one of the biathletes urged the crowd to stand and remember those who had died during the fighting in Kiev.
“We dedicate this victory to the whole of Ukraine,” Olena Pidhrushna said to the Associated Press. “We concentrated on the race, we are professional athletes. Despite everything that's happening at home, we went out to the start line with the intent of performing as we were able to do. We know what we had to do, and how.”
IOC president Thomas Bach said Ukraine's victory was his most unforgettable moment from the games.
Where were you on that early Saturday morning when Olympic rules permitted T.J. Oshie to make 4-of-6 shootout goals, catapulting the U.S. to a pulsating 3-2 victory over Russia in the preliminary round? That's the question American fans will be asking each other for decades. Deadspin compiled this incredible GIF of Oshie's six attempts.
Oshie, added to the team precisely for his 1-on-1 abilities, never tipped his hand against Russia's goalie Sergei Bobrovsky and came through again in the eighth-round of the shootout. As soon as he buried his final attempt, he calmly pointed to U.S. goalie Jonathan Quick, who was equally as vital to the Olympics' top moment.
Never heard of Ole Einar Bjoerndalen? That's a shame, because he leaves Sochi as the most decorated winter Olympian of all-time. The biathlete won two golds in Sochi (men's sprint and mixed relay) at the ripe old age of 40, and he says that his Olympic competition is now over.
If that's true, Bjoerndalen is retiring with 13 medals overall, including eight golds. He participated in six Olympics in total. “I've had a great career. I'm happy with my situation,” he said.
There you have it, the best moments from the 2014 Sochi Olympics.