SBD/February 17, 2014/Olympics

USOC Not Concerned About Reaching Lofty Medal Count From Vancouver Games

Both Miller (l) and Weibrecht medaled in Sunday's men's super-G event
The U.S. Olympic team at Sochi "won't come close to matching" the record-setting 37 medals earned during the '10 Vancouver Games, but USOC CEO Scott Blackmun said that this is "just fine," according to a front-page piece by Kelly Whiteside of USA TODAY. Blackmun has "high expectations for the team, but he's also pragmatic." He said, "Vancouver was a once-in-a-lifetime performance by our team. While that's a good benchmark from an aspirational standpoint, it's not a realistic expectation every time we compete because it was just so special." Whiteside reports heading into Day 10 of the Sochi Games, The Netherlands "leads the overall medal count with 17," while the U.S. and Russia are "tied for second place, each with 16 total medals and four golds." This week, U.S. skiers Mikaela Shiffrin and Ted Ligety "should add to the medal haul," along with bobsledder Steven Holcomb. In figure skating, Meryl Davis and Charlie White also are "in position to win gold after leading Sunday's short dance." But their podium finishes "are far from guaranteed" after several favorites already "have come up empty-handed here." Even though some stars "failed to live up to expectations, others emerged, including three surprise gold medalists: slopestyle snowboarders Sage Kotsenburg and Jamie Anderson and slopestyle freeskier Joss Christensen" (USA TODAY, 2/17). U.S. Ski Team Alpine Dir Patrick Riml prior to Sunday's men's super-G, which saw both Andrew Weibrecht and Bode Miller place on the podium, said, "We probably expected a little more, to be honest. The Games aren't over yet. We're halfway through, and we have some strong performers and good events coming up for us" (DENVER POST, 2/16).

ALLOW ME TO INTRODUCE MYSELF: In Boston, John Powers notes while the U.S. tally "won’t be nearly as hefty as it was projected to be due to their also-ran bunch of speedskaters, the US still figures to win the overall medal count again." The final seven days of competition "should yield four in bobsled, three more in freestyle skiing, two each in ice hockey and Alpine skiing, and one apiece in ice dancing and snowboarding." What is "notable in the Americans’ case is that all of their golds have come from athletes, three of them slopestylers, who definitely needed an introduction to the folks in living rooms back home." This has been a Games "where the stars’ sponsors could have saved a bundle by having them compete on commission" (BOSTON GLOBE, 2/17). The WALL STREET JOURNAL's Matthew Futterman notes Olympic fans, even "people who never watch sports," will likely know Shiffrin "a lot better by this time next week." Shiffin should "walk away with the slalom gold medal and compete for the podium in giant slalom." Her every step already is "being chronicled by NBC." She did a "walkaround the mountain village here with the 'Today' show Saturday afternoon, about 20 hours after she landed" (WALL STREET JOURNAL, 2/17).

THE 'X' FACTOR: In Buffalo, Jerry Sullivan wrote the Winter Games have become "largely an extension of the X Games" and Team USA should thank the "norse gods for the extreme sports -- and a nod of gratitude to the IOC for continuing to add new sports to the program." Of the 13 medals the U.S. had won through Friday, 10 were "in events that didn’t exist" in the ’92 Albertville Games. Seven were "in sports that were added this year," with six coming in either slopestyle skiing or snowboarding. Sullivan: "If it doesn’t involve sliding on a rail or flipping over three or four times in the air, America is second-rate in these Games" (BUFFALO NEWS, 2/16). Detroit Free Press columnist Mitch Albom said, “For the first week, at least for anyone who is over 30, the Olympics were a lot about X Games revisited. There were a lot of sports that Americans couldn’t even understand, let alone root for” ("The Sports Reporters," ESPN, 2/16).
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