SBD/February 24, 2014/Olympics

USOC Officials Happy With 28 Medals From Sochi Despite Falling Nine Short Of '10 Total

Shiffrin is seen as one of the U.S.' breakout stars from the Sochi Games
USOC officials claim the Sochi Games were "one of the country's best Olympics ever," after its 28 medals put it "behind just the host country in total medals," according to Tim Dahlberg of the AP. However, Norway "won more gold than the U.S. (11-9) and the 28 total medals were nine less than Americans won in a record-setting performance four years ago in Vancouver." USOC Chief of Sport Performance Alan Ashley said, "We came here with a great team and they've done a great job. Things don't always shake out exactly the way you think they're going to, but the surprises are sometimes way more surprising than the disappointments." Dahlberg noted among the "disappointments were the biggest U.S. stars going into the games." U.S. snowboarder Shaun White failed to medal in the halfpipe, while skier Lindsey Vonn "didn't even make the trip because of injury." But one "new star was born" -- 18-year-old skier Mikaela Shiffrin won a Gold Medal in the women's slalom. U.S. speedskaters were "kept off the medal podium for the first time" since the '84 Sarajevo Games, and things "weren't much better on the ice for U.S. figure skaters, who won a bronze in the new team event but were shut out individually." However, U.S. ice dancers Charlie White and Meryl Davis "took a bit of the sting out of that performance" with their historic Gold Medal win. Ashley said that the U.S. medal haul was lower "partly because other countries are becoming more competitive in winter sports." He added that the team "would have liked to have won more medals, but called their performance excellent anyway" (AP, 2/23).

YOUTH OF THE NATION: In L.A., David Wharton writes under the header, "Young No-Names Save The Sochi Olympics For The U.S." The "youth movement at the Sochi Games gives the USOC another edge." With so many "fresh faces" such as Shiffrin, the organization "has some new blood for its constant marketing push" (L.A. TIMES, 2/24). In Phoenix, Mark Faller wrote, "Don’t label Sochi as the Games where U.S. star power failed. Don’t focus on Shani Davis, Shaun White, hockey teams or the disappointing speedskaters." Instead, remember Sochi as "the coming-out party" for Shiffrin -- the "face of both the present and future of U.S. winter sports" (ARIZONA REPUBLIC, 2/23).

TWO SIDES TO EVERY STORY: In San Diego, Mark Zeigler writes there are "two ways to spin the U.S. performance." One is by "simply counting medals." However, the other side is if the IOC "doesn’t add 12 events to the 2014 program, we’re writing the obituary of U.S. winter sports." The U.S. "won a record 37 medals in Vancouver," but "in those same events, they won 19 in Sochi." Figure skating "finished off the podium in ladies, men’s and pairs for the first time" since '36, and long-track speed skating "won no medals." Cross country, biathlon and ski jumping "were shut out again," and the men’s hockey team "lost 5-0 to Finland in the bronze medal game" (SAN DIEGO UNION-TRIBUNE, 2/24). In DC, Mike Wise writes these were "the Excuse-Making Games for some U.S. athletes." Whether "blaming Under Armour’s speedskating suits or bad, sloppy snow," competitors could not get their "head around the fact that some people in the world were either better, wanted it more or are just culturally predisposed to kicking behind at some things" (WASHINGTON POST, 2/24).

SLIDING SPORTS COULD SEE SPRINGBOARD: The AP's Tim Reynolds notes since the USOC "takes world-championship and Olympic performance into significant account when doling out budget cash," the USA Bobsled & Skeleton Federation, as well as the USA Luge Association "might turn Sochi success into a springboard for the Pyeongchang Games." The U.S. teams "could just keep getting faster" for '18 "assuming the financing is there" (AP, 2/24).
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