Another Olympiad has come and gone. The XXII Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia came to a close on Sunday with a spectacular closing ceremony that followed a surprisingly successful games. Despite the fears of terrorist attacks, the imposing presence of Russian president Vladimir Putin, hotels that were too small, water that didn’t look like water, weather that was too warm and facilities that were finished at the last second, the games went on with nary a hitch and few complaints. In fact, according to most sources, it was a smooth and organized games that were praised by many members of the foreign media. But as per usual, not everything went well in terms of the competitions. There are winners and losers. Therefore here are the good, the bad and the ugly of the 2014 Winter Olympics.
The gold medal game in women’s hockey will go down as a classic. Granted, I’m Canadian so I’m incredibly biased in this thought but the epic battle between Canada and the United States may go down as the best game in the history of woman’s hockey. Marie-Philip Poulin will never have to buy a drink in this country again, after notching the tying goal with 56 seconds remaining in the third period, then she followed that up by netting the overtime winner, clinching the gold medal for Canada. While women’s hockey is still dominated by the North American neighbours, it is one of the best rivalries going today. With Switzerland, Finland and Sweden showing signs of improving, the future of women’s hockey is bright.
The so-called second tier nations of men’s hockey made some steps to compete with the big boys. Latvia gave Canada quite the scare in the quarterfinals. Slovenia, led by Anze Kopitar of the Los Angeles Kings won their first ever game at the Olympics. Austria showed they do have NHL calibre talent, when they’re not busy partying the night away. While these nations still have a steep hill to climb to challenge the likes of Canada, USA, Sweden, Russia and Finland for supremacy in the hockey world, they are getting better with each passing tournament. I can remember when Finland was a laughingstock in international hockey, but since the NHL sent its best to the Olympics in 1998, it has been the Finns, led by Teemu Selanne that have won the most medals. (1 silver, 3 bronze) It may take some time, but it could happen at some point to another country.
The two sports I fell in love with at these Olympics were ski cross and snowboard cross. Both were very exciting to watch with plenty of spills and thrills. While very popular at the X-games, both snowboard cross and ski cross are a welcome addition to the Winter Olympics. More thrilling races and fewer judged events makes an Olympiad better.
Once again, my Canadian bias is showing but Canada winning gold in men’s hockey makes me very happy. No event means more to my fellow Canadian citizens (myself included) than the national passion of the land. Hockey is a religion in Canada and when the best players in the world are involved for a chance at Olympic glory, the country comes to a virtual standstill when they are in action. While it lacked the drama of Sidney Crosby’s golden goal in 2010, Canada were clinical in their performances, dissecting their opponents with suffocating defense, and timely goals to take home the gold medal. And of course, Canada celebrated. Thousands of beer drinking hosers woke up and crowded their local watering holes early in the morning, (some stayed up all night to catch the game) to watch Canada blank Sweden 3-0. While Canada did win 25 medals in Sochi, the Olympics weren’t going to be considered a success unless the men’s hockey team won gold. They succeeded and then some.
The Dutch were absolutely dominant on the speed skating oval in Sochi. How dominant you may ask? Holland won 23 medals in speed skating. 23! In every race, at least one Dutch skater took home a medal. No country owned an event like Holland in speed skating. Talk about an orange crush! (Yes it’s a bad joke. Forgive me I’m not clever enough to come up with a good joke)
Figure skating judging reared its ugly head yet again. Both the ice dancing and ladies competitions were mired in controversy, thanks to another judging scandal and accusations the events were rigged. If the powers that be of figure skating cannot admit that there’s a problem with their “sport” (and there is a problem and it’s been around for many years) then figure skating is nothing more than WWE on ice without the chair shots. It is a complete joke!
While Russia did take home the most medals in Sochi, the men’s hockey team proved to be a major disappointment. Led by the likes of Alexander Ovechkin and Evgeni Malkin, the Russians were expected to contend for a gold medal on home ice. But after a tough shootout loss to the United States in the round robin, Russia failed to recover. A devastating loss to Finland in the quarterfinals left Russia without a medal in the sport they desperately wanted gold the most. Many questions will be asked about Russian hockey over the next few months and if the NHL does go to Pyeonchang in 2018, Russia will be under heavy scrutiny yet again.
Many expected Italy to reap the benefits of hosting the 2006 Winter games. However, the Italians were a disappointment in Sochi. Italy didn’t win a single gold medal, taking home 2 silvers and 6 bronze medals in 2014. Gone are the days of Alberto Tomba dominating the slalom events of alpine skiing. Or Manuela Di Canta racing her way to the top of the podium in cross-country skiing like she did in 1994. It might be time to recognize that Italy is no longer a threat in the Winter Olympics and that the World Cup of soccer is the only event that matters for the Italians.
Can someone please tell me how Scott Russell has a job with the CBC? The host of the daytime coverage on Canada’s public broadcaster is completely clueless when it comes to hosting a huge sporting event. Whether it be getting medal winners names wrong, to mispronouncing Vladimir Putin’s last name, (he called him poutine on several broadcasts. I guess Russell was hungry) Russell has demonstrated he’s terrible at his job. If this was an audition tape for Rogers to hire new announcers for hockey broadcasts next season, Russell failed mightily. To think he will host the 2014 World Cup coverage on CBC, despite his lack of soccer knowledge. Expect disastrous results.
More ugliness from figure skating. The men’s competition shockingly did not have a judging scandal but a competence problem. Every skater fell during the free skate portion of the competition. Last time I saw many men fall on their asses on ice was at last call at a Winnipeg bar in January. Trust me, it wasn’t pretty.
Vladimir Putin’s reaction to the Russian hockey team losing. Wait, that’s actually the best picture of the Russian president. Never mind.
See you in Rio in 2016 and Pyeonchang in 2018.
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