The last two weeks have absolutely flown by (hmm, that might be an exaggeration) but the Sochi 2014 flame has been extinguished and all eyes now turn to Rio 2016 and the next Summer Games. Before we get ahead of ourselves, here is a look back at my Top 10 moments of the Sochi Winter Games — both the hits and the misses.
10. Opening Ceremony – HIGH
It was a gorgeous production that kicked off the games on Friday, February 7. Perhaps nowhere near as impressive as Beijing 2008, but certainly better than the mess London put on in 2012 (and all I remember from Vancouver 2010 is the snowboarder jumping through the rings and the torch arm not raising correctly). The highlight of Sochi’s production were the inflatable mushroom-esque buildings and the grand “War and Peace” dance production. The overall tightness and focus was also notable as it seemed to be just the right length.
9. Missing Bob Costas – LOW
While it started out as a good source of laughs, Bob Costas’s eye infection eventually cost him almost a week of work hosting the prime time coverage and saddled us with a combination of Matt Lauer and Meredith Viera. Although it might not have seemed like a big deal at the time, once Bob returned, his biting commentary on Putin and frank discussions with Johnny Weir and IOC President Thomas Bach reminded us that we’d been missing one of the most dynamic voices in sports and social commentary. Anyone who doubts that just needs to go back and revisit his gun control speech on Sunday Night Football after the Jovan Belcher tragedy in 2012.
8. Men’s Figure Skating – LOW
I joked about not including the times for the Men’s Figure Skating competition in my Sochi Preview, but the event, which I did watch in full, ended up being the most disappointing of all the competitions on the ice. While it was Japan’s Yuzuru Hanyu who eventually won the gold, his performance was far from flawless, and the decision mostly came down to who fell the fewest times. The fact is that this judging system means the sport has come to be dominated by a trick (the quad) that even the best in the world can only do some of the time. While I imagine the competitors will eventually catch up, for the time being, it’s a pretty pitiful sport to watch.
7. NBCSN and Live Viewing Online – HIGH
The 12 hour time difference between Sochi and the West Coast actually ended up working quite well with new sports flagship NBCSN running fantastic live (or mostly live) coverage all through the night and into the morning. That made it easy to record all the events and play the day sequentially once the sun had appeared on this side of the world. While some notable events were left off the live coverage (most notably the Snowboard Half Pipe and Skiing events) to be featured in prime time, it was easy enough to log on to the mobile app and watch those events live as to not have to worry about spoilers. Nice job NBC. I’d say you nailed it.
6. USA Speed Skating – LOW
While the Dutch team put on one of the most impressive displays of Winter Olympics history taking home medal after medal at the speed oval (doping? doping?), it was a truly disappointing showing for the USA team who failed to nab a single long track medal, even though they were favored in numerous races. To make it worse, the controversy over their suits and the subsequent full team switch turned out to have zero effect and just made us look silly.
5. Mikaela Shiffrin and the New Domination in Alpine – HIGH
One of the most exciting debuts at Sochi was that of 18-year-old Mikaela Shiffrin and her domination in the Slalom that she won by over half a second even with a huge bobble (she also got a very respectable 5th in GS). No one looked as good as she did on the course on either the women’s or men’s side. Ted Ligety also dominated the Men’s GS, winning by half a second. Also medaling were Julia Mancuso (Bronze in Combined), Andrew Weibrecht (Silver in Super G), and Bode Miller (co-Bronze in Super G). While Mancuso and Liggety are 29 and Miller almost in his 40s, Weibrecht is only 20. Both he and Shiffrin will be around for a long time and point to great things happening in our Alpine program.
4. USA Curling – LOW
Ugh. If you thought the combined four wins out of 18 at Vancouver couldn’t get worse, you were wrong! The men’s and women’s curling teams only won three games at Sochi (men two and women one). That’s pathetic folks. There needs to be a major change in the USA curling program before Pyeongchang 2018.
3. USA vs. Russia Hockey – HIGH
Though certainly not as meaningful as the “Miracle on Ice” semi-final win over USSR in 1980, the USA’s overtime shootout victory in the qualifying rounds was one of the most exciting games of hockey I’ve ever seen. We’ll always remember the name TJ Oshie, even if he isn’t quite the celebrated hero that Mike Eruzione became. Funny to think how many people thought that Sochi match would be just the warm up for a sure fire USA vs Russia Gold Medal game. How great that would have been…
2. USA vs. Canada Hockey – LOW
I hate to admit it, but Canada played an incredible game of hockey with some of the best defense ever laid down. Still we should have had a better game plan going in and we just looked outmatched. The entire third period looked like a penalty kill with the USA completely unable to get sustained pressure on Canada’s net. But damn it we gave them the Vancouver win and it would have been great to spank them in Sochi. The women taking a late beating in the Gold Medal match to Canada certainly didn’t help. I’m less disappointed about the men losing the Bronze to Finland as it was all over by then and ended up as a great story for the Fins. Still… you gotta play harder USA.
1. Tara Lipinski, Johnny Weir, and Terry Gannon – HIGH
Positivity, insight, and rapport were on total display from the surprise best commentating team at Sochi. All one had to do was tune into the prime time coverage with Hammond/Bezic/Hamilton to realize how superior the morning NBCSN full broadcasts were. And kudos to NBC for airing the full figure skating programs with commentary at all. Many begged for the B-team to be upgraded to prime time – but I say no way. Prime time shows only six or so skaters. I want (at least the option) to watch all 24+ and would much rather have the strongest team doing those. I’ll be shocked if Tara and Johnny don’t get their own show after their popularity skyrocketed during the games. I know I’ll tune in.
Let me know your thoughts and see you in Rio!