A record medal haul for US as Winter Games wrap up
VANCOUVER, British Columbia - The Canadians ended up owning the Olympic podium, or at least the top step, by collecting the most gold medals over 17 historic days here. But their American neighbors owned the podium’s lower steps by heading home with a record 37 medals overall - gold, silver, and bronze - as the Games concluded last night.
The US total was a dozen more than its previous best at a foreign Winter Games (25 in Turin) and it came from nine sports, five on ice and four on snow.
The Yanks were tied with Norway for third in the golden tally, with nine gold medals to Canada’s 14 and Germany’s 10.
But they showed their strength across the board. In Alpine skiing, New Hampshire’s Bode Miller led an impressive medal haul. The snowboarders and short-trackers were prolific and the freestylers were bursting in air. But the most startling splash came from the Nordic combined people, who came up with as many medals as the long-trackers and put their sport on the map in the States.
A sport-by-sport assessment, with medals won in parentheses:
ALPINE SKIING (8): “Best In The World’’ was a wishful goal four years ago. This time it was a reality, with the Americans winning more medals than the Swiss and Austrians combined. Though Lindsey Vonn fizzled after her gold and bronze efforts, Miller’s one-of-each-color surprise, Julia Mancuso’s two silvers, and Andrew Weibrecht’s unexpected bronze in the super-G made for a delightful, if oft-delayed, fortnight.
SHORT-TRACK SPEEDSKATING (6): No golds, but none were expected. Half a dozen medals still was a hefty haul in this icy roulette parlor, even if half of them came with the help of a crash and a disqualification. Apolo Anton Ohno’s individual silver and bronze made him America’s most bemedaled winter athlete and his brilliant anchor leg put his relay mates on the podium again. With Katherine Reutter’s silver and the relay bronze, the women got what they came for after leaving Turin empty-handed.
SNOWBOARDING (5): Rolling another seven, as they did in Turin, would have been nectar. Still, there were four medals in halfpipe - gold by Shaun White, silver by Hannah Teter, and bronzes by Kelly Clark and Scott Lago - and Seth Wescott’s repeat gold in boardcross was epic. Uncle Sam’s alternatives still can barge it.
LONG-TRACK SPEEDSKATING (4): The Yanks had hoped for a couple of golds from Shani Davis and got one, in the 1,000 meters, plus his silver in the 1,500. What they hadn’t counted on was Chad Hedrick’s bronze in the 1,000 and the startling silver in the team pursuit from Hedrick and the kids. Unfortunately, the women have missed the podium at successive Games for the first time.
FREESTYLE SKIING (4): The gold-bronze opening-day duet in moguls by Hannah Kearney and Shannon Bahrke jump-started a solid outing that included Speedy Peterson’s inspired silver in aerials and Bryon Wilson’s moguls bronze. That’s four times as many as the United States managed in Turin. Now to get the ski-crossers motivated.
NORDIC COMBINED (4): An astounding showing by the soar-and-ski people, who’d never made the podium. Johnny Spillane’s breakthrough silver in the sprint set up another in the team event, which led to the spectacular 1-2 punch by Billy Demong and Spillane in the finale. The two-decade investment was worth every dime. Now to keep the pipeline producing.
ICE HOCKEY (2): For an entire afternoon the men’s team had two continents holding their collective breath. Though the gold would have been a mini-miracle, the silver still was the first medal on foreign ice since the 1972 team did the same in Sapporo. While the women were two-time world champions, beating the Canadians in their building was a tall order. Honorable showings by both sextets.
FIGURE SKATING (2): Mission accomplished. Evan Lysacek collected the first men’s gold since Brian Boitano in 1988 and Meryl Davis and Charlie White duplicated the 2006 dance silver. The rookie pairs had a rough initiation - 10th and 13th was the worst combined finish ever. But while the women missed the podium for the first time since 1964, the fourth-place effort by 16-year-old Mirai Nagasu was a preview of coming attractions.
BOBSLED (2): All aboard the Night Train. Steve Holcomb and his mates high-balled it to the first US gold medal in the four-man since 1948 and ended the German dynasty. The women slid in deftly for a bronze. The only surprise was that it was Erin Pac, not Shauna Rohbock.
LUGE (0): Most people weren’t betting on world champion Erin Hamlin to dethrone the Germans at Olympus but nobody figured that America’s best medal hope would end up 16th. With Christian Niccum and Dan Joye finishing sixth in the double and Tony Benshoof eighth in singles, it was the worst combined finish since 1984. Those two medals in 1998 and 2002 seem eons ago.
SKELETON (0): It was better than in Turin, with Noelle Pikus-Pace placing fourth and Zach Lund fifth, but the day when the US skeletors can go double-gold, as they did in Salt Lake, are over. The need for speed remains.
CROSS-COUNTRY SKIING (0): If only this winter were last winter, when the US sprinters were up near the top of the world. Though Kikkan Randall’s eighth-place finish was the best ever at the Games, nobody else cracked the top 20 and the relays barely made the horizon. Still 34 years and counting since Bill Koch’s silver in Innsbruck.
JUMPING (0): No great leap forward, but the 32d-place large hill effort by 18-year-old Peter Frenette was a significant step. With none of the three men over 21, there’s hope of a top 20 in 2014 if the team takes a page from the Nordic combined development manual.
BIATHLON (0): Just another tease from the ski-and-shoot brigade, which seemed poised to break the 0-for-Olympics famine after Tim Burke led the World Cup standings for a while this winter. But Burke disappeared and Jeremy Teela posted the only top-10 finish. Except for Lanny Barnes’s 23d in the 15k, the best showing since 1994, the women were back in the pack.
CURLING (0): A medal in either event would have been a stretch but for both the men and the women to finish 10th out of 10 was an embarrassment, especially since John Shuster’s and Debbie McCormick’s rinks earned their spots a year ago. Maybe it’s time to look beyond Minnesota and Wisconsin for people who can throw stones.