Athletes, performers and flags mark the pageantry of the closing ceremony
In the closing ceremonies, things come full circle
Remember that (kind of hilarious) malfunctionduring the Sochi opening ceremonies when five giant snowflakes transformed into an incomplete set of glowing Olympic rings? Well, the Russians remember it too, and at Sunday’s closing ceremonies, decided to poke fun at themselves for the technical flub.
Following a choreographed routine, performers sporting some exceptionally sparkly get-ups moved into formation to create a giant set of Olympic rings — but deliberately left one ring as a small, disconnected circle. This, of course, was a winking nod to that original fail:
Good job, Russia, for proving you’ve got a sense of humor.
Bobsledding, cross-country skiing and more on Sochi's 18th day
Total of 28 overall medals is nine fewer than won in Vancouver in 2010
Correction appended 10:16pm
The competition at the 2014 Winter Olympic Games in Sochi came to a close Sunday, leaving behind a spate of disappointing defeats and surprising victories in its snow-sprayed wake.
With 13 golds and 33 overall medals, the host nation Russia emerged as the decisive victor of the games. Norway, the skiing king, won 11 gold medals and 26 overall, followed by Canada at 10 gold medals and 25 overall.
It was not a good year for the United States, who placed fourth in gold medals, with nine, and 28 overall medals—nine fewer than the last winter games in Vancouver.
Team USA’s most prominent American Olympians—Shaun White, Bode Miller, Shani Davis—won a total of one bronze medal between them. The Americans won no medals in speedskating for the first time since 1984 and no individual figure skating medals for the first time since 1936. The men’s hockey team, the inheritors of the Miracle on Ice legacy, was outscored by a total of 6-0 in the medal rounds.
(PHOTOS: See the closing ceremonies)
An earlier version of this article had an inaccurate headline suggesting the U.S. had placed fourth in overall medal count, not in gold medal count.
A day after Russia’s first gold in ladies’ figure skating, judging controversy swirls again
When Adelina Sotnikova took to the ice in the ladies final on Thursday, she knew she was in a good position to win a medal. Second after the short program, Sotnikova was only 0.28 points behind the reigning Olympic champion, Korea’s Yuna Kim – practically a tie. And after her teammate, overnight sensation and crowd favorite Yulia Lipnitskaya finally faltered, falling on a jump and stumbling on another, Sotnikova hoped she had a chance to make history as her country’s first gold medalist in the event.
And at the judges table, some might argue, she might have had help. Sitting on the panel was one Ukrainian judge who had been banned for a year for attempting to manipulate the ice dance results in the 1998 Games in Nagano, and a Russian who is married to the head of the Russian skating federation.
Did the two judges collude and push Sotnikova over Kim? Nobody will know, since the judging is anonymous – something the U.S. skating federation wants to change at the upcoming International Skating Union gathering in the summer. At any rate, if both of the judges gave the Russian exceptionally high scores, one was thrown out as the high and low marks are discarded and the remaining seven of the nine numbers are averaged.
And yes, the judges still likely play with the components score, the one that incorporates their perception of how well the skater executed jumps and spins and other technical elements, as well as their overall choreography and skating skills – how fast they moved across the ice, how well they covered the entire ice surface, and other such intangibles.
But the new scoring system, in place since the 2006 Olympics, also makes it harder to manipulate the technical score. Each element is given a point value, and rather than earning points to a perfect 6.0, as skaters in the previous system did, skaters start out with a base value reflecting their planned elements and then start losing points if they don’t execute them, or if they don’t perform them well.
It was on the technical side where Sotnikova outpaced Kim – the Russian completed seven triple jumps to Kim’s six, and in the three-jump combination both skaters did, Sotnikova pulled off a triple-double-double, while Kim only did a double-double-double. On that element alone, Sotnikova outscored Kim by 0.51. Before they even hit the ice, the base value of Sotnikova’s program was already higher than Kim’s.
It wasn’t just the judges, but the caller, too who saw Sotnikova’s technical superiority. The caller evaluates each element and determines how many rotations a skater completes on jumps, and more importantly, what level of difficulty things such as spins and step sequences deserve. Sotnikova was awarded the highest level, a 4, for all of her spin and step patterns, while Kim earned a 3 on one of hers – slow spins or failure to complete enough revolutions can earn lower levels. Based on what they executed on the ice, Sotnikova’s base value for her program was nearly four points higher than Kim’s.
So Kim set herself up for an uphill battle; she would have had to perform a truly Herculean feat of skating to make up the difference and amass more points than the Russian in the components section; while still the precise and elegant skater she was in 2010, Kim seemed to lack the power and speed that set her apart and earned her record-setting scores back then. And the judges didn’t miss that – they awarded both skaters nearly equal component scores.
Under the new system, it’s a numbers game – and the person with the highest starting program often has the best chance, as long as they stand up and deliver. And Sotnikova did, performing the skate of her life with the hometown crowd behind her. If Kim had wanted to repeat as champion, she should have brought in bigger technical elements to set herself apart. Even the Queen herself admitted that perhaps the passion wasn’t there this time. “The motivation was a problem, I think,” she said to NBC.
While it’s always possible that collusion may have taken place — this is figure skating, after all — it looks like the judge might have gotten it right this time.
USA! USA! USA!
If you did not have an opinion about the outcome of the United States vs Canada Olympic men’s hockey game, this sign may get you to start rooting for Team USA.
A Chicago billboard has raised the stakes for Friday’s semi-final match considerably. Not only is a spot in the gold-medal game on the line, but now it appears that national ownership of the seemingly self-destructing pop star Justin Bieber is also on the line.
Nothing is higher than the stakes of tomorrow’s game. pic.twitter.com/usqJ9EPTpg
— Command Sign (@CommandSign) February 20, 2014
The billboard, owned by Command Transportation, a freight broker, features Bieber, the 19-year-old Canadian pop star who resides in the U.S., squeezed between Canadian hockey star Jonathan Toews and U.S. player Patrick Kane, teammates on the NHL’s Blackhawks, but rivals on the Olympic ice. Under the stars sits the caption ‘Loser Keeps Bieber’.
In addition to the billboard-based bet, the hashtag #LoserKeepsBieber was trending on Twitter on Thursday, with hockey-heads on both sides of the border seemingly willing to ante up Bieber before the highly-anticipated matchup.
Perhaps now is an appropriate time to add: Go Team USA.
Sometimes the Winter Olympics can look a little odd.
Men's semifinal hockey match, women's slalom and more.
Even though the team still hasn't won a medal in Sochi, they're not blaming the suits
Seriously, the suits aren’t the problem.
U.S. Speedskating has extended its partnership with Under Armour for another eight years, the two announced Friday, despite initial questions as to whether Under Armour’s uniforms were the reason the U.S. speedskating team still has not managed to medal during the Winter Olympics in Sochi.
“U.S. Speedskating remains extremely grateful to have such a supportive partner and to have access to Under Armour’s game-changing innovations, which have helped propel countless athletes around the world to championship results,” U.S. Speedskating Mike Plant said in a statement. “The length and scope of this agreement send a strong signal about Under Armour’s commitment to our athletes and will best position them to skate with confidence and a competitive edge well into the future.”
While the U.S. team won four medals in the 2010 Winter Olympics, the team has flopped at Sochi this year. After the first six events (in which no American had even placed in the top five), the Americans switched their suits from the newer model to the older model they wore at the World Cup in Japan. Both versions were manufactured by Under Armour.
Under Armour and U.S. Speedskating had touted the new suits as the fastest in the sport prior to the Olympics. The new suits had venting in the back that was meant to help skaters cut through the air. The U.S. speedskaters purposely didn’t wear the new suits at the World Cup so as not to give away their secret weapon, according to ESPN. But some sports reporters have suggested that the new vents were actually creating drag, keeping the U.S. skaters from the podium.
The switch back hasn’t seemed to help. Even after the change, no U.S. athlete has managed to win a medal in speedskating.