By Brian Klose
With the games underway in Sochi, this past week has made for an exciting Winter Olympics. Team USA is keeping up with its competitive reputation, including a number of breakout performances from newcomers and no-namers. Other nations like the Netherlands, Germany, and host-nation Russia are also raking in medals.
Halfway through the games, the US is tied with Russia for second-most medals (16) behind the Netherlands (17). As for gold medals the US has the third most with four, behind a three-way tie between Switzerland, Norway, and the Netherlands all with five, and Germany leading with seven.
It didn’t take long for team USA to claim its first gold medal. On the day after the opening ceremonies, the third day of competition, men’s snowboard slopestyle had its final events. Sage Kotsenburg of Park City, Utah, made a strong comeback in the semifinals after placing eighth in qualifiers, rising to second in the rankings with an impressive score of 90.50. With his momentum, 20-year-old Kotsenburg clinched the first gold medal for USA by winning the final event with a score of 93.50.
Snowboarding would prove to be the United States’ winningest event. On ladies’ slopestyle, Jaime Anderson claimed a gold medal of her own with a near-flawless score of 95.25. Two of the three medals given at the ladies’ halfpipe finals were awarded to Americans Kaitlyn Farrington and Kelly Clark, winning gold and bronze respectively.
One surprise big-name missing from the medalist list was veteran snowboarder Shaun White. Before the games began, White opted out of participating in the men’s slopestyle event to concentrate on earning a potential third-straight gold medal on the halfpipe. White would reach the finals of the event, but only managed to finish in fourth place. While the no-medal performance is certainly a disappointment to his high standards, White’s legacy is hard to take away from, having dominated the snowboarding arena for most of his life. His absence has clearly made way for new superstars to shine on the world’s grandest stage.
Many performances have been impressive thus far, but none have amounted to the clutch heroics of T.J. Oshie of the US Men’s Hockey team. After three periods, the scored was tied 2-2, and the game was left up to a shootout. Oshie of the St. Louis Blues was four for four in the period, guiding his team to the 4-3 shootout win and a final score of 3-2.
One week is left in the Games, leaving plenty of opportunity for statements to be made, heroes to be realized, and medals to be won.