Americans love the slopes and, as evidenced by these games, the feeling is mutual.
It may not be as lopsided as the Netherlands’ recent speed skating prowess, but a big strength of Team USA is in snowboarding and skiing.
Among the disciplines of freestyle skiing, snowboarding, and Alpine skiing, the Americans have been awarded 16 of the team’s country-leading total of 25 medals thus far. And this has happened despite all-world snowboarder Shaun White pulling out of the slopestyle snowboarding and then getting shut out of the halfpipe altogether by some kid named I-Pod and his Yolo move.
Never fear though as Team USA snowboarders Sage Kotsenburg and Jamie Anderson gave the Americans a gold sweep in the men’s and women’s slopestyle. Ted Ligety then brought home gold in the giant slalom and though I-Pod bounced White in the men’s snowboard halfpipe, Kaitlyn Farrington had his back in winning the women’s competition.
Freestyle skiing saw more American gold as Joss Christensen won the slopestyle, while David Wise and Maddie Bowman swept the golds in the men’s and women’s halfpipe runs.
Team USA’s strength on the slopes though is not an unusual occurrence at the Winter Games. Four years ago the Americans brought home 17 medals—out of a total of 37—in those same three disciplines.
In fact, to this point the only other gold the Americans have won has been via ice dance, thanks to the great skating team of Meryl Davis and Charlie White.
What has been lacking this year though is clearly the speedskating and short track performance—as in, they’ve barely performed.
Team USA’s speedskaters have combined for a jaw-dropping zero medals in these games—as compared to 10 just four years ago in Vancouver. In fact, heading into these games, the speedskaters had won more medals for their country—67 in all—than any other discipline.
This year the speedskaters haven’t really even been close.
No individual has finished better than seventh place, while the Netherlands has reaped the benefits. All in all, the Dutch have 22 medals thus far and an unheard of 21 of them are in speedskating. The other is from short track.
So what on earth happened to the American’s speedskating team?
For one thing, they lost Apolo Anton Ohno.
The popular Ohno, who won eight medals from 2002–2010, is the most decorated Winter Olympian in American history. The retired 31-year-old is at these games, though he now sits in the broadcasting booth.
With no medals to show, tensions are clearly running high, leading to an uncharacteristic outburst from Maria Lamb after her last-place finish in the women’s 5000.
The three-time Olympian blasted U.S. Speedskating, saying the national governing body was the main culprit in the team’s Olympic debacle—not the high-tech suits that were embarrassingly dumped midway through the games. She even used an expletive to describe what the athletes have gone through because of organizational infighting.
“The skinsuit issue is honestly just the tip of the iceberg,” Lamb said. “We were all capable of more than we’ve shown here. I’ve watched (teammates) be defeated by some of the leadership in the organization, and it’s heartbreaking for me.”
Heartbreak would also seem to be a good description of women’s hockey—at least when the Americans match up with Canada.
Thursday’s crushing 3–2 OT loss to Canada marked the third time in the last four Olympics that the Americans came up short in the gold-medal game. And all three times the victor has been our neighbor to the north.
This one was particularly brutal though as Team USA had a 2–0 lead with less than four minutes to play before exiting with a loss.
On the men’s side, Canada has been nearly as difficult to get past. The 2010 gold-medal game between these two squads was also won by the Canadians when Sidney Crosby scored the game-winner in overtime.
Now, despite beating the favored Russians, the undefeated Americans will need to get past Canada in the semis if they want a chance at gold. Naturally, this is how the Olympics work though. To be the best, you have to beat the best—even if it’s not on the slopes.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.