Heading into the third week of events at the Sochi Olympic Winter Games, the U.S. is finally breaking into its stride. After a bit of a rough start opening weekend, Team USA has climbed to the top of the medal leader board among the Dutch, Norway and host country Russia. Germany leads the gold medal count with seven, and close behind are Russia, Norway, Netherlands and Switzerland, all with five. The U.S. is tied with neighbor Canada, Belarus and Poland, all of which have stood atop the podium four times.
Team USA holds the number seven spot in the overall medal count as of today, though the USOC is not worried. It may not totally feel like it, but for the first time in U.S. Olympic history, the team has won at least one medal everyday thus far. A feat previously achieved by the likes of Germany, Soviet Union and East Germany, but never by the Americans.
Last weekend USA spirit hit an all time high on the mountain, in the advent of the men’s halfpipe event. Brimming with anticipation, Americans watched Shaun White take center stage at Sochi; some already knowing the fate of NBC’s primetime coverage. Snowboarding’s favorite red headed risk-taker pulled out of the men’s slopestyle event in order to give himself a full three days to work with the halfpipe.
In the qualifier, White threw down a run scoring a 95.75, the highest score of the event’s entirety, just at the wrong time. Unable to harness his swagger in the final, White put up an uncharacteristically clumsy first run, sliding down the pipe wall on his rear. Historically his first go on the pipe is executed with technical perfection, earning him high marks and a second-run victory lap where he pulls out a never-before-seen trick. This time though, Russia’s Iouri “IPod” Podladtchikov’s 94.75 put big pressure on White to nail the trick of the night – one IPod invented himself – the YOLO.
White looked good in the air getting ready for the YOLO on the final run, but bunked the landing and lost speed for the last jump. He managed to pull out a 90.25, just not enough for the podium: “I’m disappointed,” White said. “I hate the fact I nailed [that trick] in practice, but it happens.”
The slushy snow conditions seemed to be giving all the Olympians trouble. 2006 gold medalist in the women’s halfpipe, Hannah Teter called the apparatus “crap” before her event in Sochi; she joined White in fourth place.
Sochi has been filled with incredibly emotional moments for American athletes thus far. From John Daly needing consoling after a bad run on the skeleton course took him out of medal contention, to Bode Miller’s heart-wrenching reaction to a post-race interview, forcing the skier – hunched over on a guard rail – to share a very personal moment with the world.
High stakes were felt in every living room and bar that opened exclusively to watch the USA face-off against Russia in the most watched 6 a.m. hockey game of all-time. The nail-bitter ended in a shootout lasting eight rounds. Team USA clinched a 2-3 win, and a new household name was born: T.J. Oshie.
Because international hockey rules allow the same shooter after the first three rounds of a shootout, the St. Louis Blues forward made four of his six shots on the Russian net. After scoring the game winning goal Oshie pointed not to the crowd or the bench, but to USA’s goalie Jonathan Quick, a visual “dude you rock, thanks for keeping us in this” moment.
And just like that, in a “Miracle On Ice” moment, the well-marketed Shaun White was forgotten… guess we’ll see you at Lollapalooza again dude.