U.S. conquers Olympics with gutsy winter efforts

So, they beat us.

Yes, it’s true. Canada reigns supreme in the hockey arena. Now they won’t have to kick their players out of the country and hang their heads in shame in front of the world. They at least have their hockey.

And five more gold medals than the U.S. Now, I don’t play favorites when it comes to the Olympic Games, but I really wanted America to win everything ever at the XXI Winter Games. Some may call it crazy … I call it patriotic. I console myself by thinking about the fact that it was the first time Canada ever won home gold (they failed to do so in Montreal and Calgary).

America did kick some serious booty, though. A goal to tie the gold medal match with only 24 seconds left in the third period? That’s some good hockey. And yes, Sidney Crosby had to puncture a nation’s hopes and dreams shortly into the sudden-death overtime. That’s what the sportscasters get for comparing this team to the 1980 miracle team — no sports moment will ever come close.

The Royal Canadian Mounted Police take down the Olympic flag. (AP Photo)

But beyond the agony of hockey defeat, the U.S. did pretty well for itself at these winter games. The 37 total medals racked up by America are the most for any country in a single Winter Olympics. Like I kept repeating last night after the U.S. Men’s Hockey Team got their silver medal, the color of the medal doesn’t count.

For instance, Apolo Anton Ohno didn’t win gold at the games, but he did win 3 medals (one silver and two bronze), making his eight total medals the most any U.S. athlete has won at the Winter Games. And because of Korean team-skating (which is technically against the rules but almost impossible to prove) and the subsequent falls of Lee Ho-Suk and Sung Si-Bak, first time Olympian J.R. Celski went home with a bronze (he also won bronze in the men’s relay).

Many Americans did win gold. Most notably was Evan Lysacek, the gold medalist in men’s figure skating. Lysacek beat out Yevgeny Plushenko of Russia to take home the first U.S. medal in the event since since Brian Boitano in 1988, and he was the first reigning world champion to win since Scott Hamilton in 1984. It was the first time in their Olympic history that Russia didn’t take at least one gold medal in figure skating. Times appear to be changing.

While she wasn’t American, I couldn’t help but cheer for South Korean women’s figure skater Kim Yu-Na, what with the announcers repeating how much pressure she was under from her home country. And I may have crossed my fingers that American Mirai Nagasu not pass Joannie Rochette, the Canadian in third place who had just lost her mother a week earlier and still skated like a champ. Scott Hamilton choking up in the background didn’t help much. But Yu-Na got the gold and Rochette got bronze. That was the only time I was happy when non-Americans won.

I wasn’t so pleased when Canadians Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir beat Americans Meryl Davis and Charlie White to become the first North American duo to win an ice dancing gold. Davis and White got silver, but their “Phantom of the Opera” free skate was so powerful, I’m still disappointed.

The American four-man bobsled team won the first U.S. gold medal in the event in 62 years. Maybe the Jamaican bobsled team’s notable absence (they didn’t qualify — the first time since ’88 in Calgary) helped the U.S. come out on top.

The Americans also showed their skills on the skis. American alpine skier Bode Miller, after an all-talk and no-result stint in Turin, redeemed himself with three medals (one of each color) in Vancouver. Lindsey Vonn, among talk of injury and rumors of fake injuries, won the race she came to win — the downhill — and became the first American woman to do so. She also won bronze in Super-G. Her teammate, Julia Mancuso, won two silver medals in the downhill and combined.

Americans rocked snowboarding, too. Shaun White delivered, winning his second gold medal in men’s halfpipe in as many games. And his debut of the Double McTwist 1260 at the Olympics was the best victory lap I’ve ever seen.

The women’s team was equally successful, even though they dropped the gold to a technically brilliant Torah Bright of Australia. Hannah Teter and Kelly Clark got silver and bronze respectively.

Seth Wescott also repeated his Turin gold in men’s snowboard cross. However, Lindsey Jacobellis (you may remember her as the overly-confident American who threw in a board grab at the end of the snowboard cross course and ended up falling and winning only silver) disappointed again, not even making it into the final.

The newest Olympic event, ski cross (exactly like snowboard cross, except on skis), while having no American winners, is sure to become a favorite.

Speed skating was another event where America came out big. Shani Davis, the first black athlete (from any nation) to win a gold medal in an individual Winter Games sport (the 1,000-meter), won the same event, becoming the first man to win the event back-to-back. He also won a silver in 1,500-meter.

Curling is awesome. I am the first person to admit that. But the American teams didn’t do overly well this time around. The Canadian men won gold and the Swedish team won a nail-biter against our neighbirs to the north.

Finally, America had another first at these games. Bill Demong, Johnny Spillane, Todd Lodwick and Brett Camerota won the large hill/20km nordic combined event — the first time an American team medaled in the event. And Bill Demong won gold in the 10 km individual large hill, the first American man to do so.

All in all, the XXI Olympic Winter Games were pretty killer, not just for the U.S., but for all of the countries that participated, whether they won or not. There were sad moments, like the death of Nodar Kumaritashvili, and there were moments of pure joy, like when Swiss ski-jumper Simon Ammann again won double gold medals in the normal hill and the large hill.

I’ll only have fond memories of these games. Even if Canada did beat us at hockey. And win more golds. Hey, there’s always Sochi.