Every Olympiad has seen their fair share of upsets, and the 22nd Winter Games in Sochi are no exception. The nature of sport and competition is such that their outcomes simply cannot be predicted with any reasonable amount of certainty, and it’s precisely this degree of the unknown which makes them so thrilling to participate in, or even just watch.
The fact that an athlete or team of competitors who have been expected to perform well can easily come up short for whatever reason is what makes sporting events like the Olympics so mesmerizing. The sad reality for the athletes however, is that such failures can be devastating.
Here then are our choices for the top 10 biggest disappointments at Sochi;
10. Vladimir Putin Keeps his Shirt On.
Yeah, I know, but just admit it; you know you were half expecting this at some point during these Games, since the Russian President has seen fit to repeatedly expose himself at the drop of a hat. He’s quite possibly the only person any of us can think of who seems obsessed with having himself filmed and photographed topless no matter how ridiculous or inappropriate such antics may seem to the outside world. Whether on vacation, hunting, riding a horse or just ripping apart decommissioned tanks with his teeth, Mr. Putin has offered the world his sagging man-boobs on way too many occasions, and we should all be thankful that the Winter Olympics haven’t been one of them.
9. Jeremy Abbott Places 7th in Inaugural Team Figure Skating.
American figure skaters have never failed to win an Olympic medal in either Men’s or Women’s singles competition since 1936, and were taking that impressive record and the hopes of the nation into the first ever Team Figure Skating event in Sochi. Apart from four-time U.S. National Champion Jeremy Abbot however, the Americans were not considered to be among the strongest teams in the event, but that didn’t dim their aspirations for medal status, particularly for this newest skating competition. Things didn’t go as well as they’d hoped however, as Abbot fell early on in his performance and placed a disappointing 7th. The rest of the team rallied after falling behind, finishing in 3rd place overall.
8. U.S. Skier Bode Miller Places 8th in Men’s Downhill.
As one of the most decorated U.S. downhill skiers of all time, boasting World Cup victories in all five events (downhill, slalom, giant slalom, super G and combined), 4 World Championships as well as 6 Olympic medals (1 Gold, 3 Silver and 2 Bronze) which are the most of any American skier at the Winter Games, hopes were high for Miller to medal at Sochi. With only a Bronze in the Super G however, he failed to reach the podium in any of the other 5 events he entered, and as this was probably his final Olympic appearance, these were obviously not the results he was looking for, and were a major disappointment for the American who has attained virtually legendary status.
7. Canadian Ice Dance Skaters Virtue and Moir Lose Gold Medal
The defending Gold medalists from Vancouver 2010 in Ice Dance, Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir were touted to repeat that winning performance at Sochi, which the pair had previously announced would be their last Olympiad. After helping Canada earn a Silver medal in the first-ever Team Figure Skating event, the pressure was mounting to see this decorated pair return to the podium by winning gold. However, in what has become a rather shameful chapter at Sochi, they were literally robbed of that triumph by the event judges, who found the performances of their American rivals Meryl Davis and Charlie White, to be marginally better. The pair had to settle for a bittersweet Silver instead.
6. U.S. Speed Skater Shani Davis Fails to Defend his Two Gold Medals
As the only African American to ever win an individual Gold medal at the Winter Games (a feat he accomplished not once but twice; in Turin, Italy in 2006 and Vancouver, Canada in 2010, earning two Golds in the 1000 meter as well as 2 Silvers in the 1500 meter), Shani Davis is a living legend in this sport. It’s no surprise then, that all expectations were that he could do it again in Sochi. In a highly uncharacteristic sub-par performance however, Davis was unable to finish in the top 10 in either of his signature events, results he among others partly blamed on the materials used in their uniforms, which they claimed were not as aerodynamic as those of event powerhouses The Netherlands, Germany or Russia. Regardless, in what may be his final Olympic appearance, Davis’ lack of success was heart-wrenching.
5. Patrick Chan Loses Gold Medal
The reigning World Champion in Men’s Figure Skating, and having placed 5th in Vancouver, Patrick Chan was carrying the weight of Canada’s hopes to see one of their own achieve their first ever event gold medal in Sochi. That sentiment only increased after Chan’s performance helped Canada earn Silver in the inaugural Team Skating event (despite placing a disappointing third in the Men’s round), not that he wasn’t already considered the gold medal favorite. Unlike his compatriots Virtue and Moir however, it wasn’t the judging that left something to be desired, but Chan’s flawed Free Skate performance that saw Gold slip away, and obviously left the Canadian distraught when his score was posted and became was clear that he would have to settle for the Silver medal.
4. U.S. Snowboader Shaun White fails to medal in Halfpipe
After infamously pulling out of the newly introduced event of Snowboard Slopestyle, claiming the course in Sochi was too dangerous, American Snowboarding star Shaun White was the clear gold medal favorite in his signature event of Halfpipe. His victory would have made him only the fourth athlete to win three consecutive individual Golds in Winter Olympic competition, but it was not to be. Perhaps it was the intensity of the pressure to gain podium status, or the media frenzy which surrounded him following his decision to withdraw from Slopestyle, but the U.S. Snowboarding darling put up an unusually error-ridden performance and finished 4th overall. At the ripe old age of 27, White is considered the sport’s elder statesman and had no comment as to his future in Snowboarding competition, after his clearly frustrating and disappointing poor result.
3. U.S. Men’s Hockey Team Loses to Canada for Gold Medal Berth
Scoring considerably more goals than their ultra rivals throughout the Men’s Hockey event, Team USA was supremely confident entering into their semi-final match with Team Canada. Having not won an Olympic Gold in the event since their legendary 1980 ‘Miracle on Ice’ in Lake Placid, N.Y. and with their demoralizing loss to Canada four years ago in Vancouver still stinging, there were not only enormous expectations for the Americans to win, but a good deal of redemption on the line, as the U.S. Women’s team had lost a Gold medal heartbreaker to Team Canada just 24 hours earlier. As expected, the game was a thriller, though unexpectedly low-scoring, with Canada edging the Americans 1-0 by employing a smothering and near perfect defensive display and with goaltender Carey Price putting on a stellar performance. The crushing disappointment on the faces of the Americans said it all; they would have to wait another four years for an opportunity to best their Canuck rivals, and were clearly not content about nor looking forward to battling Finland for third place status. This was only further evidenced by their 5-0 shellacking at the hands of a committed and energized Finnish team led by their ageless wonder Teemu Selanne, as the Americans failed to reach the podium.
2. Russian Men’s Hockey Team Loses to Finland, Fails to Medal for 3rd Straight Olympiad
The only team at Sochi with higher expectations for Gold than either Canada or the United States in Men’s Hockey, the Russians too seemed unduly confident about their chances for top spot on the podium. While the Americans came out flying and continued their hot scoring streak throughout the tournament, Team Russia had a shaky start and seemed far less secure in their ability to pull it off. Carrying the burden of their entire nation into their home Games, and with Russian President Putin personally cranking up the pressure by attending their quarter final match against Finland, the Russians were simply unable to perform as they were touted to and for the third straight Winter Olympiad, failed to achieve medal status after losing 3-1. The gasps of disbelief from the Russian fans was like a tsunami of disappointment.
1. U.S. Women’s Hockey Team Loses to Canada in Gold Medal Final
In what has become a perennial Winter Games clash of superpowers, the Canadian and American women squared off for the fourth time in the past five Olympiads for Gold medal supremacy in Women’s Hockey. After losing to Canada 2-0 four years ago in Vancouver, the U.S. had successfully bested their uber rivals in their previous four matchups heading into Sochi. The writing seemed to be on the wall however, as these two teams that clearly detest one another, met in round robin play, with Canada winning that contest 3-2. The Americans were obviously feeling the pressure to exact some revenge as both teams cruised to their Gold medal clash. Leading 2-0 late in the third period, the U.S. seemed poised to do just that, but a gritty effort by Team Canada saw them score with less than 3.5 minutes in the game. They then survived a heart-stopping open net attempt that rang off the post after pulling goaltender Shannon Szabados for a sixth attacker with less then a minute left in regulation, before tying it up on a goal from Marie-Philip Poulin. You could almost see the American women deflating as overtime loomed, having lost all the momentum to the Canadians, who seized the opportunity to score a power play goal, after Hayley Wickenheiser was bumped off the puck from behind while on a breakaway, completing arguably the most thrilling come-from-behind victory in Olympic history.