Published on February 23rd, 2014 | by Alan Abrahamson
ADLER, Russia — The Sochi 2014 Winter Games drew Sunday night to a close, an Olympics intent on projecting the image of a strong and confident new Russia across this vast country and to the world beyond, with a mighty Russian team awakening the echoes of the mighty Soviet sport system to prideful spectator cheers of “Ro-ssi-ya! Ro-ssi-ya!”
Albeit, over 17 days, to the beat of “Get Lucky” by a Russian police choir. And cheerful volunteers yelling, “Good morning!” while dancing to the Black Eyed Peas.
A tableau from the closing ceremony — brides hanging from helium-filled balloons
“This is the new face of Russia, our Russia,” Dmitry Chernyshenko, the head of the Sochi 2014 organizing committee, said Sunday night at the closing ceremony to more cheers. “And for us, these Games are the best-ever.”
For the rest of this post, please click through to NBCOlympics.com: nbco.ly/1hmiPVk
Published on February 22nd, 2014 | by Alan Abrahamson
KRASNAYA POLYANA, Russia — There were a couple hours Saturday evening when it seemed possible the U.S. alpine ski team — already with a performance here at the Sochi 2014 Olympics that history will judge as fine, indeed— might, just might, sneak away with what would amount to a bonus medal.
After Run 1 of the men’s slalom, Ted Ligety, winner three days ago of the giant slalom, had put himself in position for a medal. He was only 11-hundredths back of third.
The U.S. alpine team went into Saturday night with five medals, tied for its second-best performance ever at a Winter Games, with the Sarajevo 1984 team. Only the Vancouver 2010 team, which racked up eight, had done better.
Ted Ligety, left, and Germany’s Felix Neureuther after crashing out in Run 2 of the slalom // photo Getty Images
Tantalizingly, six suddenly seemed within reach. Because he already had the GS gold, Ligety was skiing the slalom with no expectation, no pressure. The buzz started building — remember those two killer slalom runs Ligety put down to win his first Olympic gold, the combined, in Torino in 2006?
And then came the buzzkill.
For the rest of this post, please click through to NBCOlympics.com: nbco.ly/1fIwLGB
Published on February 21st, 2014 | by Alan Abrahamson
KRASNAYA POLYANA, Russia — The first Olympics he went to, in his very first race, 15-year-old Michael Phelps took fifth place. He got right back in the pool and, soon enough, he set his first world record. In his next Olympic race — which, because of the calendar, had to wait four years — he won gold.
In her first Olympic race, the women’s giant slalom here Tuesday, 18-year-old Mikaela Shiffrin took fifth. She said, “I think this is supposed to happen,” adding, “The next Olympics I go to, I sure as heck am not getting fifth.”
Women’s slalom gold medalist Mikaela Shiffrin // photo courtesy Tom Kelly and U.S. Ski Team
There are moments, even at the Olympics, that are genuinely special. These moments make memories that last through the years. They also make cross-over stars, the ones who can make it big outside the confines of a niche like alpine skiing.
Mikaela Shiffrin didn’t have to wait four full years. She sure as heck gave it the full Friday Night Lights treatment here at Rosa Khutor, throwing down two incredible — and very different — runs to win gold in the women’s slalom.
For the rest of this post, please click through to NBCOlympics.com: nbco.ly/1fG8VeG
Published on February 20th, 2014 | by Alan Abrahamson
KRASNAYA POLYANA, Russia — It has been 12 years since Bode Miller won his first Olympic medals, in Salt Lake City. He is 36 now and these are surely his last Olympic Games.
He is at once one of the most accomplished and one of the most complex figures ever to make his way across the American and international sports landscape.
Bode Miller and his wife Morgan leave the course after the men’s giant slalom, his last race at the 2014 Sochi Games // photo Getty Images
No question he is the best ski racer the United States has ever produced. He has six Olympic medals, including a bronze in the super-G here. He has two overall World Cup titles, 33 World Cup wins, 78 World Cup podium finishes. He is is also one of only five skiers to win World Cup races in five disciplines.
As Miller has often maintained, he doesn’t ski for the medals.
And it is here that the contradictions of Bode Miller clash, often visibly, sometimes — as in Torino in 2006, when he wasn’t feeling it — to his great detriment. This can be no surprise. Great artists come layered with rippled currents of contradiction that play out to powerful effect and in different directions.
For the rest of this post, please click through to NBCOlympics.com: nbco.ly/OdmEUm
Published on February 19th, 2014 | by Alan Abrahamson
KRASNAYA POLYANA, Russia — A couple years ago, they made a rules change in the giant slalom. Citing the interest of athlete safety, they made the skiers change to longer, straighter skis.
Those skis are way harder to turn. Ted Ligety, the American who had ruled the giant slalom, complained bitterly.
And then he figured out a way to ski on those new skis, lower and longer in the turns, that further separated himself from everyone else in the world. He could now win races by astonishing margins.
Ted Ligety in victory after the giant slalom // photo Getty Images
At Wednesday’s men’s super-G at Rosa Khutor, Ted Ligety put on a clinic to win the first American alpine skiing gold of these Olympics. Indeed, he won big. It was one of the great moments of the 2014 Games. Here, for the entire world to bear witness, was sheer excellence — the excellence the sport demands as well as the excellence the man demands of himself.
It was, in a word, awesome.
For the rest of this post, please click through to NBCOlympics.com: http://nbco.ly/1blt4Lh