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February 26, 2014
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Final grades for the Sochi Olympic Games

The Olympics are over, a fact delightful and sad at the same time.

If you work at a newspaper and are pumping out a whole bunch of extra pages as we did the past two weeks or so, well, you get to the point where you watch the closing ceremony just to make sure they turn the darn flame off. On the other hand, we’re the Vail Daily and the Winter Games are just so much more important than their summer counterparts.

So, let’s give out the grades to the Americans:

Alpine skiing

Tough start, darn fine finish. Mikaela Shiffrin exceeded expectations. Sure, she was the favorite in the slalom, but being the favorite and actually winning it are completely different things, especially in your first appearance at the Olympics.

While I loathe comparisons of Shiffrin to Lindsey Vonn — Mikaela is not going to be “The Next Lindsey Vonn,” but “The Next Mikaela Shiffrin.” — A look back is helpful.

Vonn was sixth in the combined and 32nd in the slalom in her first Olympics back in 2002. Vonn didn’t strike gold until 2010.

Ted Ligety was a mortal lock in giant slalom in 2010, remember? He finished ninth. I hope Mikaela continues on her own schedule without pressure from the outside. We don’t know yet if she’s going to be an overall contender. She’s shown this season that her GS is coming along well, including fifth at the Winter Games. Camp Shiffrin clearly knows what it’s doing. Stay the course.

As for Ligety, attaboy. His GS gold was the one missing piece of his career. Ted does think that he has the makings to be an overall World Cup champion. That’s fine, even though I don’t think it’s realistic. Ted is the best GS skier of our generation, and it’s official with Olympic gold.

The men’s super-G race was my favorite of the Olympics. First off, it was a microcosm of Bode Miller’s career. His Bode-ness looked like a lock in the downhill, and didn’t win. Then he comes out of nowhere and gets a bronze in super-G? Again, never write this guy off. It’ll be fun to see him compete in PyeongChang in 2018. (I’m joking, I think.)

And then Andrew Weibrecht gets silver ahead of Bode? This is the most bizarre stat of the Olympics. Weibrecht has two Olympic medals — he had bronze in this race in 2010 — but no World Cup podiums. Health remains the issue for the War Horse.

The women’s speed team was, by and large, a disappointment, Julia Mancuso’s bronze in the combined aside. As much as the U.S. Ski Team would like to attest otherwise, right now the women’s speed team is hurting big-time without Vonn.

Grade: B.

Curling

Call it our hidden national shame. No medals and a combined 3-15 record in round-robin play. OK, I’ll be honest. I still have no clue about this despite watching it for an inordinate amount of time the past two weeks.

Grade: Incomplete.

Figure skating

Still the worst part of the Winter Olympics. I know we’re meant to be impressed by the majestic combination of artistry and athleticism, the matching of the choreography and the music to connect with the audience. I find curling more fascinating. (Really, curling is actually interesting in comparison.)

Grade: Who gives a fig?

Freestyle skiing

First off, Heidi Kloser, you bet your bippy, you’re an Olympian. David Wise and Maddie Bowman swept the pipe. Josh Christensen led a sweep of slopestyle for the men. No medal for Hannah Kearney in moguls was a surprise. But seven medals in all does the trick.

Grade: A.

Hockey

Dreadful on both counts.

The American men played well during the round-robin and quarterfinal. They were clearly prepared for international shootout rules (T.J. Oshie over and over.) But no goals in both medal games? Losing to Canada, 1-0, is understandable. Phoning it in during a 5-0 loss to Finland is inexcusable.

Yes, the women won silver, but, realistically, Olympic women’s hockey is a two-team tournament. And blowing a 2-0 lead? Ouch.

Grade: F.

Nordic skiing

We would have done better with Sylvan Ellefson on the team. (OK, we’re totally biased, and we don’t care.) On a serious note, I really enjoyed watching Nordic racing. Those are the toughest men and women in the world.

Grade: Incomplete.

Speed skating

Ouch. Yes, the Dutch own this sport — 23 medals in one discipline? That is silly, and one has to tip his or her collective hat. On the other hand, the Americans got nothing? Really? Squat? Was it really the suits?

We go to Josiah Middaugh’s Facebook opining: “Don’t do something new on race day, like wear a suit you’ve never worn before. Also, don’t do a high altitude training camp right before an Olympics that is contested at sea level. Learn from the Dutch.”

If Josiah comments on training, it’s good enough for me.

Grade: F.

Snowboarding

Dude, like Shaun White totally did not medal. Whoa. Perhaps, this is a bit of a changing of the guard, and that’s good for the sport. Take Olympic hockey — its most memorable moment remains the 1980 “Miracle on Ice” because the favorite did not win. White is not communist Russia, but new faces and new events are good things.

Speaking of which, Sage Kotsenburg and Jamie Anderson are the new faces of a new-to-the-Olympics sport, slopestyle. Kaitlyn Farrington conquered the halfpipe, and Faye Gulini took fourth in snowboard cross.

As with freestyle skiing, the Americans took a bunch of medals, but the world is catching up. Get used to it.

Grade: A.

Weather

Could we please hold the Winter Olympics in an actual wintery place? Seriously, the IOC found the one place in Russia, the land of never-ending winter, where it was warm. Nordic skiers were wearing short sleeves and it was raining during some alpine events. On to the 2015 Worlds. It might be colder here than in Sochi.

Sports Editor Chris Freud can be reached at 970-748-2934 and cfreud@vaildaily.com.


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The VailDaily Updated Feb 26, 2014 09:36PM Published Feb 27, 2014 08:18PM Copyright 2014 The VailDaily. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.