Our nation's capital welcomed our nation's best on Wednesday by honoring over 200 Olympics and Paralympics athletes who competed in the 2014 Winter Games.
The U.S. Olympics Committee organized a marquee event on Wednesday
in Washington, D.C. to celebrate Team USA's stellar performances in Sochi.
With a budget bolstered by corporate sponsorships, the USOC held its inaugual Best of U.S. Awards Show at the infamous Warner Theater to throw props to numerous
athletes who were the top vote-getters in several categories.
Throughout the four-week February 23 - March 21 voting period, millions of fans chose
their best male and female athlete, top team, most memorable moment, and even
the favorite fan - all via the USOC Facebook page.
Dozens of athletes, who received nominations from the USOC, their sports federations, and media staff, formed the selection pool for the fans to vote, and vote, and vote.
In true Hollywood style, skiers, snowboarders, hockey players, skaters, and
curlers casted aside their uniforms, and donned suits and gowns while strutting
down a 60' long red carpet along the theater's sidewalk in the downtown entertainment
Led by newly-famed Sochi commentators, veteran Olympians Johnny Weir and Tara
Lipinski, the athletes posed for pictures and chatted for interviews. Many
medalists such as snowboarder Kelly Clark, bobsled navigator Steve Holcomb, and
skier Mikaela Shiffrin proudly displayed their well-earned hardware while
reflecting on their awesome outings.
The 18-year-old Shiffrin, who won the gold in the slalom event, said, "It’s been a pretty exciting season. Things keep going up. I am almost waiting for the shoe to drop.”
The parade of stars, along with hundreds of family members in tow, then settled into
their seats - nearly packing the theater to its capacity.
The popular NBC Today co-anchor Willie Geist emceed the event, accented with Sochi
Olympics humor, as this gala progressed from an emotionally stirring collage of
superb American performances, to the exciting presentation of the ten awards.
Various past Olympians such as Evan Lysacek and Jenny Finch-Daigle presented each category. As each nominee was announced, their performance was then featured on the jumbo screen to wild applause.
As listed below, nine awards were decided by the fans, while the Building Dreams honor
was bestowed on a strong supporter of Team USA.
Some athletes, like the GQ-attired Sage Kotsenberg, accepted his Best Male
Athlete award, for his snowboard slopestyle gold win. In his own cool style, he admitted that, “Whoa. I didn’t really prepare a speech. I didn’t know this was an awards show until last night.”
Paralympian Stephanie Jallen, who earned two bronze medals in standing alpine skiing, won the hearts of all. She garnered votes from thousands of fans to seal two categories: Best Female Athlete and Best Moment. The emotional Jallen, astounded by her selections, broke down into heartfelt tears during the backstage interview with Lipinski and Weir.
This memorable show culminated with all athletes taking over the stage for one
final tribute and salute to Team USA's historic success at these Winter Games.
Best Male Olympian: Sage Kotsenberg, snowboard slopestyle gold medalist
Best Male Paralympian: Mark Bathum, alpine skiing dual silver medalist
Best Female Olympian: Erin Hamlin, luge bronze medalist
Best Female Paralympian: Stephanie Jallen, alpine skiing dual bronze medalist
Best Olympics Team Performance: Meryl Davis and Charlie White, figure skating go
Best Paralympic Team Performance: Sled Hockey Team, gold medaling
Best Olympics Moment: Noelle Pikus-Pace, skeleton silver medalist
Best Paralympics Moment: Jalen
Best Fan: Horace Mann Elementary School (West Allis, Wis.)
Building Dreams: Kori Ade, coach of figure skater Jason Brown
This Best of U.S. Awards Show will air on April 7 on NBCSN at 7 p.m. ET.