At an Olympic Winter Games when so much was expected of certain athletes, Sochi provided plenty of unpleasant surprises -- particularly in speed skating.
But there were other major surprises, too at the Olympics which concluded on Sunday, February 23. The other common thread in these five is that they are all men.
5. Bode Miller
It is hard to be too hard on Miller, still grieving the loss of his younger brother -- and dealing with media criticism stemming from a child custody battle. No Olympic athlete has endured a microscope like Miller. That said, much was expected of Miller before these Olympics.
Most American skiers -- let alone athletes -- would be ecstatic over finishing in the top 15 in all five events. But not Bode. He had a very disappointing Olympics, winning just one medal: a bronze, in super-G. Consider: he had the fastest time in downhill qualifying -- yet finished eighth. On the flip side, the 36-year-old does have a smoking hot wife, pro volleyball player Morgan. So his future outside of skiing looks bright.
4. J.R. Celski
Like Miller, much was expected of Celski, Apolo Anton Ohno’s heir apparent. This was Celski’s Olympics to shine and the Seattle native was coming into his own at age 23, ranked in the top 15 in the world in all the disciplines in which he skated. But like other American speed skaters, Celski struggled throughout, his best finish coming in a team relay -- which netted his only Olympic prize: a silver medal.
But he really struggled in his signature events, the 1,000 and 1,500 meters -- but also in the 500. After grabbing three medals in Vancouver he nearly came up empty handed -- were it not for his silver in the 5000 meter team relay. It is a supreme understatement to say that Celski fell short.
3. Men's Hockey Team
Comprised of NHL veterans, the U.S. hockey team looked like it was primed for gold after hanging on to defeat Russia 3-2 in overtime in a preliminary group game. But after Russia was eliminated by Finland in the quarterfinals -- that win over the supposedly mighty Russians didn’t look as menacing.
And when the Americans faced a physical, technically superior Canada team in the semis, the U.S. simply looked overmatched in a 1-0 loss. Then they looked pathetic and bored in a 5-0 blowout loss to Finland in the bronze medal game, leaving many to scratch their heads and wonder whether it was a good idea for the U.S. Olympic Committee to even invite professional players to compete.
2. Shaun White
You knew things were going cuckoo when White mysteriously dropped out of the slope-style competition. Some argued it was because White and his handlers felt the race course was unsafe; White himself argued that it was so he could concentrate on his signature competition: snowboarding the half pipe.
Then White didn’t even medal in his best event leaving us to wonder what he was thinking. He did show us he was still a great champion when he celebrated Iouri Podlatchikov’s gold with him -- even offering the one they call “IPod” a few words of advice. Considering White was the last to drop into the pipe in the final round, it was his to win -- and he didn’t take advantage.
1. Shani Davis
No individual suffered greater disappointment during these Olympics than Davis, the great speed skater who came into Sochi as the Americans’ top hope for a medal haul. Instead, the Chicago native was shut out, shocking many who believed the 31-year old was in his prime. The back-to-back gold medalist in the 1000 meters (and back-to-back silver medalist in the 1500), Davis’ Sochi sojourn was so bad that even though he went into these Games as the No. 1 ranked skater in both disciplines, he finished eighth in the 1000 and 11th in the 1500. (He even skated in the 500, finishing a disappointing 24th place.)
And then to rub salt in the wound, he went medal-less for the first time at any Olympics in which he’s participated by watching he and his team fizzle out in the quarterfinals of the men’s team pursuit. Like every great Olympic champion, however, Davis was quick to blame only one person on his Twitter page. “I cast no blame & put all responsibility where it lays: on me, as always. Couldn't have felt better before 1000, or lower than right now,” Davis tweeted.