American medal count not as high as expected

Sarah Barnett

Passion lives here. These three words adorn the walls and stands at every venue in Torino. These three words make up the official motto for these 20th Winter Olympic Games, and this theme could not be more fitting.

Figure skating is arguably the most passionate and emotional event at the Winter Olympics. In the men’s competition, U.S. hopefuls Johnny Weir and Evan Lysacek tried to overcome Russian dominance by beating Yevgeny Plushenko. In second place after the short program, Weir faltered in the free skate and ended up a disappointing fifth. On the other hand, Lysacek, tenth after the short program, had a miraculous free skate, but still could not make the medal stand, ending up in fourth place. Plushenko claimed the gold medal as many had predicted.

The U.S. tried their luck again in ice dancing. Tanith Belbin and Ben Agosto might not have been able to compete in these Olympics had it not been for Belbin, originally Canadian, being granted U.S. citizenship at the last minute. The pair put together passionate and exciting skating for three nights, which earned them the silver medal, the first ever in this competition for the United States.

Also on the ice, team USA has been doing quite well in men’s speed skating. Even with the constant arguments and the tension between them, Shani Davis and Chad Hedrick seem to put that all behind when they reached the start line. In the 1,000 meter competition, Davis claimed the gold, 500 meter winner Joey Cheek won the silver and Hedrick placed sixth. Perhaps the most anticipated event in speed skating at these games was the 1,500 meter race. Four American speed skating gold medalists were racing for the gold once more. Davis placed highest for the U.S., winning silver, followed closely by Hedrick in third. Cheek placed ninth and 2002 gold medalist Dave Parra came in 19th.

Hedrick, who still has one more race to win a medal, the 10,000 meter, was not pleased with his performance in the 1,500 meter.

“I didn’t come here to finish third,” he told reporters at the post-race press conference. “I’m not happy with what I did,”

Another frustrated American is skier Bode Miller. With all the hype surrounding him, Miller has failed to produce a medal after participating in four events. His latest disappointments include missing a gate and not finishing the Super G and also coming in sixth in the giant slalom. Miller has one last chance to claim a medal, which will be on Saturday in the slalom.

The U.S. tried to continue their sweep of snowboarding gold, extending their winning streak into the newest winter sport, snowboard cross. Seth Wescott kept U.S. dominance going by placing first in the men’s race. Lindsay Jacobellis had a commanding lead in her final run, but she let her emotions get the best of her. On the second to last ramp, she did a trick and ended up falling on the landing, letting Wescott’s girlfriend, Switzerland’s Tanja Frieden, claim the gold.

Jacobellis brushed off the criticisms of her silver medal, telling NBC, “Snowboarding is fun. I was ahead. I wanted to share my enthusiasm with the crowd. I messed up. Oh well, it happens.”

Other medal winners for the U.S. include Shauna Rohbock and Valerie Fleming who claimed silver in the two-man bobsled. Apolo Anton Ohno won bronze in the 1,000 meter short track race, losing to the two Koreans that spurred the controversy of the 2002 games. Lastly, the women’s ice hockey team, after getting stunned by Sweden in the semifinals, beat Finland 4-0 to claim the bronze.

For the men’s team, however, a medal is not on the horizon. After advancing to the quarterfinals by the skin of their teeth, they just did not have enough energy to stay in the mix to make it to the medal round. Team USA lost 4-3 to an undefeated Finland team Wednesday, ending their run for Olympic gold.

U.S. Coach Peter Laviolette told NBC, “We never seemed to get it on track throughout the tournament. From the start tonight, I thought we were standing instead of skating.”

The final weekend of the games in Torino look to be full of excitement, just as the previous days have been. Once the closing ceremonies end on Sunday, it will be apparent that passion did indeed thrive in Torino.