SOCHI: The 14 best athletes at the Olympics - NBC Sports

SOCHI: The 14 best athletes at the Olympics
NBC Sports
February 23, 2014, 10:00 pm

SOCHI, Russia – The largest Winter Olympics in history (98 medal events) were always going to bring records and unprecedented achievements.

In Sochi, marks were set or tied for most career Olympics medals and golds, most medals at a single Games as well as several age records (young and old).

Here’s a list at the top 14 athletes from the Sochi Olympics, in reverse order:

14. Tina Maze (SLO), Alpine Skiing

Two gold medals in five events entered

The Slovenian singing sensation became the third skier to finish in the top eight of all five Alpine events at one Winter Olympics. She tied for gold in the downhill and won the giant slalom outright, adding to her two silver medals from 2010.

Maze could have become the first skier to be in the top six of all events, but she faltered in her final race, the second slalom run Friday, to drop from third to eighth.

Still, Maze showed her best form all season, which had largely been a struggle up to Sochi that included a coaching change. In 2012-13, Maze put up the greatest World Cup season ever by a man or woman.

She is 30 with four Olympics under her belt and said that she has skied her final Olympic race.

13. Kamil Stoch (POL), Ski Jumping

Two gold medals in three events entered

Stoch became the third man to sweep the individual ski jumping events, joining legends Matti Nykaenen and Simon Ammann.

Poland had never won more than one gold medal at a single Winter Olympics, so Stoch’s achievement could be considered the greatest in the nation’s Winter Games history.

12. Aleksander Zubkov (RUS), Bobsled

Two gold medals in two events entered

Zubkov, 39, had a built-in advantage of having six or seven times more runs than Holcomb on the Sanki Sliding Center track than 2010 Olympic four-man champion Steven Holcomb, the American estimated.

Still, Zubkov should be commended for his sweep after Holcomb and Germany’s Max Arndt had been the best drivers over the World Cup season.

He had the fastest sled in six of eight total runs over two- and four-man races and had both gold medals secured before the final run barring major mistakes.

Zubkov became the sixth man to sweep the two- and four-man Olympic events and the second non-German, joining the Italian great Eugenio Monti.

11. Tatyana Volosozhar/Maksim Trankov (RUS), Figure Skating

Two gold medals in two events entered

Volosozhar and Trankov restored Russian pairs dominance and became the first figure skaters to win multiple golds at one Winter Olympics with the new team event.

They came into Sochi with some doubts over recent flawed performances but were untouchable at the Iceberg Skating Palace.

Volosozhar and Trankov were the final pair to go on the first night of competition in the team event and were 10 points better than the field.

They skipped the free skate in the team event and came back Feb. 11 for the pairs event with an even better short program – a world record score.

One night later, they were nine points better than the field in the free skate to win by 18 points, the margin that separated second from sixth.

10. Tobias Wendl/Tobias Arlt (GER), Luge

Two gold medals in two events entered

The Germans swept the luge events, and the “Bayern-Express” was at the heart of it. Wendl and Arlt won the doubles by .522, the largest margin in the event’s history.

They then joined a powerhouse team in the relay, anchoring a one-second victory with the fastest doubles time by more than a half-second.

9. Marit Bjorgen (NOR), Cross-Country Skiing

Three gold medals in six events entered

It’s a testament to her incredible talent that three golds could be considered less than expected from Bjorgen.

She went into the Olympics with a real shot to become the first Winter Olympian to win six medals at a single Games.

She fell short of that, placing fifth in two events and being eliminated in the semifinals of the sprint.

Still, Bjorgen prevailed amid ski wax issues that plagued the Norwegian team.

Bjorgen became the most decorated female Winter Olympian ever with 10 medals and six golds. Others have 10 medals with fewer golds.

She is 33 and is thinking about starting a family, making a run at 2018 appear unlikely.

8. Darya Domracheva (BLR), Biathlon

Three gold medals in five events entered

Belarus doubled its previous best Winter Olympic output with six medals in Sochi. Half were won by Domracheva, who won three straight individual biathlon events, all by at least 20 seconds.

She became the first female Winter Olympic champion in her nation’s history (since1994).

Domracheva questionably skipped the mixed relay because she didn’t think Belarus had a shot at a medal.

7. Joss Christensen (USA), Ski Slopestyle

One gold medal in one event entered

Hats off to the U.S. Ski and Snowboard Association for putting Christensen on the Olympic team over the previous two world champions.

Christensen was the final skier named to the four-man Olympic slopestyle team, but nobody could touch him at Rosa Khutor Extreme Park.

He posted the best score in each of the two qualifying runs. In the final, both of his runs would have won gold. He led the third U.S. Winter Olympic podium sweep ever and dedicated the win to his father, who had died due to a congenital heart condition in August.

6. Vic Wild (RUS), Alpine Snowboarding

Two gold medals in two events entered

Coming in, many hoped an American would become the first person to win two snowboarding gold medals at one Winter Olympics in Sochi.

They expected Shaun White. They got Vic Wild.

Wild was born and raised in the U.S. but became frustrated with a lack of support from U.S. Snowboarding, so he married his Russian girlfriend and became a Russian citizen.

He had a better medal haul than any U.S. Olympian in Sochi, which must be quite satisfying. Even better, his wife, Alena Zavarzina, won a bronze medal in parallel giant slalom within minutes of Wild’s first gold on the same course.

5. Eva Samkova (CZE), Snowboard Cross

One gold medal in one event entered

Both snowboard cross champions were dominant, sweeping quarterfinals, semifinals and finals, but Samkova gets the edge because she also won the seeding races by .59.

The 20-year-old who draws moustaches on her faces before races was not considered the favorite going in, but she became the must-see boarder in the final after Lindsey Jacobellis crashed out.

She delivered, too, leading just about from start to finish in all three rounds.

Samkova, the junior world champion in 2010, 2011 and 2013, had taken silver behind Jacobellis at the 2014 Winter X Games.

4. Jennifer Jones (CAN), Curling

One gold medal in one event entered

Jones, 39, skipped the first women’s rink to go undefeated through the Olympics, winning all 11 matches en route to the Canadian women’s first gold since 2002.

Interestingly enough, her rink was pushed hardest by the last-place U.S. team, forcing an extra end in round-robin play.

Jones’ shots for the tournament were graded at an 86 percent success rate, seven percentage points better than the next best skip.

The difference between the second-best skip and the ninth-best skip was four percentage points. That gives an indication of Jones’ domination.

3. Ole Einar Bjoerndalen (NOR), Biathlon

Two gold medals in six events entered

The Biathlon King was expected to break the record for most career Winter Olympic medals as part of deep Norwegian relay teams in the final week.

But he did half of it on his own, winning the first individual biathlon event for medal No. 12 and gold No. 7. At 40, he became the oldest individual Winter Olympic champion.

The record holder for medals and golds coming into the Olympics was retired Norwegian cross-country skier Bjorn Daehlie, who was on hand at the Laura Biathlon Complex.

Bjoerndalen went on to break the record for total medals and tie the record for golds in the new Olympic mixed relay event.

At 40, he finished his Olympic career with 13 medals and eight golds in another Olympic record – 27 events entered.

2. Ireen Wuest (NED), Speed Skating

Two gold medals, three silver in five events entered

No nation was as dominant in an individual sport as the Dutch speed skaters. It was a team effort, but if one person must be singled out, make it Wuest.

She won her second Olympic title in the 3000m and helped the Netherlands to its first Olympic medal in the women’s team pursuit, a gold.

She also collected silvers in the 1000m, 1500m and 5000m, displaying the talent that’s made her the three-time reigning World Allround champion.

Wuest, the most decorated athlete at these Games, became the eighth athlete to win five medals at one Winter Olympics. It’s now been done at three straight Olympics, more commonplace with events being added to the program every four years.

Wuest, 27, said before the Olympics that she was hoping to compete in 2018. She is two medals away from the career Winter Olympic record for women.

1. Viktor Ahn (RUS), Short Track Speed Skating

Three gold medals, one silver medal in four events entered

Ahn was one of the leading international stories going into the Games. He had won three golds and one bronze while skating for South Korea as Ahn Hyun-Soo at the 2006 Olympics.

Ahn did not qualify for the 2010 Olympics, and subsequent fallout with the Korea Skating Union led him to acquire Russian citizenship.

He flourished with his new nation in Sochi, astonishingly bettering his 2006 Olympic medal haul. Ahn was .077 away from becoming the first person to sweep all four short track golds.

He became the most decorated Olympic short track skater of all time, matching Apolo Ohno in medals but with more golds.

South Korean fans were irate over his success, especially compared with the South Korean men’s failure to win a medal.

Ahn, 28, is considering the 2018 Olympics, which are in Pyeongchang, South Korea. Oh boy.



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