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The 14 best athletes from Sochi Olympics

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source: AP
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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

source: Reuters
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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

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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

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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

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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

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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.

Reaction to Olympic ruling not to ban Russia

SOCHI, RUSSIA - MARCH 07:  The flag of Russia is raised during the Opening Ceremony of the Sochi 2014 Paralympic Winter Games at Fisht Olympic Stadium on March 7, 2014 in Sochi, Russia.  (Photo by Hannah Peters/Getty Images)
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MOSCOW (AP) — The International Olympic Committee has opted against imposing a blanket ban on the Russian team for next month’s games in Rio de Janeiro.

Meeting after World Anti-Doping Agency reports alleged widespread doping and state-backed cover-ups of failed drug tests by Russians, the IOC ruled that a ban across all sports would unjustly punish clean athletes in Russia.

However, the IOC has placed restrictions on the Russian team, including a measure barring the selection of any athletes who have previously served doping bans. It also set out eligibility criteria for the various international federations of Olympic sports.

Here is a look at the reaction in Russia and around the world:

“An athlete should not suffer and should not be sanctioned for a system in which he was not implicated and where he can show that he was not implicated…At the end of the day, we have to be able to look in the eye of the individual athletes concerned by this decision.” – IOC President Thomas Bach, a former Olympic fencer, tells reporters why the IOC did not impose a blanket ban on Russia.

“When a crime is committed, the guilty party is tried and punished, but you don’t put his family, friends and acquaintances behind bars just because they knew the criminal or they live in the same town.” – Russian Olympic Committee President Alexander Zhukov in an address to the IOC board ahead of its ruling not to impose a blanket ban.

“Many, including clean athletes and whistleblowers, have demonstrated courage and strength in confronting a culture of state-supported doping and corruption within Russia. Disappointingly, however, in response to the most important moment for clean athletes and the integrity of the Olympic Games, the IOC has refused to take decisive leadership. The decision regarding Russian participation and the confusing mess left in its wake is a significant blow to the rights of clean athletes.” – U.S. Anti-Doping Agency CEO Travis Tygart.

“The IOC decision was to be expected. You can’t behave improperly toward a power like Russia.” – Gennady Alyoshin, a Russian Olympic Committee official, in comments to Tass.

“We are grateful to the IOC for allowing Russian athletes in. I’m sure that the majority of the Russian national team will be able to comply with the criteria.” – Russian Sports Minister Vitaly Mutko.

“Well, that’s the IOC board off my Xmas card list then,” – Olympic long jump champion Greg Rutherford of Britain on Twitter.

“We have created and been through the process. We know how hard it is emotionally and rationally to get the process right… We continue to stand by to assist and offer advice to any international sports federations.” Sebastian Coe, head of track and field’s governing body, the IAAF, which barred all but one Russian athlete.

“Raising her to the status of a hero is like stupidly spitting in all our faces. So it’s right that she can’t compete at the Olympics. At least one wise decision on track and field has been taken.” – Two-time Olympic pole vault champion Yelena Isinbayeva discusses the IOC’s refusal to let doping whistleblower Yulia Stepanova race in Rio, in comments to R-Sport.

MORE: IOC will not enforce complete ban on Russia for Rio Olympics

IOC will not enforce complete ban on Russia for Rio Olympics

LONDON, ENGLAND - JULY 27:  Maria Sharapova of the Russia Olympic tennis team carries her country's flag during the Opening Ceremony of the London 2012 Olympic Games at the Olympic Stadium on July 27, 2012 in London, England.  (Photo by Lars Baron/Getty Images)
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LAUSANNE, Switzerland (AP) — Rejecting calls by anti-doping officials for a complete ban on Russia, Olympic leaders on Sunday gave individual sports federations the task of deciding which athletes should be cleared to compete in next month’s Rio de Janeiro Games.

Citing the need to protect the rights of individual athletes, the International Olympic Committee decided against taking the unprecedented step of excluding Russia’s entire team over allegations of state-sponsored doping. Instead, the IOC left it to 27 international sports federations to make the call on a case-by-case basis.

“Every human being is entitled to individual justice,” IOC President Thomas Bach said after the ruling of his 15-member executive board.

Bach said the IOC had decided instead on a set of “very tough criteria” that could dent Russia’s overall contingent and medal hopes in Rio, where the Olympics will open on Aug. 5.

Under the measures, no Russian athletes who have ever had a doping violation will be allowed into the games, whether or not they have served a sanction, a rule that has not applied to athletes in other countries.

In addition, the international sports federations were ordered to check each Russian athlete’s drug-testing record, with only doping controls conducted outside Russia counting toward eligibility, before authorizing them to compete. Final entry is contingent on approval from an independent sports arbitrator.

The IOC decision was sharply criticized by anti-doping bodies as a sellout that undermines clean athletes and destroys the idea of a level playing field.

World Anti-Doping Agency President Craig Reedie said the organization is “disappointed that the IOC did not heed WADA’s executive committee recommendations” after investigators “exposed, beyond a reasonable doubt, a state-run doping program in Russia that seriously undermines the principles of clean sport.”

Joseph de Pencier, chief executive of the 59-member Institute of National Anti-Doping Organisations, said the IOC “failed to confront forcefully the findings of evidence of state-sponsored doping in Russia corrupting the Russian sport system,” describing it as “a sad day for clean sport.”

U.S. Anti-Doping Agency CEO Travis Tygart said the “IOC has refused to take decisive leadership” in a most important moment for the integrity of the Olympic Games and clean athletes.

“The decision regarding Russian participation and the confusing mess left in its wake is a significant blow to the rights of clean athletes,” Tygart said.

Russia’s track and field athletes were already banned by the IAAF, the sport’s governing body, in a decision that was upheld by the Court of Arbitration for Sport. The IOC accepted that ruling, but would not extend it to other sports.

Russia’s current overall team consists of 387 athletes, a number likely to be significantly reduced by the measure barring Russians who have previously served doping bans.

Calls for a complete ban on Russia intensified after Richard McLaren, a Canadian lawyer commissioned by WADA, issued a report accusing Russia’s sports ministry of overseeing a vast doping program of its Olympic athletes.

McLaren’s investigation, based heavily on evidence from former Moscow doping lab director Grigory Rodchenkov, affirmed allegations of brazen manipulation of Russian urine samples at the 2014 Winter Games in Sochi, but also found that state-backed doping had involved 28 summer and winter sports from 2011 to 2015.

“An athlete should not suffer and should not be sanctioned for a system in which he was not implicated,” Bach told reporters after Sunday’s meeting, acknowledging the decision “might not please everybody.”

“This is not about expectations,” he said. “This is about doing justice to clean athletes all over the world.”

Asked whether the IOC was being soft on Russia, Bach said: “Read the decision. … You can see how high we set the bar. This is not the end of the story but a preliminary decision that concerns Rio 2016.”

Tygart, however, questioned why the IOC “would pass the baton to sports federations who may lack the adequate expertise or collective will to appropriately address the situation within the short window prior to the games.”

The IOC also rejected the application by Russian whistleblower Yulia Stepanova, an 800-meter runner and former doper who helped expose the doping scandal, to compete under a neutral flag at the games. Stepanova, now living in the United States, competed as an individual athlete at last month’s European Championships in Amsterdam.

But the IOC said Stepanova did not meet the criteria for running under the IOC flag and, because she had been previously banned for doping, did not satisfy the “ethical requirements” to compete in the games. The IOC said it planned to invite Stepanova and her husband, Vitaly Stepanov, a former Russian anti-doping official who also turned whistleblower, to attend the games.

Tygart expressed dismay at the decision to bar Stepanova, describing it as “incomprehensible” and saying it “will undoubtedly deter whistleblowers in the future from coming forward.”

That means only one Russian track and field athlete is eligible to compete in Rio: U.S.-based long jumper Darya Klishina was granted exceptional eligibility by the IAAF because she has been tested outside of Russia.

Russian Sports Minister Vitaly Mutko said “the majority” of Russia’s team complies with the IOC criteria, and estimated “80 percent” of the team regularly undergoes international testing of the kind specified by the IOC.

International federations will have only days to process the Russian cases. Many are still waiting for information from McLaren’s report.

The International Tennis Federation has already said Russia’s eight-member team meets the IOC requirements as the players have been through regular international testing.

Sunday’s measures are still a blow to Russia, which finished third in total medals at the 2012 Olympics.

The team could be without some of its star names in Rio because of the IOC measure barring any Russians who have previously served doping bans. However, the impact on the medal tally is likely to be less severe than the damage caused by the earlier ban on its track team, Russia’s most successful contingent in London four years ago.

Among those set to be ruled out are world champion swimmer Yulia Efimova; 2012 Olympic silver medal-winning weightlifter Tatyana Kashirina; and two-time Olympic bronze medal-winning cyclist Olga Zabelinskaya. All three have previously served doping bans.

Russian Olympic Committee president Alexander Zhukov presented his case to the IOC board, promising full cooperation with investigations and guaranteeing “a complete and comprehensive restructuring of the Russian anti-doping system.”

He issued a strong plea against a full ban.

“My question is this: If you treat the cancer by cutting off the patient’s head and killing him, do you consider this as a victory in the fight?” he said in remarks released later. “That does not seem like a victory to me.”

In its decision, the IOC also:

– asked the federations to examine the information and names of athletes and sports implicated in the McLaren report, saying any of those implicated should not be allowed into the games.

– said the federations would have to apply their own rules if they want to ban an entire Russian team from their events in Rio, as the IAAF has already done.

– said Russian entries must be examined and upheld by an expert from the Court of Arbitration for Sport.

– ruled that Russian athletes who are cleared for the games will be subjected to a “rigorous additional out-of-competition testing program.”

The IOC also reiterated its “serious concerns” about the weaknesses in the fight against doping, and called on WADA to “fully review their anti-doping systems.” The IOC said it would propose measures for more transparency and independence.

MORE: Russia loses Olympic track and field ban appeal