Russia, With Home-Field Advantage, Wins Sochi Medal Race

February 23, 2014

Just two medals remain to be awarded at the Winter Olympics in Sochi, as Canada and Sweden face off on the hockey ice. If the Canadian men take gold, Canada will have swept all four traditional team sports. Canadian teams have already won gold in men’s and women’s curling and women’s ice hockey.

[Add at 10:00 a.m. ET: Canada’s men’s hockey team has won the gold]

Regardless of the hockey, host-nation Russia has won the medals race, securing a total of 33 (13 gold, 11 silver and 9 bronze).

Purists will say the Olympics is really all about individual sporting achievement, but for the national Olympic committees, medal counts do matter. And for Russia, this haul has to be a point of pride — even if the men’s hockey team failed to make it to the medal round.

This is the fourth time the host nation of an Olympics has emerged victorious in the medal count, making a strong case for the idea of home field advantage (U.S. in 1932; Norway in 1952 and Canada in 2010). Athletes in Sochi couldn’t help but be motivated by the deafening chants of “Russ-ee-ahhh” in every arena and mountain venue.

A Spectacular Bobsled Crash

Team USA ended up with 28 medals (9 gold, 7 silver and 12 bronze), including a bronze secured Sunday by Steve Holcomb and his four-man bobsled team. The team just barely beat out Russia’s second bobsled team by .03 seconds. Holcomb also won bronze earlier in the games in two-man bobsled.

In the second heat of the bobsled race Saturday night, the Canadian bobsled Team 3 piloted by Justin Kripps came into a curve too early and crashed spectacularly, flipping the sled and sliding through several remaining curves on its side. Everyone walked away from the crash and was checked out by doctors. You can see the dramatic video here.

“I’d be lying if I said that one didn’t hurt,” Kripps tweeted out after the crash. “Thanks for all the support; we were laying it all out there. #cashorcrash.”

Kripps returned to slide again on Sunday, though with two new crew members. “Cleared to slide today, it will be good to be back out there,” Kripps tweeted.

After the third run, the team was in last place.

More Athletes Busted for Doping

Two more athletes have tested positive for banned substances, bringing the total to five. Latvian ice hockey player Vitalijs Pavlovs was found to have methylhexaneamine in his system and as a result was booted from the athlete’s village. Austrian cross-country skier Johannes Duerr was busted for the blood-booster EPO. He was scheduled to compete in Sunday’s 50K cross country race, but instead was kicked off the Austrian ski team.

The other athletes who tested positive for banned substances during the games are Ukrainian cross-country skier Marina Lisogor, who finished 58th in two events, German biathlete Evi Sachenbacher-Stehle and Italian bobsledder William Frullani.

So far no one has been stripped of any medals, because those who have tested positive have been well out of medal contention.

Closing Ceremonies

Russian organizers are holding tight the details of Sunday’s closing ceremonies. Will it be spectacular? Bet on it. Will there be bears? Probably. Will they try again to get that fifth snowflake to open into an Olympic ring? Doubtful.

What we do know for certain is that the large Olympic flame that has starred in countless #sochiselfie’s will be extinguished and the torch will be passed to the South Korean Olympic Organizing committee. The 2018 Winter Olympics will be hosted by Pyeongchang, South Korea.

Many athletes have already gone home, finishing their competitions days ago. But those who remain will again march into Fisht Stadium.

U.S. hockey player Julie Chu, who has been in four Olympics, will carry the flag for the United States. She helped lead the women’s ice hockey team to a silver medal in what was arguably the most exciting match of the whole games (this writer may be biased, but the men’s games just didn’t bring the same passion as the rivalry between the U.S. women and Canada).

Copyright 2014 NPR. To see more, visit

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