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Highs and lows from Sochi 2014

ABC News logo ABC News 24/02/2014 Jon Healy
Photo © Eric Gaillard/Reuters Photo

There was a time (pre-Bradbury) when a return of zero medals from the Winter Olympics was more or less to be expected.

Once the Australian public has had a taste of sporting success though, they come to not only want, but expect more.

There were very real hopes this would be the country's most successful Winter Olympics, but, whether it was due to injury or inability, the Australian tilt could only bring home three medals from Sochi.

In fact, 2014 actually marked the first Winter Games since 1998 in which Australia could not win a single gold medal.

It was not all doom and gloom though. Here are some of the highs and lows from an eventful two weeks of cold, hard competition.


Shining Bright

Torah Bright was competing in three snowboard events at Sochi 2014 but it was in the halfpipe that she was touted as a likely gold medallist.

The reigning Olympic champion put down a 91.50 final run which saw her fall just 0.25 of a point behind eventual champion Kaitlyn Farrington.

With a gold and silver to her name was enough to put her alongside Dale Begg-Smith as Australia's greatest Winter Olympian.

Bright's silver was Australia's first medal of the Games and, just five days into the competition proper, had Australia hoping it was just the first of a rush of gaudy jewellery on its way Down Under.

Leaping Lydia

Two days after Bright's effort, aerialist Lydia Lassila, Australia's other defending champion from 2010, snared a second medal for the big brown land when she picked up bronze.

Lassila's goals in Sochi were as ambitious as anyone's; win a second gold, secure a legacy as the greatest women's aerial skier of all time, and do so by landing a trick no woman ever has.

She came up short on the landing of the historic jump but it was good enough for another Olympic medal as rival Li Nina took a harder fall on her final jump.

Miracle Morris

David Morris wasn't the most high-profile Australian athlete entering the Olympics but he didn't seem to mind as he exited as one of the country's most successful.

By his own admission, Morris didn't have the tricks to win an aerials medal if all the finalists had landed their jumps but in reality, it was only a perfect effort from surprise gold medallist Anton Kushnir that prevented him from taking home gold.

With Lassila in the crowd, Morris made sure he absolutely stuck the landing of his back-double-full-full-full to put up a score of 110.41 but without the same degree of difficulty on his jumps had a nervous wait as China's Guangpu Qi stood atop the hill.

Both Qi and his countryman Zongyang Jia took tumbles and Morris took silver, securing himself a job as flag-bearer at the closing ceremony.

Young hopes

They didn't feature in the medals but teenagers Britteny Cox, Deanna Lockett and Greta Small made a strong case for increased funding as they push towards Pyeongchang 2018.

Cox was one of Australia's best performers of the first week, coming fifth in the women's moguls.

Lockett, a short-track speed skater competing in her first Olympics, finished ninth in the 1000-metre race after winning her heat.

While Small, also an Olympic debutant, gave a good account of herself by finishing 15th in the super-combined alpine skiing.

Ole Einar Bjoerndalen

What do you get for the man who has everything?

Two more medals, obviously.

Norweigan biathlete Ole Einar Bjoerndalen entered Sochi one podium finish away from tying his compatriot Bjorn Daehlie's all-time haul of 12 medals.

Bjoerndalen, 40, got his 12th with gold in the biathlon sprint before taking out the mixed relay to break the record and stand alone as history's greatest Olympic biathlete.



The powers-that-be within the International Olympic Committee seems intent on making people genuinely hate them.

Whether or not you agree with the Olympics being a politics-free zone, it's hard to make a case for outlawing a tribute to a deceased friend, competitor and pioneer of winter sports.

The IOC banned athletes from wearing stickers commemorating freestyle skiing champion Sarah Burke, who died in a training crash in 2012, during competition apparently on the grounds they were inappropriate made a political statement.

Despite concerns over Russia's controversial new anti-homosexual propaganda laws, IOC president Thomas Bach hailed the Games as sending a message of "peace, tolerance and respect".

Snowboard cross

Everyone loves a bit of bump and grind in a race, but with six people going down a mountain on a track designed to accommodate just four, crashes are a touch too frequent for most people's liking.

While there were plenty of similar cases internationally and the competitors don't seem to mind, the elimination of Cam Bolton in the men's event and Belle Brockhoff in the women's will have irked Australian fans.

Bolton broke his wrist after he was tripped when one of his competitors attempted an ambitious overtaking move in their semi-final, while Brockhoff, after only just avoiding being taken out by team-mate Bright, was dropped when another rider seemed to deviate from her line as they approached a feature.

Event organisers could look to short-track speed skating for a model: plenty of spills and thrills but with rules punishing skaters who take out other competitors.

Sleeping rough

It didn't take long for pictures to start emerging of the somewhat questionable living quarters of the media and athletes in the early throes of the Games.

Journalists took to social media almost immediately upon arriving at their hotel rooms (or where their hotel rooms should have been) to showcase some of the delightful quirks $50 billion can buy.

The greatest hits included a lack of running water, doors without doorknobs, toilets with spectator seating, and of course, the famed side-by-side toilets.

One of the most widely seen was the case of US bobsledder Johnny Quinn who had to pull a Shawshank and break out of his own bathroom.

Judging the judges

"There are too many sports decided on a subjective basis."

It's a common narrative when the Winter Olympics roles around and it reared its ugly head yet again in 2014 when hometown girl Adelina Sotnikova was awarded the figure-skating gold medal ahead of South Korean great Kim Yu-Na.

Kim produced a seemingly flawless performance but it was the Russian, who obviously stumbled during her routine, who took the gold - the country's first in woman's Olympic figure skating.

Seventh-placed American Ashley Wagner said of the incident: "People don't want to watch a sport where you watch people fall down and somehow score above someone who goes clean.

"It's confusing and we need to make it clear for people.

"People need to be held accountable. They need to get rid of anonymous judging. There are many changes that need to come to this sport if we want a fan base."

What a bunch of dopes

After two weeks without a drug controversy, Sochi was hit with a raft of them in the competition's final days.

Over the space of a few days, a handful of athletes were thrown out of the Olympic village after testing positive to banned substances.

Biathlete Evi Sachenbacher-Stehle, bobsledder William Frullani , cross-country skiers Marina Lisogor and Johannes Duerr, and hockey players Vitalijs Pavlovs and Nikolas Backstrom were all embroiled in drug scandals over the closing days of the Games.

Snow or ambitious water?

Critics of the IOC's choice of locale for the 2014 Games were proven right when hot conditions (sometimes climbing as high as 20 degrees celsius) caused the snow to turn to slush.

When winter athletes are happy, there's a lot of talk about powder on the mountain but that was neither seen or heard during the Sochi Games.

The soft conditions meant competitors were severely hampered depending on when they started in their event, particularly evident in events like slalom, as those who had gone before them shredded (for lack of a better word) the course to pieces.

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