Even before the athletes arrived in Sochi, the Games were already overflowing with political controversy. But once the competitions got started criticism was turned onto judges, referees, course creators and uniform designers.
A harrowing halfpipe:
The snowboard halfpipe was a constant trigger of criticism during the Sochi Games.
"It is a little dangerous," two-time U.S. Olympian Hannah Teter told USA Today. "I saw more people fall today than I have all season. It's just dangerous because it's crappy, you know?"
U.S. snowboarder Danny Davis had some harsher words for the Sochi pipe, calling it “garbage” and lamenting the missed opportunity to showcase the best of the best on a global stage.
"It's the Olympics. It should be flawless,” Davis said of the halfpipe. “What a lame showcase of snowboarding, and what a lame way to treat the athletes."
Disallowed goal upsets the host:
After a ridiculously intense game between Team USA and Russia, demonstrators gathered outside the U.S. Embassy in Moscow to protest a referee's call disallowing a Russian goal in the match that was ultimately lost in a penalty shootout.
Russia's Fedor Tyutin's goal that would have broken the 2-2 tie was not counted after referees realized that the right post of American goalie Jonathan Quick’s net was off its mooring. If this had been a game in the NHL the goal would have been allowed, but International Ice Hockey Federation rules are different.
Shortly after the Russia-USA game, the federation announced that the rule would be changed to follow NHL protocol.
Figure skating — business as usual:
When it comes to judging controversies, figure skating typically wins the gold medal, and Sochi was no exception.
Drama swirled around the results of the women’s figure skating competition, with many believing that the heavy favorite, Yuna Kim, was robbed of gold by Adelina Sotnikova because of corrupt judging.
Judges with controversial backgrounds of taking bribes and the large margin of victory between Sotnikova and “Queen” Kim had many crying foul. A photo of Sotnikova hugging one of the Russian judges (who’s married to a coach for the Russian figure skating team) didn’t help matters. An online petition demanding that the anonymous judging be investigated broke several Change.org records and now has more than 2 million signatures.
The protesters certainly have Ashley Wagner’s support. The skater, whose inclusion on the Olympic team was a scandal in and of itself, slammed the anonymous judging system. Sotnikova was forced to go on the defensive, insisting that her difficult jumps pushed her ahead of the more conservative Kim.
[Photos: Best quotes of the Sochi Olympics]
America’s Meryl Davis and Charlie White’s historic ice dancing win was marred by murmurs of a fix, with angry Canadians certain that silver medalists Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir should have been the true winners.
Even more interesting? Davis and White are coached by Marina Zoueva, the same woman who trains Virtue and Moir, and the pairs practice in the same rink together in Detroit every single day.
After their second-place finish, Virtue and Moir expressed their disappointment that Zoueva “wasn’t in their corner.”
Drug testing claims a few victims:
On Feb. 21, skier Evi Sachenbacher-Stehle of Germany and Italian bobsled brakeman William Frullani were both sent home from Sochi after failing drug tests.
Two days later, Nicklas Backstrom of Sweden missed the gold medal game against Canada after he tested positive for a banned substance.
A source from the NHLPA told Yahoo Sports that Backstrom used allergy medication that contained pseudoephedrine, a banned substance by the IOC.
A suit that was too fast, and one that was too slow:
Bringing home just one medal, the typically high-achieving speedskating team from the United States was a huge disappointment. Many blamed the team’s new suits, with a revolutionary design from Under Armour that hadn’t been tested in competition and was kept under wraps before Sochi.
Whether the suits are to blame remains unsolved. Even after the team received permission to use old competition suits, the U.S. speedskaters still put up hugely underwhelming performances. Despite the debacle, U.S. speedskating has renewed the deal with Under Armour.
Meanwhile, after the French swept the skicross podium, Canada and Slovenia protested the athletes' use of potentially illegal suits that they claimed were too aerodynamic. The Court of Arbitration for Sport dismissed their appeals.
Alpine course woes:
After 13 of the top 30 slalom skiers ended the second run with the dreaded DNF (did not finish), American Ted Ligety called the course “borderline unsportsmanlike.” Ligety felt as though Ante Kostelic’s course rewarded those who could just get down the mountain, rather than who was truly the best skier.
The course was created by Croatian coach Kostelic, who also set the run for the slalom portion of the men’s super-combined competition. Kostelic had already raised some eyebrows when his own son Ivica captured the silver in the super-combined on his dad’s creation. American Andrew Weibrecht said it was “not really that rhythmical and just sort of an obstacle course.”
Whether some of these call-outs were justified or not we may never know, but what's clear is that when the best athletes in the world compete for Olympic glory losing isn't taken lightly.
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