U.S. athletes in newer Olympic events faring better than megastars

They have done it without contributions from marquee names such as snowboarder Shaun White, speedskater Shani Davis and cross-country skier Kikkan Randall, all of whom have flopped under the Olympic pressure.

– Ted Ligety didn’t try to hide behind any excuses Friday when he became the latest high-profile U.S. athlete to bomb at the Sochi Olympics. “To put it simply, I choked,’’ said Ligety, the defending world champion in Alpine skiing’s super combined event. “It’s just a bummer.”

Or, as the snowboarders on the halfpipe might say, epic fail. Through the first nine days of the Winter Games, the megastars of the U.S. team have wilted under the spotlight on the world’s biggest sporting stage. But athletes in the newer sports on the Olympic program, particularly the extreme sports, have kept their country in the thick of the medals race.

The Americans have won 16 medals in Sochi with seven days remaining in the Winter Games, putting them one behind The Netherlands and tying them for second place in the total count with host nation Russia. Their four gold medals tie them for fifth in that category.

They have done it without contributions from marquee names such as snowboarder Shaun White, speedskater Shani Davis and cross-country skier Kikkan Randall, all of whom have flopped under the Olympic pressure — some of them multiple times — and have delivered neither medals nor the kind of performances that made them household names.

But sports that are new to the Olympics this year have raked in six medals for the Americans, including their most dominant performance thus far: a sweep of the podium in men’s slopestyle skiing, only the third 1-2-3 performance in U.S. history. The events that NBC host Bob Costas derided as “Jackass’’ sports — referring to the TV show featuring mindless and dangerous stunts — are saving the Americans’ pride. And that, the extreme athletes say, is just insane.

“For the U.S., hopefully people are stoked on our sport because we just won a bunch of medals,” said Gus Kenworthy, silver medalist in slopestyle skiing. “The Olympics are the pinnacle event, the highest level of competition in any sport.

“Our sport is young and cool. We’re bringing this new breath of life into the Olympics, and they’re helping our sport by showcasing it to the world. It’s kind of a cool dynamic.”

Only four of the U.S. medals have come in events with a long Winter Games pedigree. None of those is gold, and three are bronze, from Julia Mancuso (women’s Alpine skiing super combined), Bode Miller (men’s super-G) and Erin Hamlin (women’s luge). Another bronze came in team figure skating, a new discipline in a traditional sport.

X Games beginnings

The majority have been won in events that migrated from the X Games, including the six in men’s and women’s ski and snowboard slopestyle. The Americans are particularly deep in these sports, many of which were created on its mountains.

In addition to the sweep in men’s slopestyle skiing, the United States has earned medals in women’s slopestyle skiing (silver), men’s slopestyle snowboarding (gold) and women’s slopestyle snowboarding (gold), all of which are making their Olympic debut in Sochi. Other podium finishes have come in women’s snowboard halfpipe (gold and bronze), women’s skeleton (silver), men’s skeleton (bronze) and women’s moguls (bronze), all sports that have been on the Olympic program since 1992.

The U.S. Olympic Committee is adept at analyzing medal potential in various sports, then funneling funding and support to those most likely to produce results. It had high expectations for the extreme sports, but it also anticipated better showings from some of the more traditional events.

In response to a question about the extreme sports propping up the medal count, Alan Ashley, chief of sport performance for the U.S. Olympic Committee, said Friday: “We’re incredibly proud of every member of Team USA and obviously really happy for those that have been successful. … These have been great Games.’’

The U.S. delegation includes 230 athletes — the most ever for one country at a Winter Games — and high hopes for a large, deep team. The Americans have not always done well at Olympics that are far from home, but Ashley said the American athletes’ impressive international résumé leading up to Sochi was a good omen.

The alpine ski team was coming off one of its best seasons ever, with 18 World Cup victories and four gold medals at the world championships. The women’s cross-country team had done the same, winning its first-ever gold medal at a world championship.

Ashley declined before the Games to predict how many medals the United States would win. He was confident it would compare to the tally at the 2010 Vancouver Olympics, where the Americans won 37 medals — its highest Winter Games total in history — and nine golds. There were only a handful of sports in Sochi in which the United States was not seen as a medal contender.

Injuries hurt prospects

The Americans’ medal hopes were hurt in some sports by injuries to stars. Minnesota native Lindsey Vonn reinjured her surgically repaired knee late lst year and was unable to defend her Olympic gold medal in downhill. Sarah Hendrickson, the 2013 world champion in women’s ski jumping, tore a knee ligament last August and had not competed this season until the Olympics. A hip injury sidelined Evan Lysacek, the 2010 Olympic gold medalist in men’s figure skating.

  • get related content delivered to your inbox

  • manage my email subscriptions

ADVERTISEMENT

San Francisco - LP: J. Peavy 2 FINAL
Kansas City - WP: K. Herrera 7
San Diego 10/23/14 7:25 PM
Denver
Detroit 10/26/14 8:30 AM
Atlanta
Buffalo 10/26/14 12:00 PM
NY Jets
St. Louis 10/26/14 12:00 PM
Kansas City
Houston 10/26/14 12:00 PM
Tennessee
Minnesota 10/26/14 12:00 PM
Tampa Bay
Seattle 10/26/14 12:00 PM
Carolina
Baltimore 10/26/14 12:00 PM
Cincinnati
Miami 10/26/14 12:00 PM
Jacksonville
Chicago 10/26/14 12:00 PM
New England
Philadelphia 10/26/14 3:05 PM
Arizona
Oakland 10/26/14 3:25 PM
Cleveland
Indianapolis 10/26/14 3:25 PM
Pittsburgh
Green Bay 10/26/14 7:30 PM
New Orleans
Washington 10/27/14 7:30 PM
Dallas
Houston 90 FINAL
Orlando 89
Brooklyn 86 FINAL
Boston 100
Washington 100 FINAL
New York 103
Cleveland 92 FINAL
Memphis 96
Minnesota 110 FINAL
Milwaukee 91
Atlanta 117 FINAL
San Antonio 107
Portland 86 FINAL
LA Lakers 94
Phoenix 100 4th Qtr 2:43
LA Clippers 101
Toronto 0 Postponed
Ottawa 0
Philadelphia 5 FINAL
Pittsburgh 3
Washington 2 FINAL
Edmonton 3
Buffalo 1 FINAL
Anaheim 4
Arkansas State 40 FINAL
Louisiana 55
Connecticut 10/23/14 6:00 PM
(18) East Carolina
Miami-Florida 10/23/14 7:00 PM
Virginia Tech
So Florida 10/24/14 6:00 PM
Cincinnati
Troy 10/24/14 6:30 PM
South Alabama
BYU 10/24/14 8:00 PM
Boise State
(6) Oregon 10/24/14 9:00 PM
California
North Texas 10/25/14 11:00 AM
Rice
UAB 10/25/14 11:00 AM
Arkansas
Rutgers 10/25/14 11:00 AM
(16) Nebraska
Maryland 10/25/14 11:00 AM
Wisconsin
Texas 10/25/14 11:00 AM
(11) Kansas State
Minnesota 10/25/14 11:00 AM
Illinois
Memphis 10/25/14 11:00 AM
SMU
North Carolina 10/25/14 11:30 AM
Virginia
San Jose St 10/25/14 12:00 PM
Navy
Northern Ill 10/25/14 12:00 PM
Eastern Mich
(25) UCLA 10/25/14 1:00 PM
Colorado
Akron 10/25/14 1:00 PM
Ball State
Massachusetts 10/25/14 1:00 PM
Toledo
Ohio U 10/25/14 1:00 PM
Western Mich
Ga Southern 10/25/14 1:00 PM
Georgia State
Kent State 10/25/14 1:30 PM
Miami-Ohio
Oregon State 10/25/14 2:30 PM
Stanford
Fla Atlantic 10/25/14 2:30 PM
(23) Marshall
Louisiana Tech 10/25/14 2:30 PM
Southern Miss
(1) Miss State 10/25/14 2:30 PM
Kentucky
Georgia Tech 10/25/14 2:30 PM
Pittsburgh
(22) West Virginia 10/25/14 2:30 PM
Oklahoma State
Texas Tech 10/25/14 2:30 PM
(10) TCU
Michigan 10/25/14 2:30 PM
(8) Michigan State
Boston College 10/25/14 2:30 PM
Wake Forest
Central Mich 10/25/14 2:30 PM
Buffalo
Vanderbilt 10/25/14 3:00 PM
Missouri
Old Dominion 10/25/14 3:00 PM
Western Ky
UNLV 10/25/14 3:00 PM
Utah State
Temple 10/25/14 4:00 PM
UCF
(15) Arizona 10/25/14 5:00 PM
Washington St
Texas-El Paso 10/25/14 6:00 PM
TX-San Antonio
Wyoming 10/25/14 6:00 PM
Colorado State
Syracuse 10/25/14 6:00 PM
(21) Clemson
Texas State 10/25/14 6:00 PM
ULM
(3) Ole Miss 10/25/14 6:15 PM
(24) LSU
(4) Alabama 10/25/14 6:30 PM
Tennessee
So Carolina 10/25/14 6:30 PM
(5) Auburn
(13) Ohio State 10/25/14 7:00 PM
Penn State
(20) USC 10/25/14 9:00 PM
(19) Utah
(14) Arizona State 10/25/14 9:45 PM
Washington
Nevada 10/25/14 10:59 PM
Hawaii
Chivas USA 0 FINAL
Real Salt Lake 2
Montreal 10/24/14 5:30 PM
Ottawa
Saskatchewan 10/24/14 8:30 PM
Calgary
Hamilton 10/25/14 3:00 PM
Toronto
Brt Columbia 10/25/14 6:00 PM
Winnipeg
Hamilton 10/31/14 6:30 PM
Ottawa
Winnipeg 11/1/14 3:00 PM
Calgary
Brt Columbia 11/1/14 6:00 PM
Edmonton

ADVERTISEMENT

question of the day

Poll: Who should get the Twins' managing job?

Weekly Question

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

Connect with twitterConnect with facebookConnect with Google+Connect with PinterestConnect with PinterestConnect with RssfeedConnect with email newsletters

ADVERTISEMENT

 
Close