Your guide to the Olympics at the halfway point

2014 Winter Olympics
by Andrew Branch & Lynde Langdon
Posted 2/15/14, 11:20 am

One week into the 2014 Olympic Winter Games in Sochi, Russia, controversy has given way to sport. Fears of terrorism have been assuaged as tens of thousands of Russian security officers keep their eyes peeled. And Russia’s treatment of homosexuals hasn’t been much of an issue, either. Gay members of the U.S. delegation, said they found Russians “friendly.”

Here’s a recap of the first week’s happenings:

Skiing. Americans dominated slopestyle skiing, a new event this year in which skiers perform skateboard-style tricks on a course of ramps and obstacles. Americans swept men’s slopestyle, and took silver in the women’s event. Overall, Americans have done well in this year’s new events, including slopestyle and team figure skating.

Snowboarding. Shaun White, America’s best-known snowboarder, surprised everyone by missing the podium altogether and coming in fourth in the halfpipe. White opted to go all-in on the halfpipe and dropped out of slopestyle snowboarding, leaving American newcomer Sage Kotsenburg to win the gold medal. Americans won gold in women’s halfpipe and slopestyle and a bronze in women’s halfpipe.

Figure Skating. The tsar of Russian figure skating, four-time medal winner Evgeni Plushenko, bowed out of the men’s competition Thursday just before his skate. The 31-year-old athlete has battled a back injury that threatened to keep him from the Winter Games altogether. He helped Russia win gold in team figure skating, but was in too much pain to compete in the individual event. After leaving the ice, he said he was ending his competitive career. Plushenko’s exit makes room on the stage for Russian phenom Julia Lipnitskaia, a 15-year-old who skated almost flawlessly in the team competition.

Speedskating. Zhang Hong gave China its first speedskating gold in the women’s 1,000 meters Thursday. Zhang won by a generous margin of seven-10ths of a second.

Outside the competition. Sochi has had bizarrely warm temperatures this week. American skier Bobby Brown shed his coat and competed in a T-shirt in almost 60-degree temps, while Russian course workers cleared the slopes shirtless. Sportscaster Bob Costas, NBC’s Olympics anchor for years, was sidelined by an unsightly eye infection that made him the butt of social media jokes. Matt Lauer and Meredith Viera were called in to sub. By now everyone knows about the hilariously bad accommodations in Sochi, from multiple-occupancy toilet rooms to doors without handles.

Looking ahead:

Event climaxes. Hockey playoffs started today for women and Tuesday for men. The U.S. men defeated Russia 3-2 today in an exciting shootout, with Russian President Vladimir Putin looking on. T.J. Oshie scored the winning goal for the Americans. The top four curling teams face off starting Wednesday.

Bobsledding. Jamaica’s bobsled team faced long odds to even get to the Olympics. They had to raise travel expenses, then the airline lost their gear, delaying their practice runs. But they’re back on track now and will compete Sunday and Monday. The U.S. women’s team, whose inclusion of track star Lolo Jones caused controversy, will compete Tuesday and Wednesday.

Women’s figure skating. On Wednesday, U.S. skaters Gracie Gold and Ashley Wagner compete for gold against Lipnitskaia, who is expected to perform her well-known long program in which she plays the girl in the red coat from Schindler’s List.

Andrew Branch

Andrew is a freelance writer living in Raleigh, N.C. He was homeschooled for 12 years and recently graduated from N.C. State University. He writes about sports and poverty for WORLD. Follow Andrew on Twitter @AndrewABranch.

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Lynde Langdon

Lynde is a WORLD Digital’s managing editor and reports on popular and fine arts. She lives in Wichita, Kan., with her husband and two daughters. Follow Lynde on Twitter @lmlangdon.

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