Sochi 2014: Top 5 Biggest Surprises from Team USA (so far)

The 2014 Winter Olympic Games in Sochi have been rather entertaining, and many notable moments occurred before the events even began. From the questionable conditions of the athletes’ rooms to the concern over the Sochi’s state of security, it seems that the Games are full of surprises this year.

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Not one to be left out of the excitement of the unexpected, Team USA has experienced their fair share of twists and turns. Here are my top 4 biggest surprises from Team USA in the Olympics thus far.

Sage Kotsenburg

Mandatory Photo Credit: Joe Scarnici Getty Images

Mandatory Photo Credit: Joe Scarnici Getty Images

When the phrase “history-making American gold medal snowboarder” gets thrown around, it’s usually synonymous with Shaun White (more on him later). In what could be considered one of the most surprising (and badass) outcomes of the entire Games (not just for team USA), 20 year old Sage Kotsenburg not only took home the gold for the first-ever slopestyle team, he won the first gold of the Games (which just so happened to be the first one in Russia). In true rockstar style, Sage won by landing a 1620 Japan Air (which he decided to do last minute on a whim) and performing the Holy Crail.

It’s evident that Kotsenburg’s heart is immersed in his sport, and years of snowboarding have given him the confidence he needed to rock Slopestyle. He didn’t overthink his routine (although it’d have been incredibly easy to do so)—he went out and did what he does best. In an event where you truly have to go big or go home, Sage Kotsenburg went Jolly Green Giant—and sent everybody else home.

Kaitlyn Farrington

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The 24 year old Idaho-born snowboarder took the women’s halfpipe by storm. After failing to qualify for the 2010 games, Farrington spent the next four years pursuing her Olympic dreams. She qualified for Team USA in January, and arrived in Sochi to find snow that more resembled a gas station slushy than it did a completion-worthy halfpipe. These conditions caused many of the girls to struggle with executing their tricks. Teammate Kelly Clark was favored to win the gold (as she had in the past) but faced a slew of spills and slips to bounce back from. Thanks to Farrington’s backside 900 and perfectly implemented pair of 720s, her score landed her top spot.

Perhaps nobody is no more pleasantly surprised by the victory than the Farringtons themselves. Kaitlyn has said that the whole experience feels surreal—and that she’d have been stoked to medal—period. But gold?—I think her smile says it all.

The U.S. Women’s Hockey Team

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When the Team USA’s women’s hockey team went up against Switzerland, Team USA was expected to win. The surprise came not in the victory, but in the sheer amount of domination that the Americans displayed.

Monique Lamoueux, Brianna Decker, and Amanda Kessel all helped break an Olympic record by scoring 3 goals in 55 seconds, followed by setting a team record when they scored their 5 fastest goals in an Olympic game. The best offense (as they say) is a good defense, and Molly Schaus achieved her first Olympic shutout after making 10 saves. If I had a women’s fantasy hockey team, you can bet it’d have been off the charts after this game!

Although Canada walked away with the win on Wednesday, we can rest assured that these two hockey powerhouses will likely meet again to battle for the gold. The USA women’s team has medaled in all of their Olympic appearances to date—so a gold medal from Sochi would be right on cue.

Going, Going, Gone…

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What do Bode Miller, Shaun White, Shani Davis, Sarah Hendrickson and Ashley Wanger all have in common? They were all slated to do well (if not get the gold) for their respective events—and each one failed to medal at all. I kept this portion of my list purposefully short—there is no point dwelling on what can’t be undone. It is worth noting, though, that some of the biggest Olympic surprises this year for the American team have not been regarding who won the gold, but rather, who didn’t. It’s easy to forget that these athletes are humans, complete with limitations and inconsistencies. In an event of this caliber, though, the bar is raised—and this year, the USA has fallen surprisingly short.

The Olympic Games aren’t over yet, and we can be sure that the surprises won’t stop anytime soon! Here’s to finishing strong—go Team USA!

Julia Randall will be watching Olympics in the lodge after a perfect day of cross-country skiing. When she’s not cheering on Team USA, you can find her working on her next fantasy draft and trying out new risotto recipes.

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