There were unlikely Alpine golds from skiers Julia Mancuso and Ted Ligety. And the disaster in the mountains that was Bode Miller and his tattered reputation.
Speedskater Joey Cheek set a standard for Olympic class, winning two medals and donating his $40,000 reward from the U.S. Olympic Committee to a charity for children trapped in war zones. Teammates Chad Hedrick and Shani Davis typified something less than class, fussing and fighting like second-graders in a sandbox.
A kid dubbed “The Flying Tomato,” Shaun White, sailed into the sky above Bardonecchia to claim a gold medal in the snowboard halfpipe. Another snowboarder, Lindsey Jacobellis, hot-dogged her way out of a gold medal in a still-stunning turn of events that typified a growing Generation X Games gap among the Americans.
By the time the Turin two-step was done, the final medal total left the U.S. somewhere between total success and perceived failure. The collection of 25 medals — 9 gold, 9 silver, 7 bronze — was far less than the record 34 of 2002, but nearly double the previous high of 13 from 1994 and 1998.
Despite the medals haul, the Olympics proved to be not much of a ratings draw for NBC, which was consistently beaten by shows such as “American Idol” and “Grey’s Anatomy.” The network said it wasn’t a disaster, though it was on the low end of their ratings expectations.
And cynics might observe the Olympics have added 16 new medal sports since the ’98 Nagano Games, several in U.S.-friendly events.
It was the most medals ever won by the Americans in a foreign Winter Olympics, and left the U.S. second only to Germany’s 29 medals. The head of the USOC was quick to spin it as success, while acknowledging others might see it differently.
“This has been an incredible performance,” Jim Scherr said. “It’s probably a little bit our fault that this team has been viewed as a little less than that because of the high expectations we all had coming into these games.”