What a better way to end the 2014 Olympics than with a nod to its notorious beginnings? During the Closing Ceremonies Sunday, Sochi gave a little tongue-in-cheek nod to the Olympic Ring that failed to expand during the Opening Ceremonies … by reenacting it.
In addition to essentially being a “whatta ya gonna do?” shrug to the variety of problems that plagued the Sochi Games, the faulty ring acts as the perfect metaphor for the appeal of the Winter Olympics in general. That appeal, of course, is the fact we get to bare witness to world-class athletes slipping up and falling down, over and over and over again.
That’s not to say that athletes at the Summer Games don’t fall down, but oh, not like this. The Winter Games combines the technical difficulties of the Summer Olympics with a thin sheet of frozen water on every surface. Frozen water if we’re luckily, as the weather in Sochi demonstrated. The unpredictability caused by the inherently slippery conditions of the playing field makes for an Olympic Games with more moments of pathos, riskier sports and a helpful reminder that, oh right, few normal human beings could launch themselves off a ski jump and live. That is what makes the Winter Olympics worth watching. With that in mind, here are our favorite Olympic moments from the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi.
It’s always sad to lose, but it seems infinitely more horrible to lose because of a slip or fall rather than a competitor’s superior skill. It certainly looked that way to us anyway. Four of the top eight skaters in women’s figure skating fell during the women’s free skate. Even more tragically, Japan’s Mao Asada skated beautifully … but having fallen during her short program, did not have enough points to medal.
Every Olympic fall was a gasp-inducing moment, but Gracie Gold was our skater, which made her spill even harder to watch.
Russian skate star Evgeni Plushenko took a heartbreaking stumble during practice, which led to his withdrawal from the event seconds later.
With the half-pipe allegedly a mess, U.S. snowboarder Shaun White took a hard spill, and lost his chance to medal in 2014.
Wearing sharp blades and running across slippery surfaces are the foundation of the Winter Olympics. Add intense physical contact and you get our favorite GIF from the U.S. vs. Canada women’s hockey final. It’s bascially football with more falling.
The newer winter sports were all about altitude. They were also all about the apparently sensitive climate of the half-pipe, which makes women’s ski half-pipe gold medalist Maddie Bowman’s air even more incredible.
People gasp when gymnasts nail their landing over the vault, and as well they should, but good god, we still can’t get over Belarusian Anton Kushnir’s perfect ski jump touchdown.
The fact that amazing athletes can take themselves out of the running with a slipped toepick or a blade skidding on melted snow makes it even more impressive when their competitors make it look easy. For example, Japanese men’s figure skater Yuzuru Hanyu in his gold-winning performance.
U.S. skier Ted Ligety’s near-horizontal gold-medal giant slalom run.
Russia’s Adelina Sotnikova in her flawless free skate.
Alright, so the sack of potatoes drop by Norway’s cross-country sprinter O.V. Hattestad wasn’t the most graceful gold-medal win, but all of the finish-line collapses just added to the drama. Every athlete should just go ahead and collapse after they’re done. They clearly all want to.
The Falls Themselves
The Winter Olympics’ ice factor makes for a more dramatic and unpredictable viewing experience, in large part because the athlete’s spills are themselves are so epic, so large, so dangerous and amazing-looking you cannot believe someone can get up and walk away from them. Especially not if it’s in GIF form. So enjoy these, our favorite falls from Sochi.
It is truly an honor to see athletes go big, and it is equally an honor to see athletes go home. As Olympian Scott Hamilton himself sighed during NBC prime time, “It’s still ice.” Catch you in Pyeongchang in 2018, everybody. Hopefully.
This post has been updated throughout.