Time to turn it on, Team USA
- Now about that U.S. gold medal rush ... – (SportsNetwork.com) - Now about that U.S. gold medal rush ...
Enough missed opportunities are mounting for Team USA that it won't be long before all the early clues add up to more than potential foreshadowing: That the United States is leaving the door open to not defending its overall medal victory from the 2010 Vancouver Games.
If good ol' Red, White and Blue doesn't quickly stop having unexpected disappointments like Shaun White failing to deliver in snowboard men's halfpipe on Tuesday, then there will be plenty of room across the medal stands.
It's not time to panic ... yet. The United States sat tied for fourth in medals with seven following Tuesday's events in Sochi, still within striking range of front-running Norway, the all-time leader in Winter Olympic medals, which has 11 overall medals in Sochi, followed by Canada with nine and the Netherlands with eight. Host Russia had its pride showing with seven medals as well.
In Vancouver, the United States settled for a tie for third with nine gold medals, but its depth blitzed the rest of the world, as 37 total medals were an impressive seven better than Germany's runner-up total. That's a relative rout in Winter Olympic terms.
But a repeat performance is looking unlikely with some of the U.S. stars not shining on their biggest stage of competition.
White's Olympics struggles have been particularly noteworthy considering the United States has dominated the extreme sports since the first events were added at the 1998 Nagano Games.
Last week, White dropped out of this past weekend's slopestyle event, once his preferred event, citing the potential for injury on a course that was considered difficult.
The X Games veteran instead concentrated on securing a gold medal three-peat in the halfpipe, as he was trying to become the fourth athlete ever to win the same event in three straight Winter Olympics.
But on Tuesday, that dream fell apart. In fact, White fell, too, on his first run, and then he didn't land cleanly on a trick early in his second run, effectively ending his chance to win any medal. He placed fourth.
Coming on the heels of some American struggles over the weekend, and, well, Team USA has some catching up to do. Skier Hannah Kearney won the bronze in women's moguls Saturday night, an accomplishment no doubt, but disappointing nonetheless after she was the gold medalist in Vancouver. One of the most dominant freestyle skiers of all time, Kearney had been the top qualifier heading into the Sochi finals.
And speaking of peaking too early, five-time Olympic medal-winner Bode Miller looked every bit the overwhelming favorite to win the men's downhill - the signature event for Alpine skiers - during his training runs, only to finish eighth on Sunday. America's most decorated Alpine skier ever was still lamenting the failed opportunity on Tuesday as he prepared for other upcoming events.
White pulling out of the snowboarding slopestyle helped pave the way for Sage Kotsenburg to win Team USA's first gold medal on Saturday, followed less than 24 hours later by Jamie Anderson claiming the women's event in this new Olympic sport.
Still, they are the only two U.S. golds through the first 26 medal ceremonies.
There are enough figure skating, speedskating (here comes Shani Davis on Wednesday) and other events to turn the wide-open medal count into a Team USA win. But if it doesn't happen, there have been enough signs already to explain why.