The Sochi 2014 Olympic Winter Games were the first Winter Olympics for host nation Russia, having also held the Summer Games in Moscow in 1980, then as the Soviet Union.
Russia ruled the Games. The host nation dominated competition to top the medal tally with 13 golds and a total of 33 medals, ahead of Norway and Canada. Their 13 gold medals equalled their previous record, set (as the Soviet Union) in 1976.
The lead up to the Games was marred by several major controversies. Legislation was passed affecting the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community in Russia, causing global outcry against this discrimination and caused concerns for the safety and rights of LGBT athletes and spectators during the Games. In addition, terrorist attacks and threats by groups tied to the insurgency in the North Caucasus, caused major security concerns. Additionally, much was made of the cost of the Games. Over $US 50 billion, was said to have been spent, making them the most expensive Olympics in history. The larger-scale Summer Olympics in London cost less than $15 billion and the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing cost around $US 40 billion.
Despite these issues, the Games took place without incident.
Australia at these Games
The 2014 Australian Olympic Team was Australia’s largest Winter Olympic Team with 60 athletes. Thirty-one of the Australian competitors were women, making it also the first Australian Olympic Team- Summer or Winter- with more female than male athletes.
Back-to-back Snowboard Cross World Champion Alex 'Chumpy' Pullin proudly carried the Australian flag in the Opening Ceremony. He led a Team that was was represented in 10 of the 15 sports on the Sochi program, and win went on to win two silver medals and one bronze medal.
Torah Bright became Australia's most successful female Winter Olympian by adding a silver medal to her gold medal from 2010. Bright was the only athlete to attempt three Snowboard events at the one Olympics: Slopestyle, Halfpipe and Snowboard Cross. After finishing seventh in the Snowboard Slopestyle on Day 2 of the Games, Bright produced a blistering performance in the Halfpipe on Day 5 to earn the silver medal. In a nail-biting final, Bright finished on a score of 91.50 - just 0.25 points behind American Kaitlyn Farrington. Bright would go on to finish equal 18th in the Snowboard Cross, proving she was truly the most versatile and talented snowboarder at the Games.
Defending Olympic Aerial Skiing Champion Lydia Lassila was in Sochi to make history. The 32-year-old qualified for the four-woman super-final and chose a jump that no other woman in the history of the sport had attempted in competition – a quad twisting triple somersault. As Lassila soared into the air at her fourth Games, her chances of securing back-to-back gold medals, which no one had ever done, looked strong - but she was robbed of precious points with a precarious landing. The high degree of difficulty jump still scored her 72.12 points and the bronze medal. An emotional Lassila had no regrets and was proud to become the first woman to execute the challenging jump. Her superb efforts launched her sport to a whole new level. Lassila also became the first mother to win a Winter Olympic medal for Australia.
Lassila's Aerials teammate David Morris wrote his own piece of Olympic history in the men’s event. An inspired Morris was the first to jump in the men’s super-final, completing a double-Full Full-Full (quad twisting somersault) to score 110.41 points. Triple Olympian Anton Kushnir from Belarus went for the highest scoring jump possible – the Back Double Full-Full-Double Full (five twisting somersault) – to score an incredible 134.50 points and take the gold medal. Reigning World Champion Qi Guangpu of China and his teammate Jia Zongyang both failed to beat Morris’ score, meaning the exuberant young Australian would take silver at his second Olympics. Morris was honoured for his achievement by carrying the flag in the Closing Ceremony.
A total of 15 top-10 performances were recorded by Australians throughout the Sochi Games- a strong improvement from the nine that were achieved in Vancouver in 2010. In Moguls, Australia had three women and four men in the top-20, including teenager Britt Cox finishing fifth and Matt Graham finishing seventh. Still on Freestyle Skiing, Anna Segal and Russ Henshaw came agonisingly close to medals in a new event at the Sochi Games – Ski Slopestyle – finishing fourth and eighth respectively.
The Team featured a number of other history makers. Bobsleigh’s Jana Pittman became the first female Olympian to compete in both a Summer and Winter Olympics (Olympian Paul Narracott and Paralympian Jessica Gallagher also achieved this feat). Callum and Aimee Watson became the first siblings to compete at the same Games in Cross Country. Alex Almoukov pulled off the best ever performance by a male Australian biathlete when he finished 45th in the 20km Individual. Other historic bests were John Farrow who was 17th in the men’s Skeleton, Belle Brockhoff who was eighth in the women’s Snowboard Cross and Kent Callister who was ninth in the men’s Snowboard Halfpipe.
With a changing of the guard in many of the sports and some great young talent coming through the ranks, the future of Winter sport in Australia is strong heading into PyeongChang 2018.