Still, there were plenty of highlights, beginning with the American team’s overall second-place showing in the medal race, equaling its achievement of 2002, when it won its most medals ever, 34, and established itself as a Winter Olympics superpower.
There were fewer medals this year — nine gold and 25 overall — but the competition was deeper than ever, and Germany, which won the medal race with 29, also was down from 2002. The United States may have left medals on the table, and some of the most highly touted stars may have laid eggs, but there was plenty to celebrate.
Here are our choices for America’s top 10 Turin performances.
The first Sunday of the Games hosted two premier events in which Team USA had high hopes. One turned out to be less than Bode-licious.
The other was one of the biggest American moments of the Olympics.
In Bardonecchia, site of the snowboarding halfpipe competition, a 19-year-old gust of fresh air soared to gold framed by a raucous mop of flaming red hair and lit up with a smile tailor-made for the top step of the Olympic medal podium.
Unlike so many others, Shaun White lived up to his pre-Games hype. He was supposed to win the halfpipe, and he did, blowing away the competition with a brilliant display of talent and verve. Joining him on the medal stand was Danny Kass, who duplicated the silver he had won in Salt Lake City in 2002.
Overall, the snowboard team would win seven medals, equaling the men’s long-track speedskating team as the biggest contributors to America’s Olympic success.
Bode came unprepared to compete. Lindsey Kildow couldn’t recover physically from a horrific training crash. Both the men’s and women’s Alpine skiing teams were reeling, with few hopes for recovery.
Just 21 years old, Mancuso had been coming to the mountain with a tiara, a joke gift her coach had given her to signify she was queen of the slopes.
She forgot the tiara, but remembered to keep it simple. Forgetting about results, she concentrated on her race and shut out the best in the world. It was just the second medal for the Alpine Ski Team, but it was the perfect color and it came at the perfect time to ease the team’s disappointment after two weeks of near perfect futility.
There are five individual races in the Olympics at distances ranging from 500 to 10,000 meters, and Americans medaled in every one of them.
Then there was Joey Cheek, who so inspired the entire team he was chosen to carry the flag into the stadium ahead of the delegation at the Closing Ceremonies. Cheek won the 500, then donated his $25,000 medal bonus to famine relief in the Sudan. When he took silver in the 1,000, he added the $15,000 that came with that medal to his donation. Matching corporate donations took the total to well over a quarter of a million dollars.
Check out the best images from the 2006 Winter Olympics.