Sage Kotsenburg and Jamie Anderson: Snowboard Slopestyle
In Sochi, sports fans were treated to the Olympic debut of snowboard slopestyle—a downhill event that allows the competitors to perform stylish tricks while maneuvering a ski slope decorated with ramps and rails.
In what was considered an upset of the event’s top talent, U.S. snowboarder Sage Kotsenburg opened the Winter Games as the first ever slopestyle gold medalist. The Americans made a clean sweep of the event when Jamie Anderson took gold in the women’s event a few days later.
Kaityln Farrington and Kelly Clark: Snowboard Halfpipe
Although Kaityln Farrington was the least heralded amongst Team USA’s snowboarders, the 24-year old Olympian managed to surprise the action sports world with her gold medal performance in Sochi.
Sharing the podium with Farrington was snowboarding legend Kelly Clark who competed in her fourth Winter Games and bounced back from a poor first run to bring home the bronze, her third overall Olympic medal. As one of the oldest athletes in her sport, she especially appreciated this experience compared to the previous three.
“It’s an honor to represent my country again and to represent my sport to the world and to hold it down for all those 30-year old athletes out there,” Clark said.
For more about Clark, check out her interview with Inspiring Athletes.
Joss Christenson, Gus Kenworthy and Nick Goepper: Ski Slopestyle
He wasn’t the favorite to win amongst the talented trio of American freestyle skiers, but in the end Joss Christenson took gold in ski slopestyle’s Olympic debut. It was a tight race that saw the U.S. teammates dominate the course with precision and style. Gus Kenworthy took the silver medal and Nick Goepper brought home the bronze.
When Goepper talked to Beliefnet just prior to the Olympics, he shared his desire to make an impact on the international community in more ways than one.
“(The Olympics) gives you a cool opportunity to express, not only your personal style, but also your faith and what you believe in and your values,” Goepper said.
For more about Goepper, check out his interview with Inspiring Athletes.
Andrew Weibrecht, Bode Miller and Ted Ligety: Downhill Super G and Giant Slalom
It’s been a tough 12 months for U.S. alpine skier Bode Miller. And when the 36-year old became the oldest to medal in his sport, the emotions were hard to contain. Miller’s brother died in April of 2013 and the iconic athlete has dealt with personal issues (a custody battle for his infant son) and a challenging knee injury that nearly kept him from making the Olympic team.
Adding to Miller’s bronze medal performance in the Downhill Super G event was a surprising silver medal run for Andrew Weibrecht who overcame multiple injuries over the past four years to earn a spot on the podium.
In other alpine news, American Ted Ligety won gold in a dominant giant slalom performance.
Steven Holcomb: Bobsleigh
When a rare eye condition threatened to take Steven Holcomb’s sight, a deep depression led to a suicide attempt via pain pills and Jack Daniels. Miraculously, he woke up the next morning and had a revelation about his future.
“I realized that God had a bigger purpose for me," he told People Magazine. “It wasn't my time. I had more to do in this world.”
After a revolutionary treatment saved his eyes, Holcomb became one of the greatest bobsledders in the world. He won gold in the four-man race at the 2010 Games in Vancouver and then made history in Sochi with a bronze medal in that event along with a bronze medal in the two-man event breaking a 62-year drought for Team USA.
Elana Meyers and Lauryn Williams: Bobsleigh
2010 bronze medalist Elana Meyers came into Sochi with teammate Lauryn Williams as the favorite two-woman favorite, but a poor final run ultimately resulted in the silver. For Williams, it was a historic performance as she became the first American woman and fifth athlete overall to win a medal in both the Summer and Winter Games. Americans Jamie Greubal and Aja Evans won the bronze.
Even though she fell short of gold, Meyers was able to keep things in perspective.
“I’m a representative of something that’s greater than myself,” Meyers told Beliefnet. “I’m not just representing myself or my country, I’m representing Christ and what He’s done through me.”
For more about Elana Meyers and Lauryn Williams, check out their interviews with Inspiring Athletes.
Meryl Davis and Charlie White: Ice Dancing
Meryl Davis and Charlie White have been on the ice together since they were kids. So it seemed fitting that that skating duo put on a dominant performance in Sochi. In fact, Davis and White set an Olympic short-program record en route to America’s first ever ice dancing gold medal.
There was much conjecture about Davis and White’s relationship off the ice, but it turns out that they are nothing more than close friends. In fact, White is in a relationship with former ice dancer and 2006 silver medalist Tanith Belbin. Raised in a Christian home, White has managed to keep a healthy perspective on he and Davis’ international success.
“We’ve been on this journey, side by side, for 17 years,” White told NBC. “We’re just so grateful and thankful for what we have.”
David Wise: Ski Halfpipe
In the debut of yet another winter action sport, David Wise overcame poor weather conditions to take gold in the ski halfpipe event. Wise was the favorite going into Sochi but it was Wise’s life away from the snow that made his story even more intriguing. The 24-year old husband and father is actively involved in youth ministry at his local church as well as Fellowship of Christian Athletes.
Wise stood out amongst a group of athletes that aren’t usually known for embracing a life of faith.
“I can look back on my path and realize that God had a pretty significant part in taking care of me,” Wise told the Christian Post. “It takes the pressure off and I can enjoy it.”
Noelle Pikus-Pace and Katie Uhlaender: Skeleton
After the 2010 Winter Games, Noelle Pikus-Pace retired from skeleton. But after suffering a miscarriage two years later, her husband encouraged her to get back into the sport. The mother of two young children, Pikus-Pace made good on her comeback and brought home the silver medal.
Fellow American Katie Uhlaender barely missed out on a bronze medal but earned her best finish (fourth) in three Olympics. She was inspired by the memory of her deceased father Ted Uhlaender, a former Major League Baseball player.
“Quitting is never an option, so why would I quit on God?” she told Beliefnet. “He guides me and gives me the strength to keep going.”
For more about Katie Uhlaender, check out her interview with Inspiring Athletes.
Mikaela Shiffrin: Slalom
Mikaela Shiffrin made her alpine skiing debut just three years ago, but in Sochi, the 18-year old looked like an old-school veteran. After her two runs down the hill, she became the youngest female athlete to win the event at the Olympics and the first American to win in 42 years.
It almost didn’t happen. On the second run, Shiffrin nearly lost control but somehow found a way to maintain composure and win by 0.53 over her childhood idol Marlies Schild of Austria.
“You can create your own miracle,” Shiffrin told reporters after the medal ceremony. “But you do it by never looking past all the little steps along the way.”
For more from Chad Bonham, visit his column Inspiring Athletes.