Peaceful Winter Olympics come to a close

The Winter Olympics wrapped up over the weekend with a flourish of closing ceremony pageantry, sending athletes home to their respective countries.

Some will be hailed heroes, some will be haunted by what might have been; others will set their sights on 2018.

Memorable American medal moments abound: ice dancing gold, Ted Ligety’s giant slalom triumph, and the U.S. slope style skiing medal sweep, just to name a few.

There were the record-setting stars, Lolo Jones and Lauryn Williams, who went from the summer track to the winter bobsled, two of only 10 Americans to compete in both summer and winter Games.

Other US athletes made us cheer for them in defeat, like skier Bode Miller fighting back tears thinking about the death of his brother, or figure skater Jeremy Abbott’s refusal to quit after a hard fall ended his medal hopes; athletes who reminded us of the courage it takes to overcome the obstacles of life.

And perhaps surprisingly, we sometimes found ourselves cheering for competitors wearing another country’s colors. It was easy, for example, to root for Pittsburgh Penguin captain Sidney Crosby as he battled for Canadian hockey gold.

The touching tribute to Canadian super pipe star Sarah Burke transcended nationality; her daring spirit was remembered as the sport she campaigned to bring to the Olympics made its debut, even without their greatest champion, who died in a ski accident in 2012. An American won gold at the event, but the brightest star was the departed Burke who had inspired all of the competitors.

There was the exciting French sweep in the men’s ski cross, and the three Canadian sisters competing in the moguls among many inspiring international storylines.

But it was also touching and exciting to see Russian ice skaters take the team title in front of their home crowd, led by a four-time Olympic legend in men’s skating and a tiny teenager on the women’s side. It was hard not to cheer for the powerful pair who returned Russia to the top of the podium while under so much pressure to perform.

As the host country rose to the top of the medal count, in spite of the well-documented logistical issues surrounding the games, the pride of the Russian people was on full display. Perhaps it was most evident in the teary eyes of their gold medalists as they presented the flag and sang their national anthem during the closing ceremonies.

It would have been a similar scene in any host country. It was a far cry from the boycotted Olympics during the cold war.

As a new week begins, world politics continue, with the many strains between countries around the globe. But for these last two weeks, we were reminded of more similarities than differences in athletes and in people under the flags of all nations, as the world united in sport, allowing us to cheer for many home teams.

Kellie Goodman Shaffer can be reached at