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Cheers and Tears: Olympic Winter Games Week II

by
author image Craig Berman
Craig Berman has been on the reality TV beat since Carrie Underwood was an unknown country singer from Oklahoma, and writing about sports and business for even longer. He writes about "American Idol" for Today.com, and his work has appeared in outlets from USATODAY.com to McSweeney's to NBCnews.com.

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Cheers and Tears: Olympic Winter Games Week II
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The first full week of the Olympic Winter Games brought participants the usual thrills of victory, agonies of defeat and joys of merely getting the chance to compete on their sport's biggest stage. Sochi has been full of triumph and tragedy, with unexpected winners and disappointing finishes, as well as reminders that sport is about coming together as well as competing against each other. Here's a look at some of the most compelling images from the 2014 Olympiad.

Bronze Medal Dance
FABRICE COFFRINI/AFP/Getty Images

BRONZE MEDAL DANCE

Julia Mancuso may not have won gold in the super combined, but the American still had reason to kick up her heels. Taking bronze in the event earned her a fourth career medal in alpine skiing, making her the most decorated Olympian in U.S. skiing history. Nobody else has won more than two.

Dreams Fall Short
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DREAMS FALL SHORT

Japan's Sho Endo hoped to scooch onto the medal podium in his second Olympic Games but couldn't adjust to the weather and the course conditions in Sochi. After finishing seventh in the men's moguls in 2010, he fell to 15th place. Canada's Alex Bilodeau came away with the gold, while American Patrick Deneen finished sixth.

Norway's Time to Shine
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NORWAY'S TIME TO SHINE

The Winter Olympics give Norway's athletes a chance to take center stage every four years, and Norwegians Maiken Caspersen Falla and Ingvild Flugstad Oestberg made the most of the opportunity, finishing first and second in the women's cross-country freestyle sprint. That put their country among the medal leaders as the Games reached the halfway point.

Glad That's Over!
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GLAD THAT'S OVER!

Few events are more grueling than the biathlon, which requires both skiing stamina and steady hands. But combining the two was no problem for Darya Domracheva of Belarus, who won gold in the 10K pursuit and followed it up with another gold in the 15K. Though Slovenian Teja Gregorin looks crestfallen, she had every reason to jump for joy: Her bronze-medal performance marked the first biathlon medal ever for her country.

Sliding Into History
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SLIDING INTO HISTORY

Erin Hamlin was undaunted as she hurtled down a slick track at more than 80 miles per hour, just a few inches separating her from the ice. The New Yorker became the first American, male or female, to win a medal in luge when she took bronze in Sochi.

Dream Denied
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DREAM DENIED

Shaun White helped put snowboarding on the map, and he began the Sochi Olympics dreaming of an unprecedented three-peat in the men's halfpipe. He would have been the first American in any sport to win three consecutive golds in the same event. But this time around the Olympics were nothing but disappointing for the legendary White. After withdrawing from the slopestyle to focus on his quest for a third halfpipe gold, he struggled in both runs and came in fourth.

Jumping Into History
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JUMPING INTO HISTORY

Women got their chance to fly in the Sochi Olympics, 90 years after men inaugurated ski jumping at the first Winter Olympics. Germany's Carina Vogt took advantage of the equal billing to earn the women's event's first gold medal. Vogt had never won a World Cup event before the start of these Olympics.

Olympic Spirit
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OLYMPIC SPIRIT

The Olympics aren't just about winning gold -- they are about the community of sport. A dramatic illustration came in the men's cross-country individual sprint free semifinals when Russia's Anton Gafarov broke a ski early in the race. Gafarov was prepared to walk across the finish line so that he could complete the race in his home country, but Canadian coach Justin Wadsworth ran out with a ski and helped Gafarov strap it on so the Russian could finish the race in more appropriate fashion.

Tie at the Top
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TIE AT THE TOP

There had never been a tie for an alpine skiing gold medal in the history of the Winter Olympics. That's not surprising, given that the event is timed to the hundredth of a second. But Switzerland's Dominique Gisin and Slovenia's Tina Maze both finished the women's downhill in 1:41.57 to tie for the gold.

Tripped Up
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TRIPPED UP

USA vs. Canada is the premier rivalry in women's hockey, and round one in Sochi went to the Canadians. Three third-period goals proved the difference in the 3-2 victory for Canada, but the Americans rebounded to reach the gold-medal game and earn a rematch -- with a whole lot more on the line. Though the Americans won the first women's ice hockey gold in 1998, the Canadians entered these games as the three-time defending Olympic champions.

Hero of the Halfpipe
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HERO OF THE HALFPIPE

Kaitlyn Farrington had to fight just to make the finals of the women's halfpipe and faced the last three Olympic gold medalists once she got there. But Farrington wasn't intimidated by her competitors' hardware -- she had saved the best run of her life for the sport's biggest stage and came away with a gold of her own.

Welcome to the Club
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WELCOME TO THE CLUB

The medal ceremony doubled as an initiation for Kaitlyn Farrington into an exclusive club of gold medal winners. She was joined by Australia's Torah Bright, who won silver in Sochi and gold in the 2010 Olympics in Vancouver, and teammate Kelly Clark, the bronze winner who won the event in 2002 in Salt Lake City. Another former champion, 2006 gold medalist Hannah Teter, failed to medal.

So That's What It Feels Like!
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SO THAT'S WHAT IT FEELS LIKE!

The Japanese women's ice hockey team hadn't scored a goal in Olympic competition since 1998, the last time the team qualified for the event. Though the squad didn't medal in Sochi, it did manage to score, as Ayaka Toko put the puck into the net to tie the game at 1-1 against Russia. Japan went on to lose, 2-1, but the team did better at scoring in a rematch, falling, 6-3, to the host nation in the consolation round.

Upside-down Over the Mountain
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UPSIDE-DOWN OVER THE MOUNTAIN

Luca Schuler got some big air as he sought to pull off an upset in the men's freestyle skiing slopestyle event. Schuler got a bird's-eye view of his surroundings, but the Swiss skier was unable to crack the podium as the Americans went 1-2-3 in the inaugural event.

Stars and Stripes Sweep
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STARS AND STRIPES SWEEP

Team USA dominated the first-ever men's slopestyle skiing at the Olympics, taking all three spots on the podium. It marked just the third time that the United States had swept a men's Olympic event. Joss Christensen, Gus Kenworthy and Nick Goepper prevailed in such warm weather that teammate Bobby Brown wore a T-shirt for his run in the finals.

A Somber Finish
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A SOMBER FINISH

Evgeni Plushenko was hoping to cap off his storied Olympic career with another victory in men's figure skating on his home ice, but it was not to be. After leading Russia to victory in the team figure skating event, the 2006 gold medalist aggravated a back injury during warmups and withdrew from competition. Japan's Yuzuru Hanyu won the gold medal, Canada's Patrick Chan took silver and Kazakhstan's Denis Ten got the bronze.

Volunteer Work
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VOLUNTEER WORK

Olympic volunteers are helping fans find their way around Sochi or driving athletes to their training sessions. Others made sure the venues were ready for the athletes. Here, a host of volunteers flatten the snow so it's ready for the men's super combined skiing event, won by Switzerland's Sandro Viletta.

Is It Really Winter?
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IS IT REALLY WINTER?

Sochi has been a rare Winter Olympics site, with temperatures warmer than most Americans have been waking up to every day. As many East Coast residents were shoveling snow off their sidewalks, athletes such as Norwegian cross-country skier Chris Andre Jespersen were wearing what looked like summer outfits to avoid overheating during their events. The shorts and T-shirt didn't help Jespersen reach the podium, however -- he finished 13th.

Crash and Burn
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CRASH AND BURN

Short-track speedskating sometimes looks like the NASCAR of the Olympics, with bumps and crashes deciding who wins and who fails to advance. American Eduardo Alvarez saw his hopes vanish when he was taken out after Canada's Charles Hamelin lost the edge on a turn and spiraled into the wall. Russia's Victor An kept his balance and skated away with the gold.

Shades of 1980
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SHADES OF 1980

The stakes weren't as high this time: Since the game occurred in group play, both teams knew they were moving to the next round. Still, something harks back to the Miracle on Ice team every time American and Russian hockey teams play, and the intensity in this Sochi matchup had a medal-round feel to it. Cam Fowler's goal gave Phil Kessel reason to celebrate. It tied the game, 1-1, and the Americans eventually won, 3-2, in a shootout.

What Pressure?
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WHAT PRESSURE?

Unlike the National Hockey League, Olympic hockey shootouts allow the same player to shoot multiple times once the game reaches sudden death. That gave T.J. Oshie the chance to be the hero for the United States. Oshie took six of the eight shots for the Americans in the shootout and converted four, including the game-winner, as his team knocked off Russia, 3-2.

Miller's Time
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MILLER'S TIME

Bode Miller became the oldest medalist in alpine skiing history -- barely. Skiing in his fifth Olympic Games, Miller finished his super-G with a time of 1:18.67, tying Canada's Jan Hudec for the bronze. He nearly came away with a silver but was passed by teammate Andrew Weibrecht, who earned a surprising silver medal. The duo ended a week-long drought for the American men in skiing events.

Through the Fog of Competition
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THROUGH THE FOG OF COMPETITION

Warm weather has affected several events in Sochi, but fog did the most damage in the men's 15K biathlon. The event was delayed because of poor visibility on the course. In the biathlon, which combines skiing with shooting, being able to see the target is critical.

Cool Runnings Returns
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COOL RUNNINGS RETURNS

The Jamaican team finally got to test its mettle on the bobsled track after the drama of paying for its Olympic trip with crowdfunding and having to wait for delayed equipment. There was no Hollywood ending (remember the 90s movie "Cool Runnings'?) for the squad in Sochi, however -- the team was in last place among the 30 sleds after its first two heats.

Ice Dance Fever
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ICE DANCE FEVER

U.S. ice dancers Meryl Davis and Charlie White have been skating together for 17 years, and that experience showed as they took a giant step toward their gold medal goal by winning the short program. Their main competition was defending gold medalists Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir of Canada. Nothing the rivals could do was likely to surprise the other, however -- the two teams train together. Davis and White eventually captured the gold.

What Have Been Your Favorite Moments?
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WHAT HAVE BEEN YOUR FAVORITE MOMENTS?

The Olympics tend to draw out the passions of even the occasional sports fan with their appeal to national pride and the extent to which they challenge athletes of seemingly limitless potential. What has inspired you during these games? Let us know in the comments below.

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