Athletes faced with adversity in Sochi, come out strong

The 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics concluded, as Americans returned home with nine gold, seven silver and 12 bronze medals, placing fourth overall.

Praise for our athletes abounds, but of the complaints, we hear more about the conditions in Sochi rather than the competition itself.

Of course, the world is no stranger to complications at international events of this magnitude, but Sochi seemed to stick out.

Russia was already in a state of social unrest under Vladimir Putin’s regime, the most prominent issue being that of gay rights.

“Social rights that we might take for granted here are usually problematic in that part of the world,” said Jeremy Rinker, visiting assistant professor of peace and conflict studies.

Add some terror threats and less than optimal living quarters to the concoction, and out comes some very mixed reviews about the Winter Olympics.

“What poses the greatest threat, in my opinion, is the proximity and the location of where these games are being held,” said Chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee Mike McCaul, in an interview with Fox News Sunday before the Olympics. “I think there’s a high degree of probability that something will detonate, something will go off.”

There were no attacks during the Games, although two suicide bombers struck in December 2013 a few hundred miles outside of Sochi in Volgograd.

As such, spectators heard just as much talk of security and dangers to the athletes as they could of the medalists for each event.

Junior runner, Pasangi Perera said in an email interview that the terror attacks on Sochi might have frightened the athletes because their safety was affected.

“Poor experiences can negatively affect the mentality of an athlete,” said Perera. “Since mentality plays a huge role in athletics, their performance could potentially be weakened.”

Early College junior and roller hockey player Landon Fried added that the distractions posed a threat.

“It’d be really difficult to be an athlete in Sochi because you know that you’re basically walking around with a giant target on your back marking you as a foreigner,” said Fried.

As it turned out, the potential security risks kept them from touring the cities and spending time in the public eye.

Even the living conditions outside of the Games also could have played a role in performance and stress.

Costing around $50 billion, Sochi is the most expensive Games in history.

According to the Huffington Post, Johnny Quinn, a member of the U.S. bobsled team, had to break out of his bathroom door malfunctioned.

“Russia made clear that money was not an issue,” wrote Sam Frizell for Time Magazine. “(But) the quality of the work is patchy. The ski jump has been redone many times, and the cost has risen sevenfold.

“Newly laid sewage pipes have burst, so a nasty smell drifts over a kindergarten playground.”

Despite questionable conditions, the athletes’ health was not directly jeopardized, and Sochi remains prosperous for now.

The United States praised its athletes for doing their best in an unfamiliar territory. Now, they’ll have to wait eagerly for the next Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea.

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