SOCHI, Russia -- The American team did not find a silver lining playbook Friday on the final day of speedskating competition at the 2014 Winter Olympics.
They got a silver medal in the men's 5,000-meter relay in short track racing at the Iceberg Skating Palace.
Three cheers for that.
But it took the final event and two of the five teams going down almost immediately to help the United States finish second to Russia and superstar import Victor An.
An won two gold medals Friday night and ended the games with three victories and a bronze medal -- the same as he did in Turin, Italy, eight years ago while representing South Korea.
While An has turned Russia into a short track power, the U.S. seems incapable of filling the vacuum left by Apolo Ohno.
"It's a great way to end the games," U.S. short track coach Stephen Gough said. "But we had a bigger vision."
Jessica Scott of Melvindale, Mich., finished fourth in the women's 1,000 on Friday, the closest the team got to a medal in an individual race.
Otherwise, the Sochi Games will be remembered for crashes, disqualifications and lots of turmoil. Four years after rising star J.R. Celski won three medals in Vancouver, he got shut out until the final race, anchoring the Americans to second place.
"It feels good to leave with a medal," said Celski, who failed to advance to the final of the 500 meters Friday. "It's tough. We had an opportunity for a gold, but it just wasn't there today."
It ended even worse at the long track arena where the Americans were soundly defeated Friday to experience their first medal shutout since 1984.
While the short track team came to Russia with many questions, the long track team arrived full of bravado. The best the skaters could do was a seventh place.
Shani Davis, two-time defending champion in the men's 1,000 meters, finished eighth. Davis also finished 11th in the 1,500, a race in which he owns two silver medals.
Heather Richardson and Brittany Bowe, ranked No. 1 and No. 2 in the world in the women's 1,000 and 3 and 4 in the 1,500, were not in the top six in either event.
"It's hard to shift momentum when you start off trying to keep the ground from falling out from under you," U.S. sprint coach Ryan Shimabukuro told the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel. "Once you feel like maybe it's gone, it's hard to change that."
The dismal performance has started finger pointing. Look no further than the new Mach 39 skin suit that was engineered by Lockheed Martin for Under Armour.
The U.S. team changed suits midway through the games when everything started going south. Why they were introduced remains a mystery. The team had won 28 medals -- 12 gold -- in the World Cup this season without them.
Maria Lamb, a three-time Olympian, didn't hold back after finishing last among 16 skaters this week in the women's 5,000 meters.
"This is my third games, and there is so much more nonsense in general going on," she told reporters. "You have to try and tune it out. Not having an organization support you as it should, it becomes a lot worse."
The short track team had a different experience, starting with overhauling the coaching system two years ago. The federation forced out coach Jae Su Chun and assistant Jun Hyung Yeo after an investigation found they failed to report that American Simon Cho had tampered with an opponent's skate at the 2011 World Team Championships.
The situation began with allegations of physical and emotional abuse by more than a dozen skaters.
While some worked with Chun privately, the men stayed with Gough when he took over the program.
The coach acknowledged the difficulty of building a unified team in time for the Winter Olympics.
"The situation wasn't ideal," he said.
Over the next four years, the federation needs to be "very calculating how we prepare the team," he added.
The medal-earning race was full of craziness, which makes short track racing so endearing.
A tie-up in the first turn all but knocked out the Netherlands. A Dutch skater took out a Chinese racer with him, though China rebounded to take the bronze medal.
Gough said the race should have been restarted.
"They weren't watching closely," he said of the race starters.
Somehow Chris Creveling of Pennsylvania avoided the crash.
"My eyes lit up, in the first corner," Creveling said. "That was our opportunity. We trained for four years, and I wanted to seize that as soon as it showed itself."
From that point it became a two-nation race with Russia holding the lead for almost the entire time. The Americans passed the host country with 11 laps to go, only to lose the lead quickly.
Considering An anchored the Russians, the Americans celebrated their silver medal heartily.
"To lose to a guy like An is as good a loss as you can have," said Jordan Malone, one of the four relay members.
Before the race, Malone told his teammates they would not let speedskating leave Sochi without a medal.
"We went into that race, and our coach told us he was just tired of seeing other countries celebrate out there, rather than us," he said.
The sense of relief was palpable among the jubilant Americans.
"I feel like I came out of a spa," Eddy Alvarez of Miami said.
But that's not the way the U.S. team is feeling as it departs Russia with a scant medal to show for its effort.
Contact Elliott Almond at 408-920-5865. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/elliottalmond.
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