Sochi games showing Olympic spirit

Roughly one-third of the way through events at the 2014 Winter Olympics, and the U.S. athletes in Sochi have earned nine medals – enough for a tie with the hosts for fourth place.

And that’s just fine.

Part of the charm of the Winter Games is the dominance of smaller nations in sports that are sometimes obscure even there. Teams from Scandinavian countries dominate cross-country skiing events. Athletes from the Netherlands excel at speed skating. Racers from Germany and Austria are the ones to beat in sliding sports.

Plus, despite these games beginning under the specter of terror attacks, events thus far have generated memorable moments:

Skiers from Switzerland and Slovenia raced nearly two miles down the icy face of a mountain … and finished in the same time, down to the hundredth of a second. They stepped atop the podium together to receive their gold medals.

Justine Dufour-Laponte won gold and her sister Chloe took silver in freestyle skiing, and held hands on the medal stand.

Ole Einar Bjoerndalen won the 10K biathlon sprint. It was his 12th medal overall – his seventh gold – tying a record. But at age 40, he did become the oldest Winter Olympian medalist.

Friday, a luger was traveling about 57 miles per hour when he fell off his sled – then managed to flip back aboard while sliding down the track. Amazing.

Hopefully, more magic moments are to come. But medals aren’t the only things that matter. So, sure, root for the good guys and gals. At the same time, realize they also come from other countries.