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The national governing body for short- and long-track had fallen into turmoil after 2010. There were questions about skaters training at altitude for a sea-level competition and concerns that their new, sleek racing suits actually slowed them down.

"I'm not in shock," Davis said after failing to defend his title in the 1,000 meters. "I am very in tune with reality."

The reality is that U.S. officials will now take a long, hard look at the sport.

"I'm not sitting here today thinking that it's going to be a simple solution," said Alan Ashley, the USOC's chief of sport performance. "I'm not thinking it's one thing."

Other shortcomings were probably one-offs, the kind of missteps that can occur at the world's most pressure-packed athletic competition.

Skier Kikkan Randall, favored to become the first American woman to medal in cross-country, inexplicably ran out of gas in the sprint quarterfinals. White, looking for his third consecutive halfpipe gold, ended up fourth.

"It wasn't my night, which is really tough to say because it's a big night," he said.

U.S. officials took the gaffes in stride.

"There [are] always, at the Olympics, times when you're going, 'Oh my gosh, I wish so-and-so had done better,'" Ashley said. "Just as many times, there is a whole new generation of athletes who surprise you."

The Americans certainly have a head start in many of the new events — North American ski resorts added terrain parks with halfpipes, jumps and rails years ago. That advantage should persist while the rest of the world scrambles to catch up.

And the youth movement at the Sochi Games gives the USOC another edge.

With so many fresh faces — and 18-year-old rising star Mikaela Shiffrin winning the slalom — the organization has some new blood for its constant marketing push.

"We don't get any government support," Blackmun said. "So the more that we can connect with Americans, the more effective we can be with our sponsorship and fundraising programs."

If nothing else, the past two weeks in Sochi showed that youth has its advantages.

david.wharton@latimes.com

Twitter: @latimeswharton