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2018 Winter Olympic Highlights

Lindy Tweten, Staff Writer

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The 2018 PyeongChang Winter Olympics are officially over. That’s right, the days of living vicariously through ridiculously athletic people are done. But what a crazy two weeks those were! Here, in no particular order, are some of the highlights from the Games:

 

 

  • Red Gerard’s Win

 

The very first U.S. medal of  the 2018 PyeongChang Olympics was a gold, won by 17-year-old freestyle snowboarder Red Gerard. That, in and of itself, is impressive. The best part of this story, though? Gerard almost missed his event due to oversleeping after binge-watching Brooklyn Nine-Nine the night before. Oh, and then he lost his jacket and cursed on national TV when expressing his enthusiasm over his win… What an icon.

 

 

  • Chloe Kim Live-Tweeting

 

Between qualifying runs in the women’s snowboarding halfpipe, 17-year-old Chloe Kim tweeted “Could be down for some ice cream rn,” to which someone replied “Aren’t you competing right now?” After a hesitant response of “yes…” the American went on to become the youngest woman to ever win a gold medal in snowboarding at the Olympics. Someone better get her that ice cream.

 

 

  • Shaun White’s Gold

 

Shaun White captured America’s heart (because, obviously, we all have one collective heart) over 12 years ago at the 2006 Winter Games in Torino. He mined snowboarding gold there at the age of 19, and again in Vancouver in 2010. After a disappointing score at Sochi in 2014, and despite a recent injury that resulted in over 60 stitches, White arrived in PyeongChang (for what was likely his last Games) ready to redeem himself. And he didn’t disappoint (although he has in other aspects of his life, such as the accusations of sexual harassment against him). White’s gold medal in the men’s halfpipe was doubly notable: it was his third, and the 100th gold medal for Team USA in the history of the Winter Olympics.

 

 

  • A “Unified Korea”

 

It’s no secret that things are tense between North and South Korea – their embittered struggle ended in an armistice in 1953, and for 65 years it has been about as secure as a pinky truce. So, the world was set by storm when it was announced that, for the first time ever, North and South Korea would be marching under one flag at the opening ceremonies (although members from both countries only competed together in one event: women’s ice hockey). Interest in the alliance was further piqued when North Korea sent 229 female cheerleaders to the Games in an effort to promote multi-national unity. These women were adored by the media, what with their matching outfits and catchy chants (however, since the Games, disturbing information has come out about the cheerleaders, indicating that they were victims of sex trafficking). At the closing ceremonies though, North and South Korea each marched under their separate flag – a clear signal that the brief time of peace was at an end.

 

 

  • Mirai Nagasu’s Triple Axel

 

During the figure skating team event, Mirai Nagasu became the first American woman to ever land a triple axel at the Olympics. It’s such a difficult jump that only two other skaters have ever managed it at the Games (Mao Asada and Midori Ito, both of Japan). When asked about her success, Nagasu responded, “This is definitely history, or herstory, whatever way you want to put it.” And, with her resulting score of 137.53 points, she helped ensure the U.S.’s bronze medal in the team event.

 

 

  • Nathan Chen’s Comeback

 

Nathan Chen’s Olympic debut was, to put it politely, inconsistent. The figure skater was incredibly hyped-up by American media, and deservedly so, as he had been undefeated throughout the 2017-2018 season. But, it’s important to remember that the kid is only 18, and the huge amount of pressure on him caused him to initially do very poorly. After a disastrous short program in the men’s individual skate, he was in 17th place. And here comes the “Cinderella” moment. In his free program the next day, Chen became the first man to ever land six quad jumps (the most difficult type of jump with four rotations) at the Olympics. The resulting record-breaking technical score vaulted him to 5th place overall. And, he got a bronze medal in the team event. His Olympic performance (and his perfect SAT math score) should make getting into college a snap. His application will probably read something like: After I made history at my first Olympic Games…

 

 

  • Yuzuru Hanyu Defending His Title

 

Japan’s Yuzuru Hanyu followed up his 2014 Sochi gold in men’s individual figure skating with another gilded circle in PyeongChang. Big deal, you say. In fact, yes. There was much speculation over whether or not Hanyu would even be able to compete in these Olympics, as he suffered a major injury in November. However, just weeks after returning to the ice, Hanyu proved everyone who had doubted him wrong by delivering two mesmerizingly beautiful programs and becoming the first man to win back-to-back Olympic gold in figure skating in over 50 years.

 

 

  • Ester Ledecka Winning Gold… in Two Different Sports

 

22-year-old Ester Ledecka from the Czech Republic won gold in the women’s skiing Super G during the first few days of the Olympics. Her victory was surprising, especially since she was skiing on borrowed skis! When she won gold again a few days later, it was in the women’s snowboarding parallel giant slalom. As a result, she became the first athlete to ever win gold in two unrelated events at an Olympic Games. That’s right, she won gold medals in both skiing AND snowboarding events – two sports that require vastly different skills. Not too shabby.

 

  • Russians Doping… in Curling

 

After being banned from officially competing in these Olympic Games and having to march under a neutral banner due to doping problems in the past, it seemed as though the Olympic Athletes from Russia had been humiliated into learning their lesson. That is, until it was discovered that the Russian curler Alexander Krushelnitckii (yes, this happened in curling – arguably the most boring sport) had been taking performance-enhancing drugs. Consequently, he was stripped of his silver medal. For curling. Really. But, the question remains: why? What could he possibly have needed drugs for? To stay awake during the game?

 

 

  • U.S. Women Beating Canada in Hockey

 

The Canadians are famous for being good at ice hockey (maybe it has something to do with the fact that almost half of their country is covered in permafrost). In fact, they’re so good at this particular sport that their women’s team has won gold at every Olympics since 2002 – an impressive feat. But, not so fast, Canada, because the U.S. has a pretty good women’s team as well (we won silver in both 2010 and 2014)! In an epic final match between the two countries, Team USA scored a narrow victory of 3-2. It’s the first gold in women’s ice hockey for the U.S. in 20 years, and the players couldn’t be happier. They even named their winning shot (one that has been effective in many games in the past) after a Britney Spears song: “Oops!… I Did It Again.”

 

 

  • Russian Women’s Figure Skating Showdown

 

It’s no secret that the Russians take figure skating very seriously. What with their intense (highly-criticized) practice schedules and their habit of tailoring programs to ensure maximum technical scores, Russians excel in the sport. And, it was a Russian’s name on everyone’s lips for a likely gold-medalist in the women’s individual event: 18-year-old Evgenia Medvedeva – undefeated in competition for the last two years. Unfortunately for her though, her rinkmate, 15-year-old Alina Zagitova, tagged along for the Games. Off the ice, the two girls are the best of friends. On the ice, they are the fiercest of competitors. Watching their rivalry play out had all the drama of a Russian novel. Medvedeva set a world record with her short program score, only to have Zagitova break it minutes later. They followed that up by a tied score of 156.65 in the free skate, leaving Zagitova with gold and Medvedeva with the consolation prize of silver. Zagitova has been criticized by people who say that she only won because of the higher technical component score of her programs while Medvedeva’s routines had more artistry. Whatever the case, the fact remains that Alina Zagitova is still the second-youngest woman to ever win Olympic gold in individual figure skating (the youngest was Tara Lipinski in 1998).

 

 

  • U.S. Men’s Curling Win

 

Oh, would you look at that, we’re back to curling! But, this time, it is our Patriotic Duty™ as Americans to care. That’s because the U.S. men’s curling team made history in PyeongChang by winning gold in curling. To be more specific, this is the first time that a U.S. curling team has ever played in a gold medal-winning match. And we won. Please, try and contain your excitement.

 

 

  • Return of the Tongan Athlete from Rio

 

Remember that Tongan flag-bearer from the 2016 Rio Summer Olympics? The bare-chested guy who was blatantly objectified by every media source in the world? Well, he’s back. After the Summer Games, Pita Taufatofua, a martial artist, decided he wanted to compete in the Winter Games as well. In cross-country skiing. Without skis (or snow) on which to practice, and with no previous cross-country skiing experience. As a result, he spent hours on the beach, learning the sport while on roller-skis. He never skied on actual snow until last November. But, you ask, did he win his event at the Games? Is this some sort of underdog story? Well, no. He placed 114th in his 15k race. But, his response was pretty inspiring: “I don’t fear failure. I fear not trying.”

 

 

  • Adam Rippon In General

 

Figure skater Adam Rippon quickly became America’s Sweetheart™. The first openly-gay American athlete to ever compete in the Winter Olympics, Rippon entered the Games with little hope of making the podium. After all, he was making his Olympic debut at age 28 in a sport where the average age is 22. However, he didn’t give up on his long-standing Olympic dream and executed three breathtaking and flawless routines. For his efforts, he was rewarded with a bronze medal in the figure skating team event. And, of course, he endeared himself to the American public through his inspirational story, outspoken personality, and fabulous interviews (a personal favorite: “On the spectrum, from Reese Witherspoon to Elmo, I’m, like, excited at, like, a Meryl Streep”). Seriously. Check out his Twitter account. It’s a gold mine of quality material.

 

So, yes, our days of pretending that we’re actually more athletic than we are just by watching super-athletic people are over. Guess we’ll have to wait two more years until Tokyo 2020! Until then, it’s back to just straight-up refusing to exercise. Cheers!

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