As April is basically here and most signs of winter is gone, the Summer Olympics in Tokyo from July 24 to August 9, 2020 will be here before you know it. Until that time arrives, here is my long awaited great moments, surprising moments, first time moments, and events to go down in Olympic history from the Winter Olympics in PyeongChang relating to the athletes and competition.
Because I was raised in Minnesota, I naturally have an affinity for most everything Minnesota. This Midwest state sent 20 Olympians and 2 alternates. The most notable are Lindsay Vonn and Jessie Diggins. While Lindsay Vonn didn’t medal in the Super-G, she did clinch the bronze in downhill skiing. She is the oldest women to win a medal in alpine skiing. On the other hand, Jessie Diggins competed in six events and was able to dig deep into her leg muscles to win the gold in the team sprint freestyle. She was the flag bearer at the closing ceremonies.
Hannah and Marissa Brandt have many similarities, but recognizable differences. Hannah was born in Minnesota. Marissa was born in South Korea. Hannah represented the United States in women’s hockey. Marissa represented the Unified Korea in women’s hockey. United States won gold against Canada, which was fun to watch after the fact since I was working. Unified Korea didn’t do so well, but they did score a goal by Marissa Brandt or her Korean name of Park, Yoon Jung. The Unified Korean team played two games.
So you’d think that cross country skiing isn’t that exciting. In most regards, it really isn’t compared to the other flashier Olympic winter sport competitions. This type of physical exercise is not for the faint of heart. It really gets you in shape and a person who trains long hours has incredible leg and stomach muscles. Simen (yes, that is how you spell his name) Hegstad Kruger is proof. He crashed right out the gate in the 30km skiathon. He slowly made his way back into the pack, and was in first with 5km left. This was his first gold medal in his first Winter Olympics. Norway represented on the podium in this men’s event with fellow countrymen, Martin Johnsrud Sundby (silver) and Hans Christer Holund (bronze).
There were some firsts when it came to cross country skiing. Mexico’s German Madrazo, Tonga’s Pita Taufatofua, and Colombia’s Sebastian Uprimny all competed in the men’s 15km. While they were very far from the podium, they secured a spot in Olympic history.
Shaun White was at the top of the podium at Turin/Torini in 2006, Vancouver in 2010, and now PyeongChang in 2018. He was fourth at Sochi in 2014. The men’s half pipe competition was fierce in the qualifying round with Scotty James and Ayumi Hirano on his tail. His final score of 97.75 secured him the gold medal. Hirano won silver and James won bronze.
Still a high school student, Chloe Kim is athletically gifted, and proven she is extremely smart with her recent acceptance into Princeton. She’s the energetic snowboarder with a sense of humor from California who won gold in the women’s half pipe. Jiayu Liu won silver and Arielle Gold won bronze. Given her young age, I’d bet she will be at the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics, or least, I hope.
The first winter gold medalist to be born in the 2000s, Red Gerard, is more than likely going to be at the next Winter Olympics as well. He was the first American gold medalist at PyeongChang in slopestyle, edging out the Canadians with Max Parrot winning silver and Mark McMorris winning bronze.
This was the first Olympics I actually paid attention to curling. I learned more about the sport and how it takes skill, but I’d say more mental than physical, unless you’re the one sweeping. I watched the mixed doubles, men’s and women’s competitions. The United States men team won gold, followed by Sweden with silver, and Switzerland with bronze. The Sweden women’s team won gold, followed by South Korea with silver, and the first ever win in this sport for Japan with bronze. The newly mixed doubles had Canada winning gold, Switzerland silver, and OAR bronze.
I had great hopes for the U.S. women skaters to make it on the podium, but it wasn’t their night in any sense of the word. They stumbled, fell, and had much of the energy sapped out of them, but not for Kaetlyn Osmond from Canada. She rightfully won Canada’s first ladies’ medal since 2010 for good reason. Her skating performances were solid and beautiful to watch.
As the news coverage started, I was ready for the showdown to begin, and begin it did. The projected winner, Medvedeva, had stiff competition with Zagitova who came out of nowhere right before the Olympics. Their performances were AMAZING. Their physical capabilities seemed superhuman to me. Despite the whole doping scandal, I’m wholeheartedly convinced these two women were able to accomplish this because of their athletic gifts and absolute dedication to training. If you didn’t watch them, go back and see it. You won’t be disappointed.
I also had great hopes for Nathan Chen to make it on the podium. I really wanted it to be a showdown between him and Yuzuru Hanyu. While Chen did redeem himself in the long program, his mistakes were too costly. Let’s get back to Hanyu who always appeared to be floating on the ice throughout his performances. He deservedly won gold and even tried his hand at speed skating, which needs some work.
Gold: Chloe Kim (women’s snowboard halfpipe), Mikaela Shiffrin (women’s giant slalom), David Wise (men’s halfpipe), Shaun White (men’s snowboard halfpipe), Red Gerard (men’s snowboard slopestyle), Jamie Anderson (women’s snowboard slopestyle), Jessie Diggins and Kikkan Randall (women’s cross-country skiing), women’s hockey team, and men’s curling.
Silver: Jamie Anderson (women’s snowboarding big air), Alex Ferreira (men’s halfpipe), Lauren Gibbs and Elana Meyers Taylor (women’s bobsled), Nick Goepper (men’s freestyle skiing slopestyle), John-Henry Krueger (men’s 1,000 meter short-track speedskating), Kyle Mack (big air snowboarding), Chris Mazdzer (men’s luge), Mikaela Shiffrin (women’s alpine combined).
Bronze: Arielle Gold (women’s snowboard halfpipe), Maia and Alex Shibutani (ice dancing figure skating), Brita Sigourney (women’s freestyle skiing halfpipe), Lindsey Vonn (women’s downhill skiing), team figure skating, team women’s speedskating.
Yun Sung-Bin wasn’t always basking in the gold glory. With a 16th placing in Sochi, he sought help from Richard Bromley who helped him cultivate his natural athletic talent. He was easy to spot with his Iron Man helmet zooming down the skeleton course in PyeongChang. His gold medal win made him the first athlete from South Korea to win a non-ice skating Olympic event.
Lizzy Yarnold from Great Britain was the first athlete to win back to back medals in skeleton, first athlete to win back to back gold medals, and first Great Britain athlete to win back to back gold in any Olympic winter event.
Chris Mazdzer came back with a vengeance in luge. This was his third Olympics where he finished 13th at Vancouver and Sochi. He was able to win silver, making this a historic win. It made him the first American to ever stand on the podium in this event.
Sometime there seems to be no explanation for how things happen. I would fit Lindsey Jacobellis into this category. The silver medalist in 2006 for snowboard cross was never able to stand on the podium again. She fell in 2010 and 2014. While she did not fall in 2018, she placed fourth place, and only .003 seconds behind the bronze finisher of Eva Samková from Czech Republic.
On a channel that primarily covered the history of various Olympic Games, one story was about Samuel Lee. He grew up in California during a time of great racial inequality. He was only allowed to swim in the pool on Wednesdays in Pasadena. Therefore, he had to get creative and practiced by jumping into a sand pit. So with much less to work with compared to other divers, Lee was able to not only become a doctor, but was a three time Olympic medalist. He was the first Asian American, of Korean descent, to win Olympic gold in 1948. He was the first man to win back to back gold medals in platform diving in 1948 London and 1952 Helsinki. He also won bronze in 3 meter springboard in 1948. He went on to be a supporter of Greg Louganis who won four gold medals and one silver in the 1976, 1984, and 1988 games. Lee’s legacy continues and as I look forward to the Tokyo Games, it’s also those athletes who arrive against all the hardened odds that I want to know as well.
The 2020 games start on July 24th and end August 9th with the motto of Discover Tomorrow. There will be 33 different summer sports and 324 events. There will be 206 nations and 11,091 athletes expected to participate.