By CAROLINA SANCHEZ
On Feb. 9, 2018, the Winter Olympics had its opening ceremony: the games had begun. Before the opening ceremonies kicked off the games, North and South Korea came to an agreement: the North will send athletes, cheerleaders and Kim Jo Jong to the Olympics. To show the unity and peace talks between the two countries, both countries sent an athlete from the United Korea women’s hockey team to light the Olympic torch. With that as the background, the sports began.
Aside from the politics of the situation, the sports themselves were in the spotlight. The fan-favorite sport, curling, had its preliminary rounds on the first days of the games. It started with the new event: mixed doubles. This is where a team of one man and one woman from one country compete against another country’s team. The United State’s brother and sister team–Matt and Becca Hamilton–was knocked out of medal contention by Finland after starting the games with five losses to two wins. In the end, the mixed doubles team from Canada took the gold. In the Women’s curling event Sweden took the gold while the hometown heroes from Korea came in second. They may have gotten second, but they came first in the public’s eyes. Rounding out the podium was the Japanese team. In one of the biggest upsets during the games, the United States men’s curling team took the gold over the Swedish team and the team from Switzerland took home the bronze. They became the first United States team to win gold in curling.
On another set of ice the United States ice skating team came in third place in the team event. Figure skating is another one of those high-profile events and this is the second time the team event has been held during the Olympics. This event gives a chance for the figure skaters to be on the ice before their individual events. The United States came behind Team Canada who had been in first place through the entire event. Canada’s Patrick Chan won the men’s free skate and Scott Moir and Tessa Virtue, who are figure skating all-stars, won the free dance. Theses victories gave the country the win. The Olympic athletes of Russia, who were not allowed to compete under the Russian flag, came in second place. The United States followed with the last place on the podium. The ice dance event–figure skating without the jumps–was won by the Canadian powerhouse team: Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir. After they had a short retirement after Sochi in 2014 the team came back to not only qualify for the Olympics but break the world record in what is thought to be their last Olympic Games. Behind them came the French team of Gabriella Papadakis and Guillaume Cizeron and the third-place team was the American brother and sister duo Maia and Alex Shibutani. For the pair skating event–the pair event with all the jumps–the gold medal was won by the German team of Aliona Savchenko and Bruno Massot. Massot was a French-born skater who had gained his German citizenship in November 2017, days before it was needed to compete. With a less exciting story, the Chinese team took the silver and another Canadian team took home the bronze. For the individual men’s event the American, Nathan Chen, was favored to win, especially after his performance during the team event, but fell during his first round and his score never recovered. This left the playing field somewhat open, but the other favorites still took home the medals, leaving no surprises. This meant that the two competitors from Japan took home the silver and gold and the bronze was won by the Spanish man: Javier Fernandez. For the women’s event the two young girls from Russia, Alina Zagitova and Evgenia Medvedeva, took home the gold and silver, respectively. The bronze medal was won by Kaetlyn Osmond, another Canadian.
On the other rink the men’s hockey event was won by the team from the Olympic Athletes from Russia, which beat the German team despite many people cheering against the Russian team. The men’s event looked very different this year compared to prior years. This was because the National Hockey League, the biggest professional hockey league in the world, did not allow any of the players to take a leave to play for their national team. This meant that players in the minor leagues in the United States and around the world made up the national teams. However, this did not apply to the women’s team. This meant that the professional women’s players were wearing their country’s flag. The women’s final came down to the biggest rivalry in hockey: the United States against Canada. After being tied at the end of periods the United States won during a shootout. This left the Canadians taking home a silver and Finland taking home the bronze. With all said and done, the hockey events were big successes.
In the skiing events–alpine skiing, cross country skiing, biathlon, freestyle skiing, ski jumping and Nordic combined–crowds flooded the Korean mountain ranges. Alpine skiing consists of five events: downhill, super-G, giant slalom, slalom, combined and then a team event. These events had Austria taking home three gold medals and Norway and Sweden both taking home one in the men’s events. For the women’s events, Italy, Czech Republic, United States, Sweden and Switzerland all took home one gold medal each. In the team event Switzerland took home the gold. In cross country skiing–events included the 15 kilometer freestyle, 30 kilometer skiathlon, 50 kilometer classical 4×10 kilometer relay, sprint classical and the team sprint freestyle–the men had four gold medals go to Norway, one gold to Switzerland and one gold to Finland. The women had only three gold medals to Norway, two to Sweden and one to the United States. For the biathlon, a mix of cross country skiing and shooting, the men had two French men, a Norwegian, a German and a Swede all take gold in their subcategory of events under the umbrella of biathlon. The women had two Germans, one Swede, one Slovakian and one Belarusian all take home gold. All these were won in the individual, sprint, pursuit, mass start and relay events. In the mixed events France took home the gold, Norway took home the silver and Italy took home the bronze. In the fan favorite–freestyle skiing–the competitors do aerial flips and spins. There are five events that fall under freestyle skiing: aerials, mogul, halfpipe, ski cross and slopestyle. Their golds were taken by two Canadians, one American, one Norwegian and one Ukrainian for the men and two Canadians, one French, one Swiss and one Belarusian during the women’s events. Ski jumping has three events for the men–normal hill individual, large hill individuals and large hill teams–and then a women’s event. All of these are iterations of people jumping off a hill and had two Norwegians, a Polish man and a German winning the gold medals. Finally, the Nordic combined, a mix of cross-country skiing and ski jumping, has three events: the individual large hill, the individual normal hill and the team large hill. All of these are men’s events and had Germany taking the gold in all three events. All the skiing events captivated audiences, but were not, except for freestyle, shown in prime time.
The snowboarding events, however, were shown during prime time because two big names, one old and one new, drew the crowds in both Koreas and in the United States: Chloe Kim and Shaun White. In the halfpipe event for snowboarding the United States claimed gold in both the men and women events. Shaun White won his preliminary round and after his third run won the gold after missing out at the podium in the last Olympics. Shaun White is the first person to ever win four gold medals in the same event. This was a comeback year for him and will most likely be his last Olympics. On the women’s side Chole Kim, the daughter of Korean immigrants, won gold. She outscored her opponents after her first run and no one came close to her after at the end of the three runs. At 17 she is the youngest woman to win gold in that event, but she is not the youngest American to win at the Olympics: that award goes to Red Gerard. On the men’s snowboard slopestyle he won gold after coming back from two bad runs. He is also 17, but a few months younger than she is. On the women’s slopestyle Jamie Anderson, an American, won back to back gold medals in the event: one at Pyeongchang and the other at Sochi. Rounding out the events is big air, parallel giant slalom and snowboard cross. They were won by Canadian Sébastian Toutant and Austrian Anna Gasser, Swiss Nevin Galmarini and Czechian Ester Ledecká, and Frenchman Pierre Vaultier and Italian Michela Moioli. The snowboarding events had audiences all around the globe glued to their televisions.
The sledding events include bobsled, luge and skeleton. These include individual and team events as well. For bobsledding the two-man gold medal was shared between the Canadian and German team, the four-man was won by the German team and the two-woman was won by the Gemans as well. Women’s bobsledding had their first African team compete this year as well. The Nigerian team did not do that well but their run made history nonetheless. In the luge competition Austria won the men’s single and Germany took home the women’s single, Germany won doubles and they also won the team relay. The Americans had their first medal won in luge with a silver medal in the men’s single event. Rounding off the sledding events is skeleton. The men’s skeleton was won by the hometown favorite: Yun-Sung Bin of South Korea and the woman’s skeleton was won by Great Britain’s Lizzy Yarnold. Sledding events are when different types of sleds race down a course one at a time. These are some of the most dangerous events in the Olympics.
The last group of events are short team speed skating and speed skating. For speed skating the men had the Netherlands take home three gold medals, Norway took home two and Canada and South Korea both took home one gold medal. In the women’s events the Netherlands dominated the fields taking home four gold medals and japan taking the remaining three. In short track speed skating China, South Korea, Canada and Hungary all took home gold medals in the men’s events and the woman had South Korea win two gold medals and Italy and the Netherlands both winning one medal. In Olympic craziness during the 3000 meter relays the Netherlands set a world record in a consultation round and because two of the teams in the final round disqualified, lifting the team to third place. Short track also broke some American boundaries when Maame Biney competed in her first Olympics while also becoming the first African American to make the American speed skating team.
At the end of the Olympics all of the athletes pack up their bags and fly home. They take home either medals or memories, but for a brief second each athlete had the eyes of the world on them. They were rewarded for the countless hours sacrificed to their craft with the chance to compete on the world stage. The world comes together every two years for the Winter and Summer Olympics and this year it was no different. It was an amazing success.