The PyoenChang 2018 Winter Games officially closed on Sunday. With the Olympics taking place in South Korea, the opening ceremony welcomed a wave of political intrigue regarding the country’s neighbors to the north, security concerns, and what long term effects – if any – marching as a unified Korea might bring. As is often the case, the alluring storylines that unfolded over the two weeks of competition soon superseded the politics. Here are some of the best:
Honorable Mention – German Madrazo Finishes Dead Last
Mexican cross-country skier German Madrazo finished in 116th out of 116 in the 15km men’s race, nearly 26 minutes behind 1st place. Regardless of the position, Madrazo vibrantly waved a Mexican flag on his last stretch to the finish line. Fellow competitors that had finished just before Madrazo, some of whom trained with him when he picked up skiing in 2017, waited at the line. They carried him away from the course in an iconic moment. Even Switzerland’s Dario Cologna, the gold medal winner, supported Madrazo near the finish.
5. Announcers Go Insane for their Country
Some of the best finishes were complemented by announcers from the competitor’s home country losing their minds. The top three moments go to South Korea, Germany, and the USA. Yung Sung-Bin blew away the field to win skeleton gold and capture South Korea’s first medal in the event. The home field announcers shouted excitedly over each other at impossible speeds throughout his final run. Germany’s hockey commentators may have outdone them after Germany upset Sweden in the quarterfinals. They repeated their epic meltdown when the team eliminated Canada the following game. The video has been removed from most sites and only seems available in Germany at the moment, but the Foreign Office got in on the mayhem with a tweet of their own. Jessie Diggins delivered America its first ever cross-country medal in the team pursuit. The race came down to a final sprint, and the skiing announcers were more than up to the task. One broadcaster managed to keep his cool and provide details. His partner, a Tony Romo sound-alike, started frothing at the mouth, slowly losing all ability to scream anything other than, “Yes!”
4. A New Generation Arrives
There is now a handful of Olympian gold medalists who were not around in the 1900s. Red Gerard became the first gold medalist born in the 2000s with his surprise victory in Men’s slopestyle. Chloe Kim followed him soon after by throwing down two awe-inspiring halfpipe runs. For those who careened into an existential crisis, perhaps eating an entire pizza by themselves while watching the Olympics, Alina Zagitova only piled on further. She’s 15 and won the gold medal in women’s figure skating. That means she was born in 2002… the same year Avril Lavigne’s timeless classic, Sk8tr Boi, hit the charts. Creeping feelings of mortality aside, the arrival of a new batch of talent is undeniably fun to watch. Red Gerard woke up late, borrowed an Olympic jacket, dropped an F-bomb on national television, and will inspire more to take up snowboarding. Chloe Kim tweeted in the middle of competition about being hangry. She’ll continue to press the envelope in women’s snowboarding, as will Alina Zagitova in figure skating. The Games will only grow bigger and better over the next four years.
3. South Koreans Continue Their Short Track Dominance
The South Korean women’s team had won five of seven gold medals since the Olympics introduced the short track 3000m team relay. Their pursuit of a sixth gold looked impossible during the 2018 semifinals. One of the skaters fell with 23 laps remaining in the 27-lap race. The early incident allowed enough time for the South Korean team to inch back into the pack at the urging of its home crowd. The skaters miraculously blew past the other three teams and set an olympic record in the process. They capped off the comeback in the semis by successfully defending their 2014 gold medal in the finals. That particular race became even wilder thanks to two disqualifications, which meant the Netherlands received a bronze by winning the B final.
2. Simon Hegstad Kruger Got Knocked Down, But He Got Up Again
Simon Hegstad Kruger began the 30-kilometer cross-country skiathalon by falling on his face and breaking a pole. He shortly received a new pole from a coach. His goals of an Olympic medal already appeared dashed. However, the wintry elements kept the pace slow enough that Kruger was able to mount a comeback. He overtook 63 competitors and miraculously opened up an insurmountable gap during the race’s final lap. He finished the skiathalon in one hour, sixteen minutes, and twenty seconds. The two other medalists crossed the line 8 and 9.9 seconds behind him. All three men on the podium represented Norway.
1. Ester Ledecka Double Dips
Ester Ledecka was already making history by shirking all the rules of Disney’s Johnny Tsunami to compete in both a skiing and a snowboarding Olympic event. She had never finished better than 19th at an alpine skiing World Cup super-G. That’s why most media organizations announced Anna Veith from Austria as the winner after the main contenders finished. Instead, Ledecka made up time on Veith and came across the line in first place. Neither she nor the announcers could believe it. A cameraman had to confirm with her that the time was legitimate. You can watch the shocking victory here. It begins at the 1:42 mark. Ledecka returned to her “real” event a week later: the snowboarding parallel giant slalom. She captured gold as the favorite, becoming the first athlete in 90 years to claim gold in two different Olympic sports. For those wondering, Johnny Tsunami debuted in 1999. That makes the movie older the Gerard, Kim, and Zagitova.