2018 Winter Olympics Recap: Thank You, PyeongChang
On Sunday evening, the 2018 Winter Olympic Games came to a close at the Olympic Stadium in PyeongChang, South Korea. For two weeks, the greatest athletes in the world competed for gold and Olympic glory. Those two weeks were filled with triumph and disappointment, the expected and the unexpected, and moments that will etched in Olympic history for the rest of time.
We cheered for people we have never heard of for doing things that do not seem physically possible. Whether it was sliding down an ice track face first or jumping off a ramp with only skis to land on, we watched with bated breath to see who was bringing home the gold medal.
Suddenly those names we never heard became national heroes. All over the globe, fans cheered on their native sons and daughters, hoping they stood on top of the podium with a gold medal around their neck as their country’s national anthem played.
For two weeks, I brought you the daily precaps highlighting what happened and what was to come each day during the 2018 Winter Olympics. Now that the dust has settled and the athletes have returned home, I wanted to sit down and reflect on the Games that were.
This is the story of the 2018 Winter Olympic Games.
The 2108 Winter Olympic Games in PyeongChang, South Korea provided fans with two weeks of endless entertainment and great stories we will remember for years and years to come. It is really hard to say what exactly we will remember looking back in five or ten years but you can bet everyone will have their own memories of what happened during those 16 days in frigid South Korea.
A lot of the talk surrounding the Olympic Games in Vancouver and Sochi was the weather and how it did not exactly feel like winter. That was not going to be an issue for Pyeongchang as temperatures only reached the single digits in the days leading up to the Games and sub-freezing temps were the normal throughout most of the competition period.
In many ways, these Games went as expected in many ways but there will still twists and turn along the way. The countries you expected to win generally were standing on the podium but every once and awhile, someone came along and snatched the glory for themselves. Those are the moments we will remember.
Sports are a young person’s game and that was made apparent from the start in PyeongChang. American snowboarder Red Gerard, at the age of 17, became the first athlete in Olympic history born in the year 2000 to win a gold medal. A few days later, American Chloe Kim followed suit with her gold in the women’s halfpipe. If you are like me, this makes you feel incredibly old but assures you the Olympics are being left in good hands.
Just because the young guns were taking over the spotlight did not mean the old guard was ready to step down. Lindsey Vonn was healthy and ready for her final Olympics, she won a bronze. Shaun White came back looking for redemption and he did just that, taking gold in the men’s halfpipe. Marit Bjoergen, the 37 year old cross-country skier from Norway, won five medals in PyeongChang and became the most decorated Winter Olympian in history.
Sixteen days of competition brought out the best of the Olympic spirit not only in PyeongChang but across the world. Countries came together to celebrate their fellow countrymen in the pursuit of Olympic glory.
A brief summation of the different sporting disciplines in PyeongChang:
- Alpine Skiing: Your typical European skiing powerhouses sit atop the medal stand. Mikaela Shiffrin leaves with two medals.
- Biathlon: Martin Fourcade of France wins three golds. Germany take overall medal count.
- Bobsled: Germany won gold in all three bobsled events.
- Cross-Country Skiing: Norway cleaned up, winning medals in 11 of 12 events.
- Curling: U.S. wins first curling gold in the men’s tournament. Host nation South Korea wins unexpected silver on the women’s side.
- Figure Skating: Zagitova/Medvedeva lives up to the hype. Hanyu defends gold. Canada takes most medals.
- Freestyle Skiing: Canada reigns supreme in freestyle skiing. David Wise defends halfpipe gold.
- Ice Hockey: OAR wins lackluster men’s tournament. U.S. women defeat Canada for gold in dramatic fashion.
- Long-track Speed Skating: The Dutch dominate as expected, winning 16 medals across all events.
- Luge: Germany does what Germany does in luge, taking home six medals. Chris Mazdzer wins first U.S. men’s luge medal.
- Nordic Combined: Germany wins gold in all three nordic events, including a podium sweep on the large hill.
- Short-track Speed Skating: Host nation South Korea posts top medal count in their strongest event.
- Skeleton: Yung Sung-bin gives South Korea first sliding gold medal. Lizzy Yarnold of Great Britain defends her 2014 gold medal.
- Ski Jumping: Norway, Germany, and Poland combine for 11 of a possible 12 medals in ski jumping.
- Snowboarding: Best discipline for the United States in PyeongChang including gold medal sweep is slopestyle and halfpipe.
Final Medal Standings
A record 30 countries won medals at the 2018 Olympic Games, surpassing the previou record of 26 set in 2014. Your typical countries had their fingerprints all over the medal stand such as Norway and Germany while others such as Hungary and Belgium returned to the podium for the first time in decades. Winning as many medals as possible is the goal for some countries, but for others, simply winning one or two can make their Games a resounding success.
Let’s take a look at how the medal table shook out for PyeongChang 2018:
Cream of the Crop: 1-10
- These were Norway’s Games and the medal count proved that. Set a new Olympic record with 39 medals, the most ever in a single Winter Olympics.
- Germany was the only other country to break the 30 medals barrier. Cleaned up shop in ski jumping, nordic combined, and the sliding disciplines.
- Canada set a new personal best with 29 medals in PyeongChang, topping their previous record of 26 set in 2010.
- A slow start put the United States behind early but a strong second week saw them finish in the top four.
- The Netherlands rounded out the top five with an even 20 medals won. All Dutch medals came in speed skating events (Long track: 16; Short track: 4).
- Host nations traditionally see a spike in their medal count and South Korea was the latest benefactor of this trend, setting a personal best for medals at a Winter Games.
- OAR overcame a massive doping scandal to finish firmly in the top ten. It took them until the final week to claim their first gold medals.
- Switzerland were masterful on the slopes in PyeongChang. 13 of their 15 medals won came in either skiing or snowboarding disciplines.
- France were also dominant on the slopes in PyeongChang, winning 14 of their 15 medals either on skis or a snowboard.
- Sweden rounded out the top ten with a total of 14 medals in 2018, one short of their 2014 total. They were the only nation to win medals in both men’s and women’s curling.
Middle of the Pack: 11-20
- Austria slid back slightly from their 2014 medal haul but all around still a solid performance from a nation that prides themselves on alpine success.
- Japan will host the 2020 where they will likely be higher up the medal count. They won medals in seven different disciplines in PyeongChang.
- Italy flirted with a top ten finish for a while but ended in 13th when the Games came to a close. Women accounted for seven of the country’s podium finishes.
- Look for China to be a bigger factor in the medal count when they host the 2022 Winter Games in Beijing. Still a solid top 15 from a more summer nation.
- Czech Republic nab a fourth straight top 15 finish dating back to the 2006 Games. Both golds came from Ester Ledecka who we will discuss more later.
- Finland rounds out the Scandinavian contingent in 16th place. Four of their six medals came in cross-country along with their only gold.
- Really strong showing from Great Britain who tends to have more success in the Summer Games. Five medals won is a new country high for Team GB.
- Belarus cannot repeat their 2014 performance but the two golds are will more than satisfy the East European nation.
- Slovakia tripled their medal haul from 2014 and brought home a gold medal. All three Slovak medals were won by Anastasiya Kuzmina in biathlon.
- When you think Australia you might not think winter sports by the athlete’s from “Down Under” cracked the top 20.
True Success Stories: 21-30
- Poland’s best hopes for a medal in PyeongChang came in ski jumping and that’s exactly where they came through with gold in the large hill and bronze in the team event.
- Slovenia fell well short of their 2014 total but the small European nation will still go home happy.
- Spain returned to the medal stand in the Winter Olympics for the first time since 1992 with bronze medals in snowboard cross and men’s figure skating.
- New Zealand also returned to the podium at a Winter Games for the first time since 1992. The two medal winners were greeted with a parade when they returned home.
- Hungary had never won a gold medal in the Winter Olympics but that all changed in PyeongChang. Their gold was also the first winter medal since 1980.
- Ukraine only won a single medal but they made it count with a gold in men’s aerials.
- Another long podium drought was snapped by Belgium, winning a Winter Olympics medal for the first time since 1998.
- Kazakhstan followed up their bronze medal in Sochi with another bronze medal in PyeongChang.
- It took until the second week of competition but Latvia broke into the medal table with a bronze in bobsled.
- Rounding out the medal table, the tiny principality of Liechtenstein sandwiched between Switzerland and Austria. A bronze is their first medal since 1980 and their tenth in all Olympic competition. All ten have come in alpine skiing.
There you have it, the 30 nations who won a medal in PyeongChang, a new Winter Olympics record.
The Best Stories of PyeongChang
Picking a single best story to come out of the 2018 Winter Olympic Games is almost impossible. Too many moments play out over the course of 16 days to pick one solitary moment that stands out and defines what these Games were. Instead of going through the painstaking tasks of picking one moment, I decided it best to pick the best moments from each day that captured the headlines.
- 2/10: South Korea wastes no time winning their first gold on home soil with a victory in the men’s short-track 1,500m.
- 2/11: Red Gerard makes history as the first athlete born in the year 2000 to win Olympic gold. Chris Mazdzer wins the United States’ first men’s luge medal.
- 2/12: Canada takes home two golds in the team figure skating competition and Mikael Kingsbury fulfills his dream in men’s moguls. Jamie Anderson defends her gold on slopestyle.
- 2/13: Austrian skier Marcel Hirscher finally snaps his Olympic jinx with a gold men’s super combined. Chloe Kim adds more American gold in the women’s halfpipe.
- 2/14: Germany continues sliding dominance with team luge gold medals. Shaun White finds redemption with gold in men’s halfpipe.
- 2/15: Alpine skiing resumes after weather delays and Mikaela Shiffrin wins her first medal of PyeongChang with a gold in giant slalom. Marit Bjoergen becomes the most decorated Winter Olympian of all time. Aljona Savchenko finally wins a gold medal in pairs figure skating.
- 2/16: Yun Sungbin wins South Korea’s first sliding medal in history with gold in men’s skeleton. The Dutch continue to win medals in speed skating.
- 2/17: Ester Ledecka shocks the world by winning gold in the women’s Super-G. Yuzuru Hanyu defends his Sochi gold in men’s figure skating competition. Lizzy Yarnold also defends Sochi gold in women’s skeleton.
- 2/18: Marcel Hirscher adds another gold in the men’s giant slalom. Martin Fourcade continues his assault on the biathlon events.
- 2/19: Norway just keeps winning medals. Germany opens bobsled competition with another sliding gold.
- 2/20: Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir become the most decorated ice dancing team in history with gold in the ice dance competition. South Korea keeps adding to their medal haul in speed skating.
- 2/21: Sofia Goggia wins Italy’s first gold medal ever in women’s downhill. Lindsey Vonn takes home bronze in her final Olympics. Jessie Diggins and Kikkan Randall win United States first gold medal in cross-country. U.S. also wins first long-track medal with bronze in women’s team pursuit.
- 2/22: Americans continue to boost medal haul with David Wise defending gold in halfpipe, Mikaela Shiffrin taking bronze in super combined, women’s hockey beats Canada for gold, and Jamie Anderson takes silver in Big Air.
- 2/23: Alina Zagitova edges rival Evgenia Medvedeva for gold in women’s figure skating. More speed skating gold for The Netherlands.
- 2/24: U.S. men’s curling makes history with the first curling gold medal in country history. Sebastien Toutant wins gold for Canada in Big Air.
- 2/25: Norway and Marit Bjoergen cap off Games with one final gold medal in women’s cross-country.
So, How About the United States?
A quick glance at the medal table and you will see the United States sitting in fourth with 23 totals medals won at the 2018 Winter Olympics. It was expected that the U.S. finish comfortably in the top five of the medal count and 23 medals is not something to bat your eyes at. There is no argument here, the United States had a very good Olympic Games. It could have been better.
Most medal predictions prior to the Games had the U.S. finishing anywhere from 25 to 30 medals, comfortably in the top five, maybe even good enough to crack the top three. Taking into account the fact Norway just had an incredible Games, setting a new medals record for a single Winter Games, the United States still could have threatened Germany or Canada for their places on the medal table. Unfortunately, the United States left much to be desired in a few disciplines and as a result the medal count suffered.
According to a report obtained by the Washington Post, the USOC had their bar set at 25 medals minimum, a number they fell short of. Their target was set at 37, which would have tied their own record for the most by a country at a single Winter Games. That goal fell way short. They had one other marker, a target of 59 if everything fell exactly into place but even Norway fell well short of that number.
Looking at those numbers it is easy to see why many involved view PyeongChang as a disappointment. Our best hope is the USOC uses this as a driving force to improve for future Olympics.
None of this is knocking the United States’ performance in PyeongChang, the athletes put on an incredible performance for the fans back home. Unexpected medals in speed skating, cross-country, and luge helped make up for disappointments in alpine skiing and figure skating. The stars and stripes still flew proudly all across PyeongChang and will continue to fly at many Games to come. Medals or not, we should celebrate what our athletes did at the 2018 Winter Olympic Games.
For now, we can sit back and look forward to the 2020 Summer Olympics, where the United States has finished on top of the medal table every year since 1996.
My Golden Moment of PyeongChang
I said above that it was nearly impossible to select the best story of the PyeongChang Olympic Games. I stick by that but there was one moment I wanted to bring special attention to, the gold medal game between the United States and Canada in women’s ice hockey.
Twenty years ago in Nagano, Japan, women’s ice hockey made its Olympic debut and the United States won the inaugural gold medal over their North American rival. For the next two decades, the United States and Canada did battle across four separate Olympics and numerous World Championships.
In that time span, the United States won its fair share of hardware but could never reach the same success at the Olympics that they had in Nagano. During that same stretch, Canada won every gold medal between 2002 and 2014, four straight Olympic Games.
At the 2014 Games in Sochi, the United States came agonizingly close to winning gold, but watched it slip away in an overtime loss to their biggest rival. If they were going to win gold, it was going to have to wait another four years.
PyeongChang marked the 20th anniversary of that very first Olympic women’s ice hockey tournament and with it, the the lone United States gold medal. This women’s team was determined to rewrite history and return to the mountain top.
On Thursday, February 22, 20 years of close calls and heartbreak finally came to an end in Pyeongchang, South Korea.
It was the matchup everyone expected, Canada and the United States facing off for gold. Group play was a mere formality, it was always going to be these two nations going head to head for the gold medal and they did not disappoint.
Hilary Knight put the U.S. in front late in the first period but Canada answered with two goals of their own in the second period to take a 2-1 lead. As the clock ticked away in the final period, it looked as if more heartbreak for the United States but Monique Lamoureux scored on a breakaway to tie the game and bring hope back to the American bench.
During the overtime period, the United States laid siege to the Canadian netminder but they were unable to find a golden goal. To the shootout it went.
Both of these teams are so close that the game could not be decided in the standard five rounds of a shootout and it had to go to extra frames to decide the gold medal.
Jocelyne Lamoureux put the United States ahead with a move most NHL players would be jealous of, completely deking the Canadian goaltender to the ground and sliding the puck into the back of the net.
Canada had a chance to answer and it was up to Meghan Agosta to keep her team’s hopes alive. Waiting at the other end was American goalie Maddie Rooney, who was just six months old the last time the United States won the gold medal in Nagano. Agosta skated in close and tried to slide the puck five hole, Rooney said no.
.@TeamUSA IS GOLDEN!
— NBC Olympics (@NBCOlympics) February 22, 2018
Twenty long years of waiting were finally lifted off the shoulders of the Americans. They were gold medal champions once again.
Olympics are only held one every two years (Summer and Winter) but the planning along takes years for the host city. To give cities as much time as possible, the IOC selects hosts well in advance so they have ample time to prepare. As we leave PyeongChang, here is a look at what lies ahead for both the Summer and Winter Olympic Games:
2020 Summer Olympics: Tokyo, Japan. Tokyo was awarded the 2020 Summer Games in September of 2013, beating out Istanbul, Turkey and Madrid, Spain. The Games are scheduled to begin in July 2020. This will be the second time Tokyo has hosted the Summer Olympics.
2022 Winter Olympics: Beijing, China. There was issues finding a host for the 2022 Games because it appeared nobody wanted to actually play host. Beijing was awarded the Games in July 2015, defeating Almaty, Kazakhstan. The Games are scheduled to be held in February 2022. Beijing will be the first city to host both the Summer and Winter Games.
2024 Summer Olympics: Paris, France. Originally there were four cities in the running to host the 2024 Games but everyone backed out besides Paris and Los Angeles. Given the willingness of both cities to host in either 2024 or 2028, the IOC made the decision to award both Games at the same time. In September 2017, Paris was announced as the host of the 2024 Summer Games set to take place in July. This will be Paris’ third time hosting the Summer Olympics.
2026 Winter Olympics: TBA. Host city will be announced in September 2019. At this point, there is a growing list of cities preparing bids to potentially host the 2026 Winter Olympics. The United States Olympic Committee stated they will focus their effort on a bid for the 2030 Games.
2028 Summer Olympics: Los Angeles, United States. As I mentioned above, Los Angeles was awarded the 2028 Summer Games alongside Paris being awarded the 2024 Games. With no other cities in the running, the IOC worked out a deal between the two cities and awarded both Games simultaneously. This will mark the third time Los Angeles has played host to the Olympics, joining London and Paris as the only three time hosts.
Putting these Olympic Games into words is not an easy task. Condensing 16 days of action into a single post takes a lot of time and patience. If I take one things away from PyeongChang, it is the continued awe at what the human body is capable of when pushed to its limit. It doesn’t matter what sport or what equipment is being used, these athletes are the best in the world at what they do and every four years we are gifted the opportunity to watch them perform on the biggest stage.
Now that the Games are over, many of these athletes will revert back to relative obscurity, hoping to reappear on your radar in another four years. Some will have a lasting impact sure, but for many, these 16 days are the only chance they will have to perform for a worldwide audience.
My challenge to you is this, don’t forget these athletes. Follow them and their athletic endeavors outside of the Olympic microscope. Most of these disciplines have world tours that these athletes compete in every year, we just don’t know much about them because they don’t make the mainstream sports scene here in the United States. Names like Shaun White and Chloe Kim will stick with us because of the X-Games and how they are marketed, but names like Jessie Diggins and Matt Hamilton may fade away. They are world class athletes worthy of your time and we owe them more than one viewing every four years.
Remember the names and remember the faces of PyeongChang. If you see them on television sometime between now and Beijing, take a few minutes to watch and soak in their talent, you won’t regret it.