Since we last looked in on the 2018 Winter Olympic Games, so many joyous and heart-wrenching moments have transpired. One has to wonder, did a few days go by or a few WEEKS? A major theme of these Olympic games has been weather… or more specifically, wind! The gale force winds sweeping through PyeongChang, South Korea (excuse the curling pun) have wreaked havoc throughout the games so far, most notably causing both Men’s & Ladies’ Alpine Skiing events to be postponed.
How will the condensed schedule affect U.S. hopeful Mikaela Shiffrin, who admittedly sees a sports psychologist for her battles with the anxiety and pressure of being an Olympic athlete?
After winning gold in slalom at Sochi 2014, Shiffrin put an awful lot of the pressure on her own 18-year-old shoulders by saying, “So right now I’m dreaming of the next Olympics, winning five gold medals. Which sounds really crazy. Sorry I just admitted that to you all.” Does she regret saying those words back then today? Not exactly, as she thrives on setting lofty goals and crushing them. Shiffrin has developed an “I am” philosophy in order to drown out the naysayers and what others think of her; instead, she makes her own positive affirmations… “I am powerful, I am strong.” What a tremendous model of a young, determined athlete. And Shiffrin will need to be in order to fulfill her goals with the condensed Alpine schedule of her five events. Who knows? The scheduling change could work to Shiffrin’s benefit (see Full Competition Schedule below).
“I am up for the challenge!”
The heavy winds have affected other games as well. I was very surprised what the IOC officials put the women snowboarders through in the Ladies’ Slopestyle final. With obvious limitations on tricks and jump distance, it was a crime costing several competitor’s 4-years of effort in subpar conditions. But then again, as in most sports, champions rise to the occasion despite the elements. USA’s Jamie Anderson did just that, taking home gold with a top score of 83.0 in her first of two final runs (Run 3 was cancelled due to winds). Canada’s Laurie Holden (76.33) took silver, while Finland’s Enni Rukajarvi (75.38) took bronze. Not tremendous scores.
Speaking of snowboarding…
King of the #PyeongChang2018 Halfpipe!@shaunwhite is the 1st Winter Olympian for the #USA to win Gold Medals 12 years apart as well as No. ????for #TeamUSA
#BestOfUS #WinterOlympics pic.twitter.com/NNgiWvWGqc
— Rob Povia (@Robbybltz) February 14, 2018
The King and Queen of the PyeongChang Halfpipe
After building up the potential “Return of the King” in our first 2018 Winter Olympics report, Shaun White did not disappoint with a first place 98.50 in qualifying and a clutch 97.75 in his third and final run to top Japan’s Ayumu Hirano for gold. I’m surprised Australia’s
Scotty James (bronze) didn’t get more style points for his red boxing gloves. White’s third gold medal in four Olympics is truly an amazing accomplishment and marked the 100th gold medal in Team USA’s history. To give this context, the 50th gold medal was won by speed skater Dan Jansen at Lillehammer… 1994!
Team USA came into these Winter Games with 96 gold medals in Olympic history. Red Gerard shocked the world when he layed down an 87.16 in his final run – after two runs in the 40’s with the bad wind conditions – winning gold over Canada’s Max Parrot (silver) and Mark McMorris (bronze) at 17 years of age! No. 97. Then you had Ms. Anderson’s aforementioned bling… No. 98.
No. 99 was a thing of beauty!
Chloe Kim has now become the new Queen of the Halfpipe, although Princess may be a more accurate surname for the 18-year-old. I don’t know what you were doing at 18, but I certainly wasn’t thrashing halfpipes with the grace, elegance and pinpoint precision of Chloe. So demure in stature and nature (sometimes lol), she unleashes an absolute rampaging beast when her bindings are buckled. This is what she pulled out in Phoenix Park; a majestic performance to the tune of 98.25 and her 1st Olympic medal.. and it was gold! She didn’t even require the “golden victory lap,” as her first run of 93.75 was more than enough to surpass China’s Liu Jiaya (silver) as well as teammates Arielle Gold (bronze) and Kelly Clark (pioneer of the Ladies’ Halfpipe at 34; PyeongChang being her FIFTH Olympics).
What a thrill Chloe gave her parents, winning gold in their country of origin!
As great of an impact Shaun White had when he first burst onto the Winter Games scene in Torino 2006, I believe Chloe Kim’s impact is just as great, if not greater. After her big win, she tweeted out, “I hate crying but I’ll give myself a pass for this one. Thank you everyone for the love! Stoked to bring home the gold.” I see this young woman dominating the snowboarding scene, as White has for the past 12 years plus. A passing of the torch?
Olympic Hockey Has Begun!
Women’s Hockey is well underway with the first anticipated rematch looming at the time of writing this article for USA (2-0) and Canada (2-0), rounding out the preliminary round of Group A. Canada defeated Team USA in OT to capture the gold, and USA hasn’t ended the tournament with a win since Nagano 1998, when the ladies’ game first hit Olympic ice. Both teams have looked flat out dominate and set on a collision course, possessing both fantastic speed and a finesse game which has resulted in goal differences of +8 (CAN) & +7 (USA). USA’s Jocelyne Lamoureux-Davidson, whose sister Monique (1G, 1A) also skates for Team USA, scored two goals in :06 vs. OAR… the fastest pair of goals by a single player in Olympic hockey history, Men’s or Women’s! Standouts Hilary Knight (smoke show!), Kendall Coyne and Amanda Kessel lead the star-studded roster in its pursuit for redemption.
Finland and OAR are winless to round out Group A, but the story here is Finland’s Riikka Valila, who at 44 years young is the oldest player to compete in women’s Olympic ice hockey history. Valila reflected, “I don’t have to prove anything to myself or anybody else. I just enjoy playing. I really love to train, to improve my body and it’s lots of fun to get the feeling that I am getting better on the ice and I can help the team.” Age is just a number.
If Valila is the feel good story of Group A, then what Team Korea has done in Group B is flat out remarkable! Not so much on the ice, as they have skated to an 0-3 record and a goal differential of -19… keep that figure in your hat.
In case you don’t know, the Korean team is exactly that: a union of North Korean athletes and South Korean athletes. Under 24-hour surveillance at these games, the brave souls from the North may not agree with Kim Jong-un’s practices any more than you or I. What this union symbolizes has been a consistent hope embarking from the opening ceremonies of the 23rd Olympic Winter Games. Many feel what this team has done is Nobel Peace Prize worthy. They have given up 20 goals in their short stint in the Olympics, but like I wrote previously, they were a -19. The culmination of their harmonious statement was scoring their first – and only – goal of the prelims: a hard working goal around the net vs. Japan.
— Covers (@Covers) February 6, 2018
Team USA’s male counterparts have also begun the journey to recapture what has eluded them since the Miracle on Ice in 1980… a gold medal. For the first time since Nagano, NHL players are not participating in the games (Thanks Bettman!). Team USA does have that 1980 feel with a little sprinkle of NHL legacy. Former NHLer and Calgary 1988 participant Tony Granato serves as the head coach for the United States, while longtime Devil & Canadien forward Brian Gionta is captain. The rest of the squad is filled with some AHL players, castaways who have been playing overseas and college talent. It’s this college talent I’m most intrigued by.
Two examples of “overseas” players are KHL’s Brian O’Neill and goalie Ryan Zapolski. Zapolski stood on his head for three periods in USA’s opener vs. Slovenia and may be the best hope for a US medal, but will need the college talent to step up. We saw this for two periods in the opener. After O’Neill opened the scoring, Boston College product Jordan Greenway scored a beautiful goal to send US to a 2-0 lead. Greenway, who will turn 21 during these Olympics, is from Canton, New York… less than 80 miles from Lake Placid! Young players like Greenway, Ryan Donato and Troy Terry need to step up their game if US has a chance in these olympics. Based on opening odds from Westgate Las Vegas Superbook, Team USA has a 9% chance at going home with gold, while OAR sits at 26%, Canada 23% and Sweden 17%.
The 9% chance may have gone down after the US let up three unanswered goals in the 3rd period and OT of the 3-2 upset win by Team Slovenia in the opener. Slovenia’s star player Jan Mursak scored the game tying goal with the goalie pulled and the GWG in OT. After two strong opening periods, defensive breakdowns and overall sloppy play in the third cost Team USA. Greenway said afterwards, “We gotta find a way to finish games.” It will require that type of leadership and ownership to help USA crawl out of an opening hole.
A Look Around the 23rd Winter Olympic Games
USA’s Chris Mazdzer became the first American in Olympic history to medal in Singles Luge with a time of 3:10.728!!! His time was good enough for silver after the world’s best slider, Felix Loch of Germany, made a fatal mistake in turn 12 to drop to 5th. I wonder what Leslie Jones of SNL will tweet now (big fan of Mazdzer).
Other Gold Medal Winners
DOUBLES LUGE: Wendl & Arlt Tobias, Germany
MEN’S SINGLES LUGE: David Gleirscher, Austria
WOMEN’S SINGLES LUGE: Natalie Geisenberger, Germany
NORDIC COMBINED: Eric Frenzel, Germany
MEN’S SPEED SKATING (5,000m): Sven Kramer, Netherlands*
MEN’S SPEED SKATING (1,500m): Kjeld Nuis, Netherlands
LADIES’ SPEED SKATING (1,500m): Ireen Wust, Netherlands*
LADIES’ SPEED SKATING (1,000m): Jorien Ter Mors, Netherlands
LADIES’ SHORT TRACK (500m): Arianna Fontana, Italy
CURLING (Mixed Doubles): Canada – No big surprise here!
MEN’S ALPINE COMBINED: Marcel Hirscher, Austria
LADIES’ SPRINT CLASSIC (Cross-Country Skiing): Stina Nilsson, Sweden
MEN’S SPRINT CLASSIC (Cross-Country Skiing): Johannes Hoesflot Klaebo, Norway
LADIES’ NORMAL HILL INDIVIDUAL (Ski Jumping): Maren Lundby, Norway
MEN’S MOGULS (Freestyle Skiing): Mikael Kingsbury, Canada – SICK RUN!!!
LADIES’ MOGULS (Freestyle Skiing): Perrine Laffont, France
FIGURE SKATING – TEAM EVENT: Canada (OAR – S; USA – B)
*Became most Decorated Olympic Athlete in event
Unfortunately, accidents and crashes come with the territory when an athlete pushes their craft to the very edge for olympic gold. In Ladies’ Luge, USA’s Emily Sweeney suffered a horrible crash when she skidded sideways in dreaded turn 9 and tumbled out of her sled. Instantly had to think broken back at the time of the incident, yet, MRI showed no fracture. “Only bumps and bruises,” says Sweeney which is a major relief. “Now that my games are over, it’s a bummer. But I’m ok.” Sweeney was not alone in dangerous wrecks. Emily Arthur’s (Australia) faceplant in the Ladies’ Halfpipe had her (in her own words) “looking a bit like shrek” because of all the blood gushing from her nose and mouth. Thankfully, she also said, “I’m just swollen” after the nasty crash as she, like Hilary Knight, is an absolute smoke show!
2018 WINTER OLYMPICS MEDAL COUNT 2/14
*For up to the minute Medal Count, click here!
What has been your favorite moment of the 23rd Winter Olympics so far? We would love to read your moments in the comment section!!!