Top 12 Moments From Pyeongchang Winter Games
February 26, 2018

The Olympics are over in South Korea, and while writers and critics mostly thought the first week was boring, the second half really picked up. Russian figure skaters dazzled, the Olympic athtletes from that country that were not allowed to fly their own flag took gold in Hockey, and the American women's hockey and men's curling teams did their part to liven things up.

Yes, the Russians still had a couple of blood-doping incidents, there were the political overtones with North and South Korea, which, fortunately, were mostly positive. A lot of tickets went unsold and the weather wasn't perfect, but, with those things aside, and not counting the opening and closing ceremonies, which were fantastic, and let's also admit that the following is a little 'Ameri-centric', here are our top twelve moments/events from the Games of the 23rd Winter Olympiad...

#12 Lindsey Vonn: Let's face it, we had her story shoved down our throats. The 33 year-old most decorated skier in American history, who has had an injury-riddled career, and missed the Sochi games in 2014, was back for one final Olympics. Expectations were high, but despite the fact that she 'only' came away with one bronze medal, it was the way she conducted herself that had you cheering for her. Her maturity, and the story of the death of her grandfather added poignancy. Her emotions only added to the story instead of detracting from it.

#11 Norway: The tiny Scandinavian country, about a third the size of California, led the medal count with 39—14 gold, 14 silver, and 11 bronze. Fourteen (7 gold) of those medals were in cross country skiing, and six more came in biathlon, but the 'Attacking Vikings', as they were called, took seven alpine skiing medals, including both gold and silver in the Men's Downhill.

#10 Shib Sibs: America and the world were introduced to the brother-and-sister ice dancing duo of Maia and Alex Shibutani from Ann Arbor, Michigan. They took bronze in both the individual and team competition, and brought home the only American skating medals from Korea. He's 26, and she's 23, and the siblings were an instant hit on social media. Although a brother-sister combo is rare, commentators dropped the 'they say it couldn't be done' line a couple of times, as if they were from Antarctica or something. I'm an only child, so I don't know from siblings, but it's possible that brothers and sisters can get along without fighting all the time. Right?

#9 Bobsled Ties: In a sport that is decided by hundredths of a second, you would think it would be timed to the thousandth of a second, wouldn't you? Luge is. Skeleton is. Bobsled, for some reason, isn't. Canada and Germany each received gold medals for their tie in the two-man, and while one German sled took gold in the four-man, another German sled tied with South Korea for second and third. Each earned a silver. Despite NBC analyst John Morgan decrying “I love ties”, it seems kind of stupid. Go to the thousandth of a second and decide it.

#8 Cross Country: This should probably be a bigger deal, but the United States earned its first cross country skiing gold ever, in a sport that was in the first winter games in 1924. Kikkan Randall and Jessie Diggins won the Women's Team Sprint Freestyle, beating out powerhouses Norway and Sweden. Not only was it the first American gold in the sport, it was the first women's medal, and the first medal overall since 1976, when Bill Koch took silver. NBC doesn't show cross country in prime time, but aired the race on the midday show.

#7 Germany's (almost) Miracle on Ice: Trying to set a nationalistic bias aside, even though the German men's ice hockey team ended up with silver, you could make the argument that what they did was a longer shot than USA beating Russia in Lake Placid in 1980. The Germans didn't even qualify for hockey in 2014. In 2010, they didn't win a game, and in 2006, they didn't win a game. They upset Canada in the semifinal round and lost to the Olympic Athletes from Russia 4-3 in overtime. The National Hockey League didn't send its players this time, but there were plenty of former NHLers on the Russian squad, making the German effort even more impressive.

#6 Shaun White: They don't call him the Flying Tomato anymore, and haven't for over a decade, but the 31-year old threw down some epic air in his final run to win the Men's Halfpipe in snowboarding. Whether directly or indirectly, White really should be credited for popularizing the sport, or at least bringing it to the mainstream. Those crazy kids have grown up, and it's the so-called 'extreme sports' that are taking over. White's performance does have a cloud, though, coming after sexual assault allegations by a female drummer in his rock band.

#5 Chloe Kim: Kim is an example of what those crazy kids are up to. The 17 year-old won the Women's Halfpipe, which was one of the first American medals in the games (Jamie Anderson, who should be an honorable mention on this list, got the first American gold in Women's Slopestyle, and later earned silver in Big Air). Kim should become a big star when she gets home, and already will be featured on a Kellogg's Corn Flakes box. Her parents are South Korean natives, and attended the games, which makes the story even better.

#4 Medvedeva/Zagitova: While the American media (not just NBC) seemed to be droning on and on about Team USA's lack of success in figure skating, they should have been debating the results of the ladies competition. The Olympic Athletes from Russia finished one-two, with 15 year-old Alina Zagitova just barely edging out 18 year-old Evgenia Medvedeva. Medvedeva led going into the long program, and both skated flawlessly. Zagitova won by just a couple of points, but it could have easily gone the other way.

#3 Women's Hockey Gold: No hockey team has won gold medals in five straight Olympics. The Soviet Union tried to do it in 1980, but fell to the Miracle on Ice Americans in 1980. The Canadian women tried to do it in 2018 in Peyongchang, but fell to the Americans in a shootout. Team USA really didn't play all that well in the first two-and-a-half periods. But with six minutes to go, Monique Lamoureux scored to tie it 2-2. A scoreless, hard-fought 20-minute overtime followed, and then in the shootout, Lamoureux's twin-sister Jocelyne scored the goal that put Team USA ahead, and followed by goaltender Maddie Rooney's game-ending save on a shot by Canada's Meghan Acosta. So much drama in a bitter rivalry. You've never seen a team so upset to win a silver medal in your life.

#2 Men's Curling: Until now, curling had been an American novelty in the Olympics. It was actually part of the 1924 games, but no one in this country cared until the Vancouver games of 2010, and then it was mostly out of curiosity because the Canadians love it so much. Staying up til 1am to watch it live was tough, but the eighth end (kind of like an inning in baseball) netted 5 points for skip John Shuster and teammates Matt Hamilton, Tyler George, and John Landsteiner, and they beat Sweden 10-7. The quartet knocked off Canada in the semifinals, which was crazy all by itself. With proof that curling still hasn't fully 'arrived' in this country, The Independent reports that Delta Air Lines denied the team an upgrade on their flight home. Shuster, the team captain, makes his living working at a Dick's Sporting Goods in Minnesota.

#1 Ester Ledecka: It's not an American who takes the number one spot, but a Czech snowboarder-turned-skier-turned snowboarder again who as shocked as anyone that she won two gold medals in two different sports. The look of disbelief on her face when she won the Women's Super-G should be the face of the Winter Olympics for decades to come. Ledecka went down the mountain long after the top contenders, and NBC had already declared the race over. Ledecka's main sport is snowboarding, and she one the single-elimination competition to take gold in the Parallel Giant Slalom. Ledecka does speak English, and was later interviewed by NBC, and might even get a Delta upgrade if she ever decides to come to the States.

The United States won 23 medals at the Peyongchang games—9 gold, 8 silver, and 6 bronze. Although that seems to fall short of expectations, the nine golds is equal to the number they won in Sochi in 2014, and in Vancouver in 2010. Of the 23 medals, 10 were either in snowboarding or freestyle skiing. Three were in Alpine Skiing, two in Figure Skating, and two in sliding (Women's Bobsled, Men's Luge). Team USA also picked up a speed skating bronze in Women's Team Pursuit.

Happy belated Birthday to Jim Cole of Sebastopol. He turned the big 6-0 this week. I hope you celebrated in style!

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