Two weeks ago we gave you a basic beginner’s guide to understanding the Winter Olympics. We look back over some of the talking points of the 2018 Games and reflect on a selections of the big moments and star performers.
Heroes of 2018
Lizzie Yarnold – Women’s Skeleton champion Lizzie Yarnold became the first ever British athlete to retain a Winter Olympic gold medal. Having stormed her event in Sochi in 2014, Lizzie was the Team GB flag-bearer in Pyeongchang and hopes of another British gold medal lay on her shoulders. Yarnold set the track record for women's skeleton at the Olympic venue in the final heat of the race with a time of 51.46 seconds, besting Jacqueline Lölling's pre-Olympic record by nearly 1.3 seconds and her own first-heat record by 0.2 seconds. Britain’s golden girl has been immortalised in sporting history.
Redmond Gerard – At just 17, American snowboarder Red Gerard is the first Winter Olympic champion to be born this millennium and also he also became the youngest snowboarder to ever win a medal at the Olympics. His thrilling gold in the Slopestyle Snowboarding event came after missing his alarm clock wake-up causing a mad rush to get ready for the final, apparently because he was watching Netflix too late the previous night. Too cool for school!
Ester Ledecká – An accomplished snowboarder having won gold in recent world championship events, you’d be forgiven in thinking that Ester Ledecka winning an event at Pyeongchang wouldn’t be that remarkable. Only her gold medal wasn’t in snowboarding, it was in the Super-G Alpine Skiing! Her shock victory took broadcasters by surprise, their graphics having given the gold to Austria’s defending Olympic champion Anna Veith. In one of the biggest upsets in recent times Ledecka beat Veith by 0.01 seconds and secured a rare skiing gold for the Czech Republic.
Alexander Krushelnitsky – You normally associate performance enhancing drugs with high-energy, power events and endurance sports where the body needs to keep going for longer and harder – but this failed drugs test surprised many as it was from competitor in the Curling – quite a calm and strategic sport. Russian curler Alexander Krushelnitsky was stripped of his Winter Olympics bronze medal after being found guilty of doping. The 25-year-old was one of 168 Russians allowed to compete as neutrals at the Games despite the country being banned for previous doping offences. This won’t have done the country’s reputation any good at all.
Heart-aches of 2018
Elise Christie – One of the fastest women in the world in her sport of short track speed-skating and winner of several major championships, Britain’s Elise Christie was a strong medal favourite in her two events at Pyeongchang. She first came to prominence in 2014 in Sochi where she reached the final of the 500m, only to be disqualified harshly after a collision with another athlete. Soon after the final she competed in the heats for the 1500m event but was disqualified for not officially crossing the finishing line. Then came the 1000m event where she cruised to the quarter final after winning her heat, but another collision and another disqualification was to thwart Christie’s attempts. Having suffered online abuse for her infringement of South Korea’s athlete in Sochi and having to cope with a triple dose of disappointment she was back determined to win in Pyeongchang.
Christie was on top form in her 500m heats and quarter final, breaking Olympic records along the way. Having reached the final it was time for the unlucky Brit to vanquish her demons, however it wasn’t to be. She crashed out of the 500m final as Netherlands’ Yara Van Kerkhof's skate clipped her hand when Van Kerkhof was under-taking her; Christie finished fourth while Van Kerkhof took silver. In the 1500m event, Christie finished first in her heat but crashed out of her semi-final race in a collision with China’s Li Jinyu, for which she was disqualified. Christie was taken to hospital with an injury to her right ankle, putting her participation in the 1000m event in doubt. In her last chance for a medal, she reached the quarter final, but was carried off the track in pain by her coach, unable to continue in the 1000m. Elise Christie has vowed to return for the 2022 Olympics in Beijing, for anyone following her story I’m sure they’ll be in for a nerve-shredding time and will be willing her to realise her dream, lets hope there will be tears of joy next time.
Nathan Chen – American figure skater and double US national champion Nathan Chen came into the games in top form and had been impressing fans and judges alike. Preparation for his first Winter Olympics was perfect and some journalists were claiming he was "on the verge of becoming the best figure skater alive." Hot favourite for gold, the pressure perhaps became the better of him, during his performance in the men's short programme, he fell, on all of his jumps. The series of falls left him in 17th place. At just 18 years old though, he’ll have a chance to fulfil his Olympic potential in years to come.
Women’s Ice Hockey Final, USA v Canada –The United States women’s hockey team ended Canada’s gold medal streak in dramatic fashion. Scoring took a while to get off the mark, with the US team breaking the deadlock at the very end of the first period. Canada responded well in the second, with an early goal from Haley Irwin followed by Marie-Philip Poulin’s strike to make it 2-1 to Canada. It wasn’t until late in the third period when the USA scored again with a goal from Monique Lamoureux-Morando. Tied 2-2 after the over time phase it was time for the goaltenders to shine. Deadlock broken again when Lamoureux-Davidson broke through, faking Szabados out of position and putting the puck into the back of the net.
That set the stage for Rooney, the Olympic debutante who made 29 saves over 80 minutes of regulation and overtime, whose save of Agosta’s shot sealed a long-awaited victory for the United States over their northern neighbours. The United States outshot Canada by a 42-31 margin, claiming a dramatic gold.
Martin Fourcade, 15km Biathlon – Frenchman Martin Fourcade, 29, had to settle for 15km silver at the past two Olympics, losing out to Norway's Emil Hegle Svendsen in a photo finish in 2014. The pair had an identical time and the same happened again for Fourcade in Pyeongchang, when he lunged for the line with Germany's Simon Schempp. But this time Fourcade secured gold, with Svendsen finishing in third. Fourcade actually thought he had been denied the 15km gold yet again as he watched Schempp's ski cross the line before slamming one of his poles into the snow in frustration. But the photo finish revealed he crossed millimetres ahead of the 29-year-old German – amazing for an event over such a long distance, giving Fourcade his fourth Olympic gold medal, making him France’s most successful Olympian of all-time.
The 2018 Winter Olympics closing ceremony is on Sunday 25th starting at 11am UK time.