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Top 10 Takeaways from the Pyeongchang 2018 Olympics

Another Olympics has come and gone and is my tradition (see 2016, 2014, 2010) here are some collected thoughts on the games. I’m not going to use one of my ten below to talk about NBC but suffice to say the coverage was generally pretty good and the 2018 iteration of the app is the best yet. But even though Mike Tirico is a generally affable dude, he is no Bob Costas and his light-hearted quips didn’t quite carry the gravity of the man, the myth, the legend. On to the sports!

10. Americans Are Really Good at Snowboarding

Six Freestyle Snowboarding events and Team USA took home 7 medals, winning gold in 4. Red Gerard got things started in the men’s Slopestyle which was followed up by Jamie Anderson in the women’s event. And then things really got crazy with Chloe Kim and Shaun White winning the half pipe events in dramatic fashion. Both were a ton of fun to watch for different reasons. The field has caught up to the now 31 Shaun White but he made it happen when it counted and won one of the most dramatic medals I can remember. Chloe Kim, on the other hand, is just as dominant in the sport as Shaun was when he was her tender age of 17. She really had no competition. It will be awesome to see if that holds true for the next quad.

9. The Russians are Still Russians

Perhaps the lasting effect of the IOC’s toothless punishment of the Russian’s systematic doping program from Sochi by requiring Russians to compete as “Olympic Athletes from Russia” is that now when we see the Olympic flag, we all think “Russians.” Prepare yourself for that joke to live on. But the façade had pretty much been dropped by games end with the OARs being referred to as Russians in the hockey final as if they had a flag on their uniform. It’s a sign of just what a sham it was. And the fact the only doping controversy at the games is surrounding the Bronze-winning Russian curler is all the more poetic. While my idea of having a Russian athlete draft never really picked up steam (wouldn’t it be great to see Alina Zagitova competing for the Costa Ricans?), the IOC needs to figure something out because you gotta be worried about the fact the next Winter games are back in China.

8. Pyeongchang was All Smiles

Was it just me or did it seem like the athletes competing in Pyeongchang had particularly vivacious grins? Perhaps it was the amazing South Korean spectators who seemed to cheer for each and every athlete. Regardless, I’ll remember those pearly whites whenever I think back on the 2018 games.

7. Closing Ceremony Tops the Pair

The Opening Ceremony ran a little long in the tooth, was a bit too filled with pre-taped materials, and featured some head-slapping international insensitivities. So perhaps surprisingly, the Closing Ceremony did not at all disappoint. The projection system on that floor was spectacular in all its psychedelic glory and the music was pretty cool for the most part. A perfect example of what the Closing did better than the Opening is the Intel drone display which was cool but felt so pre-taped (it was) in the Opening. The live movement in the Closing was astounding. This was all the more highlighted by the Beijing Games committee’s awful pre-taped hand off segment which was the Closing’s lowlight.

6. Sliding Sports are Tough

It’s interesting to see the idiosyncrasies of the scoring systems for different sports. Half Pipe is the best single score of three runs, while Big Air is the best two runs out of the three. Well the sliding sports (that’s Luge, Bobsled, Skeleton, etc.) have got to be the most ruthless in their scoring. Four runs over two days, with the total time all counting. Have one bad run out of four and your medal hopes are gone. So it’s all the more impressive that Chris Mazdzer won the USA men’s first ever Luge medal (a silver) and all the crazier that there were ties for gold in 2-man Bobsled and silver in 4-man. A quick word of praise for the Team Relay Luge where men, women, and doubles have to go one after another hitting a trigger at the bottom to launch the luger at the top. The more weird ways we can think of to combine events, the better in my book.

5. Nice That Figure Skating has a Consolation Prize

The Figure Skating Team event is not yet as prestigious as it’s summer counterpart, Gymnastics Team. But it sure is great they have it now as it gave all of the American figure skaters something to brag about after winning the bronze and then going on to stink up the joint in the individual events (save the Shibutani siblings who won an individual bronze as well). I know, I know, figure skating is hard. But it’s so clear that Alina Zagitova and Evgenia Medvedeva are a class above Mirai, Karen, and Bradie. And no matter how media savvy Adam Rippon is, he could never compete with Yuzuru Hanyu on the ice. Perhaps Nathan Chen could, but the pressure definitely got to him on the Pyeongchang ice. The USA needs to step up our game to get back to winning ways in individual Figure Skating.

4. Tough Break for America’s Most Successful* Olympic Alpine Skier

There was a gondola load of pressure on Mikaela Shiffrin to win any or all of the five Alpine events she was planning to compete in at Pyeongchang. She was right alongside Chloe Kim, Shaun White, and Nathan Chen in just about all of NBC’s marketing. But it’s really hard to win multiple ski races and the pressure she was under due to her domination on the World Cup circuit was probably a bit too much. We saw it in her performance at the last few World Cup events leading up to the games where she look tired and wasn’t on her A-game. The fact that the weather caused delays and rescheduled events certainly did not work to her favor. All of this is to say that her gold and silver in GS and Combined respectively should be seen as a big win for Mikaela. Go out and keep dominating and she’ll have more medals in her future no doubt.

*I did the math on this so hear me out. I think it’s important to point out that no American skier has ever won more than two gold medals in Olympic Alpine events. Bode Miller has the most medals total with six, but only one of those is gold. Julia Mancuso has four medals and Lindsay Vonn has three, but only one gold each. There are three US skiers with two gold medals: Mikaela, Andrea Mead-Lawrence (1952) and Ted Ligety. But both Ligety and Mead-Lawrence won no other medals aside from their two golds. Therefore, since Mikaela has a silver to go with her two golds, I think it is only fair to call her America’s most successful Olympic Alpine skier.

3. Excellent Hockey Capped with USA Win

Pyeongchang hosted two very entertaining hockey tournaments. There was a lot of noise made about the lack of NHL players for the men’s side, a fact that surely hurt the USA and Canada more than other countries. But it was still a lot of fun to see the youngsters out there with some veterans and it led to great matches. The USA just barely lost to Slovenia and then had a couple awesome wins over Slovakia. We should have been better against the Czechs but the day less rest took its toll. Clearly the Russians were the class of the men’s tourney but it was so cool to see that crazy charge by the Germans that inspired one of the best Olympics tweets ever. On the women’s side, it might have been destined from the get go that USA would play Canada for the gold. The fact they beat us in group play made that Gold Medal shootout win even sweeter. This is certainly one of the Olympics’ best rivalries.

2. USA Women Win First Ever Cross-Country Medal – and it’s GOLD

On day one or two of the Olympics, Katie Couric did an interview with the USA women’s Cross-Country team. Right away it was clear that Jessie Diggins, Kikkan Randall, and the other ladies of XC had something special. But Cross-Country Skiing is completely dominated by Europeans so it was a big win when Diggins finished 5th in the 10KM Freestyle event, the best ever result for US women. For Diggins and Randall to fight on to win the Team Sprint event a week later was absolutely mind blowing. And to do it in such dramatic fashion. Wow. It’s hard to overstate the feelings of pride for those women.

1. Shuster Magic!

Speaking of pride, that was a quality that was sorely lacking for USA skip John Shuster after his 2-win 9th place finish (of 10) at Sochi and his 2-win last place performance at Vanouver. After those Vancouver games, I called him a “choke artist” and his performance “despicable.” So I was suitably worried when I saw Shuster and his new merry band of outcast curlers win the USA trials last Fall. And the fact he got off to a 2 and 4 start made it seem like those worries were justified. What happened next is the stuff of Olympic storybooks. John Shuster, Tyler George, John Standsteiner, and Matt Hamilton (plus alternate Joe Polo, I guess) went on to win 3 must-win matches against power houses Canada, Switzerland, and Great Britain to make the semi-finals. Another win against Canada meant we were guaranteed a medal. And the hard-fought final against Sweden topped off with the FIVE POINT 8th end meant the USA were Olympic gold medalists. These men are God-damned American heroes. God bless you, John Shuster.

Posted by enderzero at 4:36pm on Feb. 26, 2018