In Search of Gold: A Summary of Pyeonchang 2018

By Gabbriella Kabler

The icy weather of the new year doesn’t just make for good snowmen and cozy hot chocolate—it also ushered in the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang County, South Korea.

This year’s Winter Olympics set out with international tension as North and South Korea entered the Opening Ceremony together under a unified Korean flag, showing unprecedented cooperation. In addition, Russian athletes struggled with drug scandal—due to the high number of past and present doping Russian athletes, the International Olympic Committee determined that all athletes competing for Russia would not compete under the Russian flag, but under an Olympic flag as the Olympic Athletes of Russia until two drug tests in the course of the Games were passed as clean. Unfortunately, the Olympic Athletes of Russia did not pass the drug tests and remained throughout the entire course of the Games under the Olympic flag. However, not long after the start of the games on February 9th, things settled into their regular rhythm.

Team USA had professional athletes in many events including various types of skiing, bobsled, luge, and figure skating. The first five of Team USA’s gold medals were won in snowboarding, and at the beginning of the week the team’s prospects were good.

However, as of February 19th, nine days into competition, Team USA was not performing as well as expected. Team USA earned five gold, three silver, and two bronze medals, yielding a total of ten. By comparison, Team USA had earned a total of 16 medals at the same time in the 2014 Winter Olympics. In Pyeongchang Team USA was far behind Norway (28), Germany (20), Canada (17), and the Netherlands (13), respectively. The Olympic Athletes of Russia maintained a small lead on the US, with eight bronze and three silver medals. Austria, Japan and France remained tied with the US at ten total medals.  

[Infographic by Tasha Peterson]

USA Today noted that the initial scoring for Team USA did not achieve its expected potential as several promising athletes supplied weak performances in their events.

Nathan Chen in figure skating detrimentally missed a complicated jump in the men’s singles, moving him out of the placement running.

Mikaela Shriffin, stand-out winner of the slalom in the 2014 Winter Olympics, won gold on the giant slalom, but surprisingly placed only fourth in the women’s slalom this year, and pulled out of the super-giant slalom as well as the women’s downhill.

Though the medal count for Team USA was lower than expected at the beginning, the performances of many stand-out athletes were well worth the watch. Some of the most astounding included the achievements of Chris Mazdzer with a silver in the luge, and snowboarders Shaun White and Chloe Kim, both gold medalists in the initial weeks of the games.

Team USA seemed far behind, but reached a turning point on February 20th. From the 20th to the 21st, Team USA won medals in speed skating, cross country skiing, bobsledding, women’s snowboarding, and, perhaps most significantly, women’s ice hockey. Team USA played Canada, and brought home their first gold in the event after twenty years. The match was tense as Team USA sat one goal below Canada with seven minutes left. The game went into overtime and finished with several rounds of shootouts until Team USA’s Jocelyne Lamoureux-Davidson hit the winning goal, placing the score at 3-2.

David Wise and Alex Ferreira placed in the ski halfpipe, taking gold and silver respectively in two triumphs at the close of the week. These gains brought Team USA to a total of 19 medals and fourth place overall, displacing the Netherlands. Despite the gains of Team USA, Germany and Canada remained in front with 24 and 21 medals consecutively.

By the 24th, international tension and the anticipation for the final results were high. Team USA was sitting steadily, not far behind Canada in third. However, the US was unable to make any increase by the last day of the Games, remaining in fourth place.

Despite their disappointments, the team ended with a total of 23 medals, nine of those in gold. In third, Canada finished with 29, 11 gold, Germany was second with 31, 14 gold, and Norway took first with 39 and 14 gold. Team USA fought hard, pulling themselves up from their initial losses. However, accidents have consequences, and the setbacks Team USA experienced were too much for the team to overcome in the end.

The 2018 Pyeongchang Games will remain an event remembered by both its great victories and difficult disappointments. Though overall many athletes performed less satisfactorily than desired, there were many young athletes who achieved above their predicted results. Their successes this Winter Olympics are promising for future triumph, and Team USA can eagerly look forward to the Beijing Olympics of 2022.

Gabbriella Kabler is a freshman Chemistry major and an off-campus writer for Cedars. She takes joy in big questions, fresh air, and fluffy kittens. 

The Associated Press contributed to this story.

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