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After mesmerizing sports fans worldwide for 16 days, the 2018 PyeongChang Olympics drew to a close on February 25 with a spectacular light show, featuring 300 Intel drones and K-Pop music. While Team USA, which had the fourth highest medal count with 23 in total, saw virtuosic performances from all its 241 athletes, it was female competitors like 17-year-old snowboarder Chloe Kim that shone the brightest. For the first time in 20 years, American women, who won five of the nine gold medals and thirteen overall, secured more medals than their male counterparts.
Mikaela Shiffrin – Giant Slalom
Mikaela Shiffrin is no stranger to making history. At just 18 years and 345 days, she became the youngest slalom champion in Olympic history at the 2014 Sochi games. The 22-year-old prodigy, who also has 41 World cup victories under her belt, added to her stellar career last week with a second Olympic gold in the giant slalom and a silver in the combined event. However, the superstar, who is “over the moon” with the wins, is not one to rest on her laurels – she is already setting her sights for an even more spectacular showing at the 2022 Winter Games in Beijing. For those not familiar with the sport, slalom is an alpine skiing discipline that involves skiing between sets of poles, or gates, spaced at a distance. The combined event is similar, except it entails one run of downhill skiing and one run of slalom.
Jamie Anderson — Snowboard Slopestyle
Self-proclaimed free spirit Jamie Anderson had a lot to celebrate after the women’s snowboard slopestyle final on February 12. The 27-year-old is not only the first female snowboarder to win multiple gold medals at the Olympics, but also the only one to ever win them in this event. Snowboard slopestyle, which debuted at the 2014 Sochi Olympics, requires competitors to snowboard down a course that is laden with a variety of obstacles such as rails and jumps. The more tricks they can perform using these features, the higher the score. Anderson, who attributes her success to meditating, yoga, and green juices, also took home the silver in big air. As the name indicates, the event, added to the games for the first time this year, requires competitors to slide down a 49-meter-tall ramp that curls up at the end. This launches the athletes high into the air, allowing them to perform heart-stopping tricks before landing back gracefully on the snow.
Kikkan Randall and Jessica Diggins — Cross Country Skiing
Kikkan Randall and Jessica Diggins have won numerous medals, both as a team and individually. In 2013, the freestyle skiers won gold at the world championships, the first ever for the United States in the team sprint event. At the 2017 world championships, Diggins and Randall brought home the silver and gold, respectively, in the individual sprint event. Diggins, who was partnered with Sadie Bjornsen, also won the bronze that year in the team sprint. However, despite their impressive achievements, Randall and Diggins were not the favorites to win the gold at the event, which is dominated by Sweden and Norway. The grueling race requires team members to take turns skiing three 1.25 kilometer treks. Even more challenging is that the semifinals and finals are held about an hour apart, which means that each athlete has to complete a total of six sprints with little recovery time.
But on February 21, Diggins, who was the final skier, managed to edge out her competitor in a heart-stopping finale and complete the rigorous course in 56.47 seconds, just 0.19 seconds ahead of runner-up Sweden. This was not just the first Olympic gold medal for the US in the team sprint event, but also the first one in a cross-country skiing race. America’s only other accolade in the sport is Bill Koch’s silver medal at the 1976 Winter Olympics in Innsbruck, Austria. The win was particularly special for Randall given that it is her fifth and final Olympics, her first gold medal, and most importantly, her first medal since her son Breck was born in April 2016.
Women’s Hockey Team
After being beaten by long-time rivals Canada in the past two Olympics finals, the US women’s hockey team was determined to bring home the gold this year. Following a tense three 20-minute periods which resulted in a 2-2 tie, the game went into overtime. However, unlike Sochi, where the Canadians snuck in a sudden-death goal to take home the gold, the extra time proved fruitless for both teams, forcing them into a penalty shootout. As was the case in the regular game, both teams scored two goals apiece. When Jocelyne Lamoureux-Davidson upped the score to 3 in favor of the US, fans from both sides watched with bated breath to see if her Canadian counterpart could match it. However, US goaltender Maddie Rooney deftly defended the puck from Meghan Agosta, giving the Americans their first gold medal since Women’s ice hockey was introduced to the Olympics in 1989. Following the historic win, US forward Hilary Knight said, “It’s going to be part of our legacy. The things we have gone through together on and off the ice, the characters, the group of women we have in this room, it’s quite incredible.”
Congratulations to these outstanding women and to all the other Olympic athletes who represented their respective countries with such dignity and pride. We salute each and every one of you!
Resources: time.com, cbssports.com,wikipedia.org,npr.org