Final Day Drama

Pyeongchang 2018 Review of Day 16

Agnes Knochenhauer

There was great excitement in all of the last four events to be decided. In curling, the Garlic Girls, from the garlic-growing region of Uiseong in South Korea, had huge home support, but were outplayed by Sweden in the final. It was a second Olympic medal for Agnes Knochenhauer (above) also part of the Swedish team which won silver in Sochi.

Having defeated Sweden and Canada, Germany nearly had another ice hockey miracle against the Olympic Athletes from Russia. It led 3-2 with a power play in its favour until the end of a match. But OAR scored while still a man down, and then again in overtime.

Marit Bjoergen destroyed the field in 30km cross country. With 15 medals, she is the most decorated Winter Olympian by every measure, but the scale of her victory hints that she  could do a Michael Phelps, and return in 2022 to put the issue beyond doubt.

Another member of Team World, Won Yunjong of South Korea, went again in the four-man bob and won silver, behind Fransesco Friedrich, who completed a personal double and a German sweep of the bobsleigh golds. If Won’s medal is credited to Team World (although the two-man event was the focus), the overall tally is seven golds, two silvers and four bronze medals, despite disappointment for Elise Christie and Martins Dukurs.

With the Games over, it is time to look into the future, and ask what trends might have been anticipated in the results. I predict that Asia will become a hotbed for curling, that Canada will one day challenge Germany for luge supremacy, and that New Zealand will regularly collect medals, like other well-funded programmes in both Great Britain and Australia. However, with a ruthless unfunded approach, the US will continue to decline.

With that, the blog is closing down once again. I hope you enjoyed reading it. Goodbye!

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Ester at the Double

Pyeongchang 2018 Review of Day 15

2017 Audi FIS Ski Weltcup Garmisch-Partenkirchen Damen - Ester Ledecka - by 2eight - 8SC0528

Her gold medal in the Super G earlier in the week was an enormous surprise, but Ester Ledecka of the Czech Republic (above) was the favourite for the parallel giant slalom in snowboarding. She promptly took the gold, and so the first athlete to compete in both skiing and snowboarding also became the first to win Olympic titles in both disciplines.

Nevin Galmarini won the men’s competition in a brilliant day for Switzerland, in which it also won the first ever Alpine skiing team event, beating its perennial rival, Austria.

World champion Joey Mantia, of the United States and Team World, finished ninth in another new event, the speed skating mass start. The gold went to Lee Seung-Hoon of South Korea, with a rare silver for Belgium from Bart Swings. Japan took the women’s title with Nana Takagi, and there were also Asian breakthroughs in four-man bobsleigh, where South Korea lies second, and women’s curling, where Japan clinched the bronze.

In men’s curling, the US team was victorious, joining Jessie Diggins and about a third of the women’s ice hockey team as gold medallists from Minnesota. Sebastian Toutant of Canada claimed a win in snowboarding big air, while the 50km cross country was won by Iivo Niskanen of Finland, as the much diminshed Winter Olympic power narrowly avoided a gold medal drought. There are just four events to be completed tomorrow.

Goodbye Old Guard

Pyeongchang 2018 Review of Day 14

2016 Grand Prix of Figure Skating Final Alina Zagitova IMG 3223

In fact, Evgenia Medvedeva is only 18 but the longtime Olympic favourite has already been eclipsed by a younger skater, for this year at least, her compatriot Alina Zagitova (above), as Olympic Athletes from Russia claimed gold and silver. It was a controversial result for some, because Zagitova’s moves are technically more difficult but rather less aesthetically pleasing than those of her rival, the price of an objective scoring system.

I wrote on Wednesday that Germany’s ice hockey defeat of Sweden had cleared a path to the final for Canada. However, the Germans did not agree with this assessment and so proceeded to knock Canada out of the tournament, and reach the final themselves.

The Netherlands recovered their speed skating mojo as Kjeld Nuis won the 1000m, his second gold of 2018. But even here, there were signs of an emergent new guard, with Norway in second, South Korea third and Japan fifth. Joey Mantia of Ocala, the United States, and Team World just missed a medal in fourth, but goes again in the mass start.

Sweden took the men’s biathlon relay, to deny Martin Fourcade another medal, while Kelsey Serwa won the ski cross for Canada’s fourth freestyle skiing gold of the Games.

Rolling Back the Years

Pyeongchang 2018 Review of Day 13

HilaryKnight

It was a day in which a number of countries broke long droughts, and the United States, featuring Hilary Knight (above), did so in ice hockey, winning the perennial gold medal final with Canada for the first time since 1998, although it needed a shootout to do so.

For Team World, snowboarder Zoi Sadowski-Synnott took bronze in the first ever big air competition at the Olympics, behind Austria’s Anna Gasser. In doing so, she became New Zealand’s first Winter medallist since 1992, but it took less than two hours for the Kiwis to win their next, which came from Nico Porteous in the freestyle skiing halfpipe.

The most astonishing result of all came in short track speed skating, where the men’s relay was won by Hungary, which has previously only won medals in ice skating, mainly in the 30s, 40s and 50s, and with the last coming in 1980. It was its first ever gold, and gave some consolation to Elise Christie whose boyfriend is part of the Hungarian team.

South Korea failed to add to its gold medal tally, as Suzanne Schulting claimed the first title for Netherlands in the short track version of the sport, and China, which will host the next Winter Olympics in Beijing, won a first gold of the Games through Wu Dajing.

In Alpine skiing, Andre Myhrer completed a double for Sweden in the slalom events, as Marcel Hirscher crashed out, and Myhrer also became the first Swedish man to collect gold since the great Ingemar Stenmark. In the combined, Mikaela Shiffrin had to settle for a silver behind Michelle Gisin of Switzerland, but already has three career medals.

Germany’s Nordic combined team skied away with what was surprisingly its first title.

North American Dreams

Pyeongchang 2018 Review of Day 12

Kikkan Randall20180128 FIS NC WC Seefeld Jesscia Diggins 850 3411

There were headlines galore in the women’s cross country team sprint. Kikkan Randall (above left) and Jessica Diggins (above right) took gold to give the United States its first medal in the sport, in what has otherwise been a disappointing Games for the country.

Norway won bronze in the same race, and Marit Bjoergen, who was not even certain to be picked, broke her compatriot Ole Einar Bjoerndalen’s record, with a Winter Olympic tally of 14 medals. She could increase her total to 15 on Sunday in the mass start event.

Norway added gold medals to its list in the men’s team sprint and, in speed skating, the men’s team pursuit, where it knocked out the Netherlands in the semi-finals. The force which has recently been dominant lost again in the women’s pursuit, this time to Japan.

Germany also added a gold, through Mariama Jamanka and Lisa Buckwitz in bobsleigh, but still seems to be letting Norway run away with top spot in the medal table. Lindsey Vonn won a third Olympic medal with bronze in the downhill and Sofia Goggia of Italy stood on top of the podium. Liechtenstein’s Tina Weirather missed out, in fourth place.

Apart from Bjoergen and Weirather, the only other members of Team World in action were Finland’s men’s ice hockey team, who were sadly knocked out by Canada, unlike Finland’s women, who secured a bronze. Meanwhile, Sweden’s men were shocked by Germany in overtime, easing Canada’s path to the final, even without its NHL players.

Despite its curling rink skipped by Rachel Homan being eliminated, it was a successful day for Canada, in which Brady Leman won the ski cross. Canada is on track to be third in the medal table, and win even more medals than when it hosted the Games in 2010.

The Five Medal Club

Pyeongchang 2018 Review of Day 11

FIS NordicCombined WorldCup 65

There was a German 1-2-3 in the Nordic Combined large hill event, in which the triple world champion Johannes Rydzek (above) took gold. Meanwhile, Eric Frenzel finished third, to give him a career total of five Olympic medals, with a team event still to come.

Even more historic was Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir’s fifth gold, a figure skating record. The ice dance event is sure to go down as the greatest ever, as Gabriella Papadakis and Guilaume Cizeron won silver, and the leading teams both gave stunning performances, each breaking a world record, despite their very contrasting styles. The Canadian pair, also members of Team World, can now be ranked at the same level as Torvill and Dean.

For another Team Worlder, Martin Fourcade, it was his fifth gold medal, and a seventh overall, as part of the French team which won the mixed biathlon relay. Germany took an early lead, set up well by Laura Dahlmeier, chasing her own fourth medal, but Arnd Peiffer missed too many shots on the final leg and Germany finished out of the medals.

Also unlucky was Elise Christie, who struggled with injury in order to compete, only to be disqualified yet again. She has had her last chance of the Games, but will doubtless return in Beijing. South Korea won the relay, giving Choi Min-Jeong a second gold, but it is entirely conceivable that she will one day reach five, with the 1000m still to come.

South Korea nearly shocked Finland’s men in the ice hockey, pulling back from 3-0 to 3-2 but Finland eventually emerged 5-2 victors. In the freestyle skiing halfpipe, Cassie Sharpe won gold, to complete a successful day for Canada as the leading medal nation.

Germany v Norway Part 3

Pyeongchang 2018 Review of Day 10

Francesco Friedrich

In a quiet day at the Games, only three events were decided, and the two medal leaders won three golds. One other country got a look in, but only because Francesco Friedrich of Germany (above) shared his two-man bob title with Justin Kripps of Canada.  Latvia took the bronze medal while Won Yun-jong of South Korea and Team World was sixth.

Norway claimed its first speed skating crown for twenty years, as Havard Holmefjord Lorentzen was victorious in the 500m. Meanwhile, the Netherlands failed to medal for the second event in a row, and with the mass start events equally unpromising for the Dutch, they now seem unlikely to match their absurd degree of domination from Sochi.

The two rivals were pitted together in team ski jumping, with Germany being the more favoured of them. But Norway defied the odds to turn back the clock again, reversing a trend in which ski jumping prowess has shifted towards Central Europe.  It was the top nation at the Games in the sport for the first time since 1964. Poland took the bronze.

Team Worlders set themselves up for future events, with Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir of Canada leading the field in the ice dance short programme, with a new world record, and New Zealand’s Zoi Sadowski-Synnott qualifying for the snowboarding big air final.

Marvellous Marcel

Pyeongchang 2018 Review of Day 9

Alpine skiing at the 2018 Winter Olympics – Men's giant slalom - Hirscher

Marcel Hirscher needed an Olympic gold medal to elevate him to the pantheon of the greatest skiers, and he now has two, after adding giant slalom to his Alpine combined title from last week, with his margin of victory being almost a second and a half. If he wins the slalom on Thursday, he will enter the stratosphere, alongside those previous triple winners, his Austrian predecessor Toni Sailer, and Jean-Claude Killy of France.

Already in the same bracket as Killy is Martin Fourcade of Team World, for whom gold in the mass start in biathlon was his fourth Olympic title, one more than his illustrious compatriot. Finland’s ice hockey team did less well, losing to Sweden in a hard-fought contest for a bye to the quarter-finals. Instead, a play-off against South Korea awaits.

Among the non-traditional nations which topped podiums yesterday was Japan, for whom Yuzuru Hanyu overcame his injury problems to retain his figure skating title. It doubled its tally today when Nao Kodaira claimed victory in the 500m speed skating.

Otherwise the winter sport giants reasserted themselves, especially Norway, which won in freestyle skiing slopestyle and the men’s cross country relay. It is now equal with Germany in gold medals and, with more silvers, it leads the medal table overall.

On the other hand, Germany is pushing back in bobsleigh, where it holds 1st, 3rd and 5th place overnight in the men’s two-man. South Korea, on behalf of Team World, was disadvantaged by the initial running order, but improved on the second run to lie 9th.

 

 

Out of the Shadows

Pyeongchang 2018 Review of Day 8

Lizzy Yarnold 2017 Lake Placid WC (1 of 3)

Today was the day for the non-traditional nations to appear on the Winter Olympic stage. In skeleton, Lizzy Yarnold of Great Britain (above) retained her title, while her compatriot Laura Deas won bronze, the fifth different British woman to win a medal since the event was introduced to the Games in 2002. In freestyle skiing slopestyle, Izzy Atkin also came third, behind Sarah Hoefflin of established power Switzerland.

Sadly, Elise Christie did not contribute to the British haul, failing to complete an event for the fifth time. If she recovers from injury, she will have a sixth chance on Thursday.

Another Team World member, Tina Weirather, tried to add Liechtenstein to the list of unorthodox countries. But while Liechtenstein has won skiing golds before, the Czech Republic has not, and so Ester Ledecka’s victory in Super G was even more unexpected. Weirather took bronze, and Ledecka will compete later in the Games in snowboarding.

Not to be outdone by their neighbour, Slovakia won biathlon gold through Anastasiya Kuzmina, while Poland and Kamil Stoch retained their title in the large hill ski jumping.

In cross country skiing, the women’s relay was one of the highlights of Sochi, and it was again, but the dominating forces and Norway of Sweden stayed in command. This time, Norway took the honours, as Marit Bjoergen accelerated away from Stina Nilsson over the final leg, to claim a 13th career medal. She started her quest for the all-time record of 14 in the first event of these Games, and will finish it in the last, the 30km mass start.

Home Town Sliders

Pyeongchang 2018 Review of Day 7

LG전자, ‘스켈레톤’ 국가대표팀 공식 후원 윤성빈

It was a good day for the hosts as South Korea won its second gold of the Games, and its first ever Winter Olympic medal outside of skating. Yun Sungbin (above) stood on top of the podium, while Martins Dukurs of Latvia and Team World narrowly missed out on a medal. His mistake in the final run echoed a similar error from 2010, meaning that the greatest skeleton slider of all time is unlikely ever to claim an Olympic crown.

Dom Parsons of Great Britain took a surprising bronze, while the first two runs of the women’s competition suggest that Team GB’s record in that event could also continue.

In the Alpine skiing, Matthias Mayer of Austria added the Super G to his downhill gold from Sochi, but Mikaela Shiffrin of the United States failed to retain her slalom title, as victory went instead to Frida Hansdotter of Sweden. There was more disappointment for Lindsey Jacobellis in the snowboard cross. Like Dukurs, she finished fourth in what might have been her last chance for gold, and the champion was Michela Moioli of Italy.

Two contrasting countries won their first golds of 2018. Dario Cologna won the 15km cross country title, for the winter sports power of Switzerland. Belarus is not a winter sports power, except in freestyle skiing aerials, where Hanna Huskova was victorious.

Finland’s men’s ice hockey team hit five for the second match in a row, against Norway.