Germany v Norway Part 2

Pyeongchang 2018 Review of Day 6

Johannes Thingnes Bø 02

The big headlines came in the Alpine skiing competition, which overcame its stuttery weather-delayed start to provide two dramatic events in one day. Mikaela Shiffrin of Team USA took gold in the giant slalom, and more are likely to follow at these Games.

The men’s downhill was won by Aksel Lund Svindal of Norway, which was one of three titles claimed by his countrymen. Johannes Thingnes Boe (above) claimed victory in the 20km biathlon, which was surprisingly his first Olympic medal after numerous global successes. He was helped by two late missed shots by Martin Fourcade of Team World.

In the 10km cross country skiing, Ragnhild Haga beat Charlotte Kalla of Sweden, and compatriot and Team World member, Marit Bjoergen. Bjoergen’s bronze was the 12th medal of her career, keeping her on course to beat the all-time Winter Olympic record.

Despite all this success, Norway barely made a dent in Germany’s lead at the top of the medal table, because it had two golden performances of its own, in luge relay and pairs skating. Ironically, neither of its pair Savchenko and Massot had been born in Germany.

Another birthplace conundrum surrounds Ted-Jan Bloemen, who beat Sven Kramer in the 10,000m in speed skating. Bloemen skates for Canada, and the 100% record of the Netherlands is officially no more, although he is a product of the Dutch system himself.

Elsewhere for Team World, medal chances remain for Finland’s men, who won 5-2 in their first ice hockey match against Germany, and Martins Dukurs of Latvia, in bronze medal position in skeleton. The elusive gold seems unlikely but a third silver is still on.


Here We Go Again

Pyeongchang 2018 Review of Day 5

Shaun White 2008 (cropped)

In contrast to the surprises of Sunday in particular, today was a day in which everything went to plan. Shaun White (above) won a record third Olympic halfpipe title, taking the United States further ahead of its rivals, having won all four snowboarding golds so far.

The Netherlands extended its dominant speed skating run, with Jorien ter Mors taking its fifth crown of these Games and its seventh in a row, including two victories in Sochi.

Germany resumed its preeminence in luge, so rudely interrupted by Austria, as the two Tobaises, Wendl and Arlt, retained their doubles title. Meanwhile, in Nordic Combined, Eric Fenzel also repeated his result from four years ago, with yet another German gold.

And that was it – just four events decided in a day affected by weather – with only one Alpine skiing event having been completed so far. It would be tempting to say that the weather was the only unpredictable feature of the day, but the terrible conditions are  such a feature of the Pyeongchang Games that even that has become predictable too.

The Long Wait

Pyeongchang 2018 Review of Day 4

Arianna Fontana torino2006

In 2006, a 15-year-old Arianna Fontana of Italy won her first Olympic medal (above). But despite endless success at world and, especially European level, an Olympic gold has eluded her, until today, when she finally became the 500m short track champion.

It is of course devastating for Elise Christie of Great Britain and Team World, who had yet another crash and finished fourth, but there is optimism to be taken from Fontana’s victory. Christie is clearly more than talented enough to claim gold and if, like Fontana, she persists, it is difficult to believe that she will not do so, perhaps as soon as Saturday.

Also long overdue an Olympic title was Marcel Hirscher of Austria, whose gold in the combined was the first in an Alpine event in the Games, due to the weather conditions. Now the ski racing will start to come thick and fast, and so he may well add to his tally.

Someone whose wait for gold has been shorter is 17-year-old American snowboarder, Chloe Kim, whose halfpipe score was nearly 10 points ahead of her rivals. Shaun White was just as impressive in qualification for his final, as Team USA continues to dominate.

The individual sprints took place in cross country skiing, and Sweden’s women won yet again through Stina Nilsson. Johannes Hoesflot Klaebo took the men’s title for Norway.

In the luge, Natalie Geisenberger succeeded where Felix Loch failed in repeating Sochi success, with a first ever Canadian medal for Alex Gough. There is evidence that, with facilities and investment, North America is gradually stating to catch up with Germany.

Sheep and Goats

Pyeongchang 2018 Review of Day 3

Women's 3000m, 2014 Winter Olympics, Ireen Wust

In the 1500m, Ireen Wust (above) made history with her tenth medal in speed skating, a record, and her fifth gold. Of the three speed skating events decided so far, six of the nine medal winners have been Dutch, with one of the three others being Dutch-born.

The women’s slopestyle final was spoiled by windy conditions and probably should not have taken place. But the freak weather did not produce a freak result, and the testing conditions brought the best to the fore, as American Jamie Anderson retained her title.

In ski jumping, the strategy of skipping World Cups to focus upon Olympic training was tested by Carina Vogt of Team World. It has worked so well for Charlotte Kalla in cross country but, on this occasion, frequent competition won the day, as the overall World Cup leader, Maren Lundby, was the victor in this particular Germany v Norway contest.

There was better news for Team World in figure skating, where Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir helped Canada to team gold, for a fourth career medal each. This ties the record for the sport, which they have the chance to beat in the ice dance competition. Martin Fourcade of France redeemed his sprint performance to claim gold in biathlon pursuit.

But the star of the Games could be another biathlete, Germany’s Laura Dahlmeier, who won five golds and a silver at the 2017 World Championships. With triumphs so far in both the sprint and the pursuit, a similar set of results looks to be a very real possibility.



Day of Shocks

Pyeongchang 2018 Review of Day 2

2017-02-24 David Gleirscher by Sandro Halank–3

Before today, Austrian luger David Gleirscher (above) had never stood on a World Cup podium – he is now an Olympic champion – and that was not even the biggest surprise. Chris Mazdzer achieved a rare silver for the United States and, most extraordinarily of all, Felix Loch of Germany, who had been an enormous favourite, and had been leading the competition from the second run, failed to medal after a major error in his final run.

Another American upset more favourites as 17-year-old Red Gerard beat Max Parrot and Mark McMorris in the snowboard slopestyle, while Justine Dufour-Lapointe, also of Canada, also lost to a teenager, Perrine Laffont of France, in freestyle skiing moguls.

Martin Fourcade of France (and Team World), and T J Boe of Norway, both missed far too many shots in biathlon sprint, and also missed out on medals, helping Arnd Peiffer of Germany to victory. It was less unexpected that Team World’s curling mixed doubles pair from China was eliminated, but no less disappointing. They made the playoff with a convincing win over Norway, only to capitulate to the same opponents just hours later.

If normality seemed under threat, there were moments of reassuring predictability, as Sven Kramer of the Netherlands completed the three in a row which Felix Loch missed, with gold in the 5000m speed skating.  Norway managed a sweep in the cross country skiathlon although, even here, the manner in which Simen Hegstad Krueger achieved his victory was somewhat unorthodox, having crashed in the earlier stages of the race.

Germany v Norway Part 1

Pyeongchang 2018 Review of Day 1

Robert Johansson

Many bookmakers had Norway as favourites to top the medal table, despite the fact that Germany is ahead in recent Games – leading 53 golds to 45 in the overall twenty year medal table. It looks set to be another battle between these two countries again and, if the first day is anything to go by, Germany still has the edge, although only just.

The first round of the ski jump normal hill was led by two Poles, Stefan Hula and Kamil Stoch, but it was then Germany v Norway. The striking moustached Robert Johansson (above), took the lead but Andreas Wallinger of Germany overhauled him, and stayed ahead of the Poles. Another Norwegian, Johann Andre Forfang, took the silver medal.

In the biathlon sprint, it was also German gold and Norwegian silver. Laura Dahlmeier defeated Marte Olsbu, and Dahlmeier could win many more medals in Pyeongchang, while Germany looks set for more gold as Felix Loch leads the luge singles at halfway.

In the cross country skiathlon, Charlotte Kalla put in another incredible performance, akin to the Swedish victory in the relay four years ago. Marit Bjoergen claimed silver to become the most decorated female Winter Olympian, with other records in her sights.

It was a positive day for the other members of Team World. The Chinese pair in mixed doubles curling started the day with 1 victory in 4, but beat both the United States and Finland to give itself the possibility of a medal. Elise Christie safely negotiated the first round of the 500m short track speed skating, with the next round to come on Tuesday.

Historical Medal Table for Speed Skating

Rolling Twenty Year Medal Table

Volendam houdt schaatswedstrijden, Bestanddeelnr 901-9888

The romantic view of Dutch speed skating is of racing on frozen canals. And there was some truth to this idea until the twentieth century. The Netherlands had the first world champion in 1893, but its early Olympic performances lagged far behind Scandinavia.

As global temperatures rose, it became harder for the Dutch to compete on natural ice, forcing them to skate on artificial rinks. But then, in the 1960s, artificial ice became the norm for international competition. A former disadvantage had become an advantage.

The Netherlands has not looked back. It still has more indoor speed skating rinks than any other country. The Dutch monitor the temperature patiently each year, hoping to hold the Elfstedentocht, a 200km race on frozen canals, rivers and lakes, but it has not been run since 1997. Now they get their excitement from medals won on indoor rinks.

  • 1924 – 1940 Norway
  • 1928 – 1944 Norway
  • 1932 – 1948 Norway
  • 1936 – 1952 Norway
  • 1940 – 1956 Norway
  • 1944 – 1960 Soviet Union
  • 1948 – 1964 Soviet Union
  • 1952 – 1968 Soviet Union
  • 1956 – 1972 Soviet Union
  • 1960 – 1976 Soviet Union
  • 1964 – 1980 Soviet Union
  • 1968 – 1984 Netherlands
  • 1972 – 1988 United States
  • 1976 – 1992 United States
  • 1976 – 1994 United States
  • 1980 – 1998 United States
  • 1984 – 2002 Netherlands
  • 1988 – 2006 Netherlands
  • 1992 – 2010 Netherlands
  • 1998 – 2014 Netherlands

Twenty Year Medal Table for Speed Skating

Winter Olympic Games 1998 – 2014

Men's 5000m, 2014 Winter Olympics, Podium

The Netherlands won 23 of the 36 medals available in Sochi, including 8 from 12 golds. It so comprehensively crushed its rivals that it is easy to imagine that it was always so dominant, but this is far from being the case. There is no precedent for such statistics.

A key factor has been the recent growth of professional teams, creating a much larger pool of talent, but this only begs the question as to why other professional teams have not sprung up elsewhere. In Norway, there is more competition for sponsors and TV coverage from other winter sports, so the warmer Dutch climate might actually be an asset, which sets priorities, and puts the nation’s eggs into a highly productive basket.

Two Netherlanders could became the most decorated speed skater ever. Sven Kramer has 7 medals so far, while Ireen Wuest has 8. Both are chasing 10 for the outright lead. Kramer also hopes the be the first man to win an event 3 times in a row, in the 5,000m.

Netherlands 22 19 17 58
Germany 7 10 4 21
United States 7 7 7 21
Canada 6 8 9 23
South Korea 4 3 1 8
Czech Republic 3 1 1 5
Italy 2 0 1 3
Russia 1 3 4 7
Japan 1 3 3 7
China 1 1 2 4
Poland 1 1 2 4
Norway 1 0 3 4
Belgium 0 0 1 1
Kazakhstan 0 0 1 1

Next: How did Dutch speed skating even get started, when its rivers freeze so rarely?

Twenty Year Medal Table for Snowboarding

Winter Olympic Games 1998 – 2014

Joe & Jill Biden with 2010 Winter Olympics US Snowboarding team 2010-02-12

In 1977, Jake Burton created the modern snowboard and set up shop in Londonderry, Vermont. Nearby Stratton became the first resort to allow snowboards on its slopes.

Burton’s legacy is clear from the fact that three of the ten US gold medals have been won by athletes born in the country’s second smallest state, with a population of just over 600,000. Lindsey Jacobellis, the superstar born in Connecticut, is a graduate of the Stratton Mountain School, although she is still yet to strike Olympic gold, after an overconfident crash while leading in 2006. This year will probably be her last chance.

Double half pipe champion Shaun White, the most famous name in snowboarding, will be back at the Games after a disappointing Sochi performance. An absence from major competition makes it difficult to judge his form, but a third title would be a new record.

United States 10 5 9 24
Switzerland 7 2 3 12
France 3 3 4 10
Canada 3 2 2 7
Russia 2 2 1 5
Germany 1 3 1 5
Austria 1 1 4 6
Australia 1 1 0 2
Czech Republic 1 0 0 1
Netherlands 1 0 0 1
Norway 0 3 1 4
Finland 0 2 1 3
Japan 0 2 1 3
Italy 0 1 1 2
Slovenia 0 1 1 2
Slovakia 0 1 0 1
Sweden 0 1 0 1
Great Britain 0 0 1 1

Next: Dutch dominance of speed skating is so huge, it is hard to believe how recent it is

Historical Medal Table for Ski Jumping

Rolling Winter Olympic Twenty Year Medal Table

Norwegian ski jumpers 937

Ski jumping is a Nordic skiing event which is no longer Nordic. It originated in Norway, where the Holmenkollen remains a historic venue. By contrast, Austria’s first ski jumps were launched from a dung heap, and the distances reached were equally inauspicious.

But Central Europe persisted. Austria and Germany created the iconic Four Hills series of competitions. In the 1970s, Austrian jumping coach Baldur Preiml took a “marginal gains” approach, including aerodynamic ski suits, which led to golds in 1976 and 1980.

The technically too perfect Austrian were then eclipsed for a couple of decades by the unorthodox styles favoured by the Finns. Toni Niemanen was an earlier adopter of the now standard “V style”, while Matti Nykanen’s earlier approach had formed a bridge between the traditional  parallel style and the later V. Finland eventually faded away, leaving the Central Europeans to return to the front once again, where they are today.

  • 1924 – 1940 Norway
  • 1928 – 1944 Norway
  • 1932 – 1948 Norway
  • 1936 – 1952 Norway
  • 1940 – 1956 Norway
  • 1944 – 1960 Norway
  • 1948 – 1964 Norway
  • 1952 – 1968 Finland
  • 1956 – 1972 Finland
  • 1960 – 1976 Austria
  • 1964 – 1980 Austria
  • 1968 – 1984 Austria
  • 1972 – 1988 Finland
  • 1976 – 1992 Finland
  • 1976 – 1994 Finland
  • 1980 – 1998 Finland
  • 1984 – 2002 Finland
  • 1988 – 2006 Finland
  • 1992 – 2010 Austria
  • 1998 – 2014 Switzerland

Next: Which countries have been grabbing all of the medal glory in snowboarding?