The 2018 Winter Olympics are now underway in PyeongChang, South Korea, and the competition is fierce. Many of the United States’ athletes have already begun their pursuit for gold medals, collecting four within the first five days of the games. Team figure skating and curling launched the Olympic games on Thursday, Feb. 8 and the opening ceremonies officially inaugurated the games on Friday, Feb. 9.
PyeongChang’s opening ceremonies titled “Peace in Motion” followed five imaginary children in an effort to share the rich history of South Korea. They travelled through the past and the future, all the while emphasizing the importance of working together for peace. Four popular South Korean musicians sang John Lennon’s “Imagine,” which recognized the need for peace and unity amongst the participating Olympic countries. To conclude the performance, the imaginary children released a faux dove, symbolizing peace, into the sky.
The most peculiar thing that occurred during the opening ceremonies was the unification of North Korea and South Korea during the march of nations. Athletes from both countries banned together as the final “country” to enter the stadium, following a unification flag. As the host country, this was a grand gesture from South Korea to North Korea and a huge step towards much needed international “peace.”
United States’ Successes
In the first five days of the competition, Team USA has amassed four gold medals and a number of silver and bronze medals. Two of the four gold medal winners have not yet reached adulthood, receiving their first Olympic medals at the mere age of 17.
The first United States gold medalist of the 2018 games was Red Gerard, a 17-year-old from Colorado, who dominated in the Men’s Snowboard Slopestyle event. His success was unexpected, as heading into the final slope run he was last on the leaderboard. A year ago Gerard never imagined himself at the Olympics — it wasn’t part of any plan he had.
Chloe Kim was the other 17-year-old winner representing the United States. From Long Beach, California, she took home the gold in the Women’s Halfpipe Snowboard event. She was exceptional in this event, receiving a near-perfect score of 98.25 on her final run.
The location of this win was especially significant for Kim since her parents are South Korean immigrants. Jamie Anderson was the third individual to receive a gold medal, placing in the Women’s Snowboard Slopestyle event.
Fan favorite and Olympic veteran Shaun White triumphed Tuesday evening in the Men’s Halfpipe Snowboard event. White’s win marked the 100th gold medal for the United States in the history of the Winter Olympics. The win also marked White’s third career gold medal.
During qualifications for the event, White achieved an insane score of 98.5, 1.5 points away from a perfect score. The win comes after an unsuccessful 2014 Winter Olympics in which White walked away from the games without medaling.
The United States also achieved success in Team Figure Skating by taking home the bronze, following the Olympic athletes from Russia who placed in second and Canada who took home the gold. Mira Nagasu triumphed in her figure skating routine, becoming one of only three women in Olympic history to nail a triple axel at the Olympics and the first American figure skater to do so.
She follows accomplished American skaters Tonya Harding and Kimmie Meissner in mastering the skill. The triple axel required Nagasu to rotate in the air for three and a half turns. She competed in the 2010 Winter Olympics but then failed to make the team in 2014, so the 2018 games have served as a major comeback for the athlete.
Olympic athlete Adam Rippon, at only 28 years old, was another major standout in the team event. One of the two openly gay United States athletes at the games, Rippon placed third in the Men’s Skating portion.
His performance was stunning — each move was smooth and well executed, but Rippon ended up losing to two athletes who fell during their performances. He was truly robbed of first place during his Olympic debut, however, Rippon looks promising for the upcoming Men’s individual figure skating event that will take place later this week.
The “Shibsibs,” the ice dance sibling duo, were also a large component of the United States’ team win. Popular for their YouTube channel, 23-year-old Maia and 26-year-old Alex make up the Shibutani sibling skating pair.
The siblings expressed disappointment with their final score, but they still came in second in the ice dancing event, performing a seamless skate to a Coldplay medley. After coming in ninth place in the 2014 Sochi Olympics, this is an indicator that the sibling duo is ready to dominate in the Couple’s Ice Dance individual event in the coming days.
Real-life married couple Alexa and Chris Knierim came in fourth in the Pair Skating Short Program. Their chemistry during the performance was undeniable, but they fell short of placing in the top three due to an upsetting fall by Chris. Other significant accomplishments for Team USA include Chris Mazdzer’s silver medal in Men’s Single Luge and Arielle Gold’s bronze medal in Women’s Snowboarding Halfpipe.
What to Look Forward To
With about a week and a half left of the 2018 PyeongChang Winter Olympic Games, there is still a surplus of exciting athletic events to come. The Men’s Free Skate is set to occur on Feb. 16, where Olympian Nathan Chen of the United States is hoping to medal. Other events like the Women’s Free Skate will take place on Feb. 22 and the men’s gold medal game for Ice Hockey will be played on the final day of the games, Feb. 25.
New to the games this year is the Mass Start Speed Skating event which is set to happen on Feb. 24. The event allows for up to 24 athletes to compete against one another simultaneously, and typically athletes compete in pairs. They are required to complete 24 laps and can win points through four intermediate sprints within the required distance. These points, coupled with the final race order, determine the winner.
Over the course of these next two weeks, the 2018 Winter Olympic games will continue to bring together over 2,900 athletes from 90 different countries, all pursuing greatness in various athletic fields. A variety of individuals from different backgrounds will take home gold, silver and bronze medals, and some will even leave empty-handed.
More importantly, though, the games will continue to work towards bringing peace into a ridiculously competitive atmosphere. Athletes will vie for gold medals, but at the end of the day South Korea wants to use the games as a uniting force, showing that when we come together, greatness can be achieved.