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#pounditSunday, April 18, 2021

10 takeaways from the first week of 2018 Winter Olympics

Chloe Kim

We’rea week into the 2018 Winter Olympics, and we’ve already learned a lot about the field this year. There have been a number of remarkable performances from countries and individual athletes alike, and while there’s a long way to go, we can still celebrate the accomplishments so far.

Here are ten big takeaways from the 2018 Winter Olympics thus far.

1) Norway remains the class of the Winter Olympics

Norway has a rich history of success at the Winter Olympics, and 2018 is shaping up to be no different. They’ve won 24 medals so far to lead all countries. Their excellence in cross-country skiing is what sets them apart. They have 10 total medals in cross-country skiing, including four golds and four silvers. The highlight came when they swept the podium at the 30 km skiathlon. The most remarkable part of that race was winner Simen Hegstad Krueger, who came from dead last after a crash to win by eight seconds. There’s surely more to come from Norway, who have taken their customary spot near the top of the medal count.

2) Americans are still the dominant force in snowboarding

The U.S. went four-for-four on gold medals in the first four snowboarding events at the Games in PyeongChang. Red Gerard won a surprise gold in men’s slopestyle, while Jamie Anderson won a second career gold in the women’s event. Chloe Kim was the runaway winner of the women’s halfpipe event, and then Shaun White took gold in the men’s halfpipe (despite the protests of the second-place finisher). Though no American medaled in the snowboard cross events, winning four golds in the first four events was an impeccable start.

3) Nobody does speed skating like the Dutch

There might not be a country and sport more closely associated in the Winter Olympics than the Dutch and speed skating. The Netherlands have won gold in six of the seven speed skating events so far. The only race they failed to win was the men’s 10,000 meters, won by Canada’s Ted-Jan Bloemen. They swept the podium in the women’s 3,000 meters, and took two of the three places in the men’s and women’s 1,500. Leading the charge is Sven Kramer, who won his fourth career Olympic gold medal with an Olympic-record 6:09.76 time in the men’s 5,000 meters. In all, they’ve won 11 of the 21 available speed skating medals.

4) Germany owns the biathlon

The Germans received just two silver medals in the biathlon four years ago, but things have changed in PyeongChang. They grabbed three golds in the first six events, winning the men’s sprint, women’s sprint, and women’s pursuit. The catalyst is Laura Dahlmeier, who was a non-factor in 2014 but won the 7.5km and 10km before finishing in third for the 15km. No surprise, Germany is the all-time leader in medals in the biathlon.

5) Youngsters are taking over snowboarding

31-year-old White is a major outlier in the snowboarding events, as this is quickly becoming a sport for very young people. Gold medalists Gerard and Kim are both 17, while two other medalists, Laurie Blouin and Arielle Gold, are 21. France’s Julia Pereira de Sousa Mabileau, who won silver in the snowboard cross, is 16. Even Japan’s Ayumu Hirano, who finished second to White, is 19. This sets up a lot of fun for the future — it is entirely possible that the likes of Gerard and Kim could have at least two more Olympics ahead of them, and maybe even more. We may be hearing these names for some time.

6) Curling is the new “in” thing

Curling always seems to become something of a cult favorite during the Winter Olympics, but it has really gone to the next level this time around. The sport has attracted wide interest, with people talking about it online and even re-enacting it. Just check out the efforts of the Ohio State basketball managers, which gained the approval of USA Curling. Whatever the reason, people are really into the curling this year — long may it continue.

7) Doping penalties have hurt Russia’s results

The Russians won the medal count in 2014 at Sochi, pacing the field with both 11 golds and 29 overall medals. Many of their athletes have been banned due to a massive doping scandal, meaning a smaller team — competing under the banner of Olympic Athletes from Russia — is doing the best they can in PyeongChang. The Russian athletes have collected nine medals — seven of which have been bronzes — and are still seeking their first gold. It’s hard to argue that the sanctions haven’t had an effect.

8) U.S. is catching up in luge

Before 2014, no American had ever won an Olympic medal in the luge singles competitions. Erin Hamlin changed that at Sochi, becoming the first American female luger to medal at any Olympics and the first American period to do so in singles. This year, Chris Mazdzer became the first American male to win a singles medal, picking up the silver in the men’s singles event. While Americans are still waiting for their first singles gold, they’re definitely getting closer.

9) Olympic athletes have a ton of personality

One of the great things about the Olympics is being introduced to athletes with whom many of us were previously unfamiliar. Many of the athletes have great personalities, and 2018’s Olympians are no different. Chloe Kim has proven herself a proficient tweeter — and quite the eater — while South Korean figure skater Alex Kang-chan Kam embraced the memes in his performance. That’s just scratching the surface — there’s Adam Rippon’s brutal honesty in his post-skate interview, too. It’s easy to embrace people like this.

10) Never give up on your dreams

It’s good advice in general, but the Olympics are just driving it home. Rippon won a medal in the team skate this time around after failing to qualify for the Olympics four years ago. Mirai Nagasu was controversially left off the 2014 figure skating team, but she made it through this time and promptly became the first American woman to land a triple axel at the Olympics. It would have been easy for both of them to give up and move on, but they didn’t, and they, like so many other Olympians, are being rewarded for their perseverance.

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