The 2018 Winter Olympics in PyeongChang are in the books. Norway led the way in the medal count, bringing home 38 in total. Germany, including a surprising silver by their men’s hockey team, was next, and the U.S. was fourth with 23 medals.
From start to finish, there were shocking moments, controversies, messages of hope and peace, and some of the greatest athletic feats in the history of mankind.
Here’s a look at the 15 best moments from the 2018 Games:
15. North Korea and South Korea unite during opening ceremonies
Much was made over the North Koreans and South Koreans finding enough common ground so that both could compete in the 2018 Winter Olympic Games. And while some of it may have been political posturing, at least for one brief moment, the two sides found peace and marched proudly under one flag during the opening ceremonies. It was in stark contrast to the 1988 Games held in Seoul, where the North Koreans not only refused to compete, but carried out a terrorist attack on a South Korean jetliner 10 months prior to the opening ceremonies. And considering North Korea could be seen from the mountain slopes in the Gangwon Province, it was particularly symbolic — a memorable and hopeful way to open the games.
The runner-up to Shaun White in the men’s halfpipe thinks he should have been the one atop the podium instead.
Ayumu Hirano, the 19-year-old who nearly bested White with a score of 95.25 on his second run, felt that he had done enough to take the gold medal ahead of White.
“Yes, I do, but the result is the result,” Hirano said via ESPN when asked if he felt he should have won. “And whatever I do, whatever I say, the result cannot be changed.
“There are no big differences between us, what we did. Under this condition, on this pipe it’s very, very difficult to mark higher than [White] did. But perhaps I have some room to improve on the height and the perfectness, perfect landing.”
You have to wonder if Hirano feels the same way as some of White’s other rivals with regard to how the American is treated by judges. While he doesn’t sound like he’s going to raise a stink over this, Hirano definitely doesn’t sound thrilled, but you can understand why he wouldn’t be after coming so close but not being able to pull it off.
Shaun White represented the United States in incredible fashion by winning a gold medal for the country in the Olympics. He was so proud after winning gold in the halfpipe on Wednesday that he pulled out the American flag upon learning he had won the competition, and he held it behind him.
White was emotional in his celebration and clearly proud — as evidence by him pulling out the flag. But while he was celebrating, White got careless with the flag and let it drag on the ground behind him. He even inadvertently stepped on it.
White’s careless behavior while enjoying his moment of triumph did not sit well with some Americans who were upset that White violated United States Flag Code, which states that the flag should never touch the ground.
Shaun White was the talk of Twitter and mentioned by many other professional athletes after he won the gold medal in the men’s halfpipe at the Olympics in PyeongChang on Wednesday. But there was one shoutout that stood out more than the others.
Michael Phelps sent a congratulatory tweet to White in which he mentioned “comeback” and “redemption.”
The parallels between the careers of the two Olympic athletes are notable.
Phelphs delivered below expectations at the 2012 Olympics in London with four golds and two silvers. After retiring, he decided to come back and compete in Rio, where he won five golds and a silver, including winning gold in the 200 meter butterfly to avenge a previous loss.
Similarly, White had a disappointing showing at the 2014 Olympics in Sochi after winning gold in the halfpipe in 2010 and 2006. He bounced back with a vengeance in 2018 and reclaimed gold, which is why he was so emotional he was crying afterwards.
Shaun White did it.
White needed a flawless final run to overtake Ayumu Hirano for the gold medal in the men’s halfpipe at the Olympics in PyeongChang, and he nailed it.
White entered his final run staring at a potential silver medal finish, as his high score of 94.25 from his first run was surpassed by Hirano’s 95.25 on the Japanese snowboarder’s second run.
White, who went last, delivered with a score of 97.75 to win the gold medal. He knew after he had completed his run to near perfection that he had won the gold, and he was right.
NBC’s cameras then showed White celebrating after his score was announced. He was extremely emotional and crying tears of joy.
The gold medal marked redemption for White, who won gold in the Olympics in 2006 and 2010 but missed out on a medal in the halfpipe in 2014 at Sochi.
Shaun White had a fantastic showing in qualifying for the men’s halfpipe at the Olympics on Tuesday, and a slight tweak helps to explain part of the reason for his success.
White had a score of 98.50, which placed him first in qualifying. Though he is known for achieving crazy heights of around 18 feet above the half pipe, he seemed to be catching some crazy air during qualifying. He said that was no coincidence.
“Before I dropped in, my wax guy’s like, ‘I’m gonna put a little something extra on your board, see if it runs faster. Test it for tomorrow. Well, Kenny, it’s a lot faster. I was going with some speed in that run. I’m really happy,” White said in an interview with NBC’s Tina Dixon.
White enters the halfpipe finals as the leader. Australia’s Scotty James was second in qualifying with a score of 96.75, while Japan’s Ayumu Hirano was third. White is looking to reclaim gold in the halfpipe after finishing fourth at the 2014 Olympics in Sochi.
Shaun White is arguably Team USA’s most famous athlete competing at the 2018 Winter Olympics in PyeongChang, and one of the biggest names in any sport attending the games.
At least one of his halfpipe rivals is worried that all of that unduly influences the judges.
White received a perfect 100 — an exceptionally rare feat — for his final run at last month’s U.S. Grand Prix of Snowmass in Colorado, a run that clinched another shot at the Olympics for him. However, one of his chief rivals believes that score was inflated, and that White’s status as a snowboarding icon leads to favoritism from judges.
“I have openly said [to the judges], this is not what you do,” awarding 100s, said Australian Scotty James, via Chico Harlan of the Washington Post. “Shaun, if he looked at that run, he would tell you that wasn’t a perfect 100.”
James may be White’s chief rival for the halfpipe gold, and he ended up in second place last month at White’s expense. He is concerned about the impartiality of those judges, many of whom will also judge the Olympic event.
“I feel like there have been times I was a bit shafted,” James said earlier in the week. “[In Colorado] I had question marks and had some words with the judges. Not because of getting second place — I am not a sore loser. I was just curious as to the 100.”
British snowboarder and 2014 Olympian Aimee Fuller concurred with James, saying earlier in the week that White’s reputation means he’s judged differently than his peers.
“Every [other] snowboarder starts from the bottom and they earn their points,” Fuller said. “Shaun starts at the top and they deduct his points, so unless he does anything particularly wrong, he’s staying at the top.”
White’s coach, J.J. Thomas, was not bothered by the critics.
“When we saw the 100, me and Shaun were like, oh, great,” Thomas said. “We were like, oh, here we go, people are going to be hounding us, dude. Saying, ‘no such thing as 100.'”
White has reached a sort of cultural ubiquity, and we got another reminder of that this week upon his arrival in PyeongChang. It sounds like all eyes in the snowboarding community will be on the judges when the halfpipe competition kicks off this week.
If the Opening Ceremony on Friday night wasn’t enough to get you into the Olympic spirit, perhaps a cheeseburger named after one of the most famous Olympians in U.S. history will be.
Over the weekend, snowboarder Shaun White came across a cheeseburger in PyeongChang that is called “The Flying Tomato,” which of course is White’s nickname.
Naturally, White had to give it a try.
White’s hair is a lot more tame now than it used to be, but those of us who followed him when he first burst onto the Olympic scene and won a gold medal in 2006 remember exactly why “The Flying Tomato” nickname came into existence. It’s good to see it still has legs 12 years later.
The 2018 Winter Olympic Games are underway, and it’s time to familiarize yourself with some U.S. athletes you need to root for. Here’s a look at 15 of the most important U.S. athletes competing at the Winter Games and what they hope (and many believe) they can accomplish.
15. Kelly Clark, snowboarder
34-year-old Kelly Clark is no stranger to Olympic competition, having competed in every single Winter Games since 2002. She won halfpipe gold in 2002 and then brought home bronze in the same event in both 2010 and 2014. Clark is also a one-time Winter Dew Tour gold medalist, one-time New Zealand Winter Games gold medalist ,and a five-time Winter X Games gold medalist. Her wealth of experience not only puts her ahead of the competition, but becomes exceptionally valuable for Team USA as a whole.
“It’s an incredible opportunity to represent my country to the rest of the world, to represent snowboarding and women, it’s been one of the greatest privileges of my life,” Clark told PEOPLE. “And it’s really fun as an athlete because you work four years for a 30-second halfpipe run, so you really get to see what you built. It’s really a rubber-meets-the-road type of situation.”
14. Bradie Tennell, figure skater
Though the Winter Olympics are sometimes looked at as the “little brother” of the Summer Games — there’s no basketball, track and field, or gymnastics! — the events always prove to be entertaining.
And though there’s one extra knock on the upcoming Pyeongchang Winter Games — NHL players won’t be competing — it’s all but certain Americans will still find themselves glued to the action. NBC’s coverage of the 2014 Sochi Games averaged 21.4 million viewers, which is a number comparable to the viewership of an early-round NFL playoff game or a much-hyped regular season game, an impressive feat considering the Games span 17 nights.
With the competitions based around less-heralded sports such as curling, speed-skating, and snowboarding, there are always a few breakout stars. In the 2014 Sochi Games (can you believe it’s been four years?), the U.S. had T.J. Oshie, Mikaela Shiffrin, and Sage Kotsenburg — not to mention the incredible commentary of Johnny Weir.
With this year’s Games less than one month away (they’ll run Feb. 9-25), we thought some of you could use a primer on a handful of the key United States athletes who will compete in South Korea. Here are 10 home-grown athletes who will likely dominate NBC’s coverage.
1. Lindsey Vonn, Skier