by Rob Joyce
A few weeks ago we predicted a couple of American athletes who were expected to star in the Winter Olympics and become stars in the U.S. While some of those predictions became reality, there were some unexpected heroes to come out of Pyeongchang. With the Games officially over and the United States finishing fourth overall in both total medals (23) and golds (9) here are the names we’ll remember beyond the next few weeks.
The first openly gay U.S. Olympian won bronze in the team figure skating event, but it was his off-ice personality that made headlines. He criticized the Vice President – take from that what you will – but also had a series of amusing and reflective moments in interviewing, quickly gaining a mass following on social media. It got to the point where NBC offered him a job as correspondent for the last week of the Olympics, a role he declined because he didn’t want to leave the Olympic Village.
Alex & Maia Shibutani:
The siblings were part of the ice dancing team event for Team USA, helping the Americans take home a bronze. They placed second in both the short and free dance, helping the U.S. win bronze. Then in the individual event they added a second bronze after a dazzling free dance.
The 17-year-old snowboard prodigy was expected to take home gold in the halfpipe, and she did just that. But it was Kim’s personality that made her into a sensation. Between runs in the qualifier she tweeted “Could be down for some ice cream”, then casually posted a 95.50 score. The next day, going for a gold medal, she was upset that she didn’t finish her breakfast sandwich, then went on to place first anyways. We can’t relate to being an Olympic champion, but we can all relate on getting a little hangry from time to time.
Jesse Diggins & Kikkan Randall:
Diggins was chosen as the flag-bearer for the closing ceremonies after she and Randall won America’s first-ever cross-country skiing gold. It came in the women’s team sprint, in which Diggins rallied in the final stretch to edge the Norwegians for the win. Adding to the excitement was the color commentary of Chad Salmela for NBC, who was compared to Tony Romo numerous times throughout the Games.
One of the better skips in the world in curling, Shuster’s Olympic career has been riddled with disappointments. Pyeongchang looked to be no different as the U.S. started round robin play 2-4, essentially meaning they had to finish 3-0 to have any chance of reaching the medal round. They did just that, beating Canada, Switzerland and Great Britain – all among the top-four teams in the tournament – to advance.
There, they upset the defending gold medalists from Canada again to reach the first ever final, and took home gold with a 10-7 victory over Sweden in which Shuster helped the Americans score five points in the eighth end to essentially clinch gold, the first in U.S. curling history.
The 22-year-old didn’t medal in her best event, the slalom, but she still took home a pair of medals in the two other events in which she participated and was must-see TV. She was first in the slalom, then overcame a slow start to win silver in the combined. With Lindsey Vonn likely done with Olympic competition, Shiffrin takes the reins in American alpine skiing.
USA Women’s Hockey:
Team USA took home its first women’s hockey gold since 1998, beating Canada 3-2 in a shootout classic. Going into the Games the Americans’ most well-known players were likely Hilary Knight and Amanda Kessel, but a trio of others also became household names.
Monique Lamoureux scored the game-tying goal in the third period on a breakaway, her twin sister Jocelyne scored the go-ahead shootout goal on an incredible set of moves to fool the Canadian goalie, and goaltender Maddie Rooney, just 20 years old, had her Wikipedia changed to “Secretary of Defense”. The monkey was finally off the back of the Americans, who ended two decades of Olympic misery at the hands of their neighbors to the north.