Inspirational moments from the Olympics

As a fan of all different sports, I love the Olympics. I’m amazed by both the athletic achievements themselves, as well as the personalities and stories of the competitors from across the world. Here are some of my most memorable and inspirational moments.

Chloe Kim’s golden debut
The 17-year-old snowboarding phenom not only won the gold medal in halfpipe but charmed everyone with her refreshing and honest personality. Chloe humorously tweeted about wanting ice cream while waiting her turn in the qualifying round and later about being “hangry” after not finishing her breakfast sandwich. But she is also seriously dedicated to her sport, which she demonstrated by taking a final run and improving her score despite having already clinched the gold. She explained that she wouldn’t have been happy if she had won without doing the best job she possibly could.

Mirai Nagasu’s triple axel
Mirai made history in the team figure skating competition by becoming the first American lady to land a triple axel at the Olympics. A relative old lady at 24, Mirai has had a career of ups and downs. Many people (myself included) figured her career was over four years ago. After skating two clean programs and coming in third at national championships, she was bypassed by the selection committee in favor of fourth-place finisher Ashley Wagner. Instead of quitting, Mirai not only persevered but upped her technical ability by learning a jump few ladies are able to do. She punched her ticket to the Olympics and helped her team win the bronze medal. Although Mirai didn’t do as well in the individual competition, her positive attitude and determination make her inspirational.

Chris Mazdzer makes history
Chris became the first man to win a luge medal for the U.S., sliding to silver behind Austria’s David Gleirscher. He had been nowhere near the podium so far this world cup season, making this result a huge surprise, especially when German Felix Loch, the overwhelming favorite, messed up at the end of his final run and finished off the podium. “It’s 16 years in the making,” Chris said. “I’ve had a rough last two years and it just shows: Don’t ever give up. Whenever you lose, keep fighting.”

Shaun White’s comeback victory
Known as the “Flying Tomato,” Shaun dominated snowboarding for years, winning gold in both 2006 and 2010. In 2014, he finished a disappointing fourth, leading many people to think that at the relatively ancient age of 27, his career was over. However, he decided to stick around, improve his diet and exercise routine, and become the best athletehe he could be. His hopes for a fourth Olympics were placed in jeopardy when he suffered a horrific training crash just 5 months before the games. He overcame injury, defeat, and a near-perfect run by rival Ayumu Hirano and scored a 97.75 in his final run to earn the gold. Adversity made his third Olympic triumph by far the sweetest.

Yuzuru Hanyu defends title
Although he was the reigning Olympic figure skating champion, Yuzuru entered the PyeongChang games as a bit of an underdog. He was just recovering from an ankle injury sustained earlier in the season, and no one knew how he would do. But after he skated a perfect short program, his pleased but calm reaction made it clear that Yuzuru hadn’t had any doubts. When asked about the possibility of winning gold, he replied, “Doesn’t matter. I’m not thinking about it. I’m just doing myself.” Yuzuru’s free skate performance was enough for the win, and the resulting deluge of Winnie the Pooh stuffed animals onto the ice was one of the most memorable (and hilarious) moments of the games.

Adam Rippon being himself
I have to admit, I wasn’t super happy when Adam made the Olympic team. I thought that Ross Miner was more deserving because he finished second at the national championships, while Adam finished fourth. Adam’s confident comments leading up to nationals (“The only argument against me is if other competitors’ mothers are on the selection committee”) came off as arrogant, especially after his performance in the free skate failed to live up to his words. But Adam won me over with his elegant, artistic, and mistake-free performances at PeongChang, as well as his amazing quotes. “I might not be the best,” he told NBC’s Andrea Joyce, “but I’m the most fun.” Adam clearly knows who he is and is true to himself, something that everyone should find admirable.

Quad King
Touted as the gold medal favorite in the leadup to the games, Nathan Chen seemed to succumb to the pressure, messing up most of his jumps in the team figure skating competition and the individual short program. In the free skate, however, when both the pressure and the chances for a medal were gone, he turned in a stunning and record-breaking performance including an unprecedented 6 quadruple jumps. Nathan managed to improve from 17th place to 5th. There is legitimate debate about whether or not all these quads are a good thing for skating, but what’s not debatable is Nathan’s fighting spirit.

Old-timers triumph in alpine skiing
After missing the last Olympics with a knee injury, Lindsey Vonn was determined to make a memorable moment at what is probably her last winter games at age 33. Although she hoped for better than the bronze medal that she took home in the downhill, she said after the race, “I’m proud to have given it my all.” Her late grandfather Don Kildow, who was a Korean War vet, would certainly be proud as well. With the bronze, Vonn became the oldest woman to medal in alpine skiing. Additionally, Aksel Lund Svindal of Norway became the oldest person to win an alpine skiing gold at age 35 when he triumphed in the downhill. Like Vonn, Svindal has overcome numerous injuries and disappointments over the years, including being shut out of the medals last Olympics. Plus, 35-year-old Andre Myhrer won the slalom in an upset after both favorites crashed.

Maame Biney’s infections enthusiasm
From the time she qualified for the U.S. Olympic short-track speedskating team, becoming the first African-American woman to do so, Maame seemingly could not stop smiling. Born in Ghana, she started skating at age 6 after randomly seeing a “Learn to Skate” sign while driving with her dad, Kweku. She switched from figure skating to speed skating after her coach told her she was too fast. Although she did not make any finals in PyeongChang, her bubbly, infectious spirit made her one of the most memorable personalities of the games. A particularly touching moment took place when despite her last-place finish in her quarterfinal of the 500m, Kewku didn’t waver for a moment, cheering “Good job, Maame!” just as enthusiastically as if she had won.

Pita Taufatofua’s sportsmanship
Best known as the shirtless flagbearer from Tonga, Pita competed in taekwondo during the 2016 Summer Olympics and taught himself cross-country skiing in order to qualify for the winter games. He competed in the 15 km freestyle race, finishing 114th out of 119 competitors. In a moment of genuine sportsmanship, he and several other athletes including gold medalist Dario Cologna embraced and congratulated last place finisher German Madrazo of Mexico. Pita is not just a joke or a pretty face but has an inspirational philosophy on life. “Most people get so fearful of failure they don’t even try to achieve what their potential is,” he said. “I don’t fear failure. I fear not trying… Everyone has an Olympics. It doesn’t have to be in sport. Whatever that challenge is that makes you an Olympian in some way, that’s what my message is: keep on going.”

Bobsled tie
When Canadian bobsled pilot Justin Kripps crossed the finish line and saw his time come up, along with the number 1, he was befuddled to see his German competitors celebratng. “Man, these guys are really excited for me,” he thought. Eventually he realized that he and his brakeman Alexander Kopacz had tied with Francesco Friedrich and Thorsten Margis with a total winning time of 3 minutes 16.86 seconds. Watching the four competitors jointly celebrating their gold medals – a highly improbable result in a sport that measures in hundredths of a second – exemplified the Olympic spirit.

Bronze for the Shib Sibs
Maia and Alex Shibutani have been my favorite ice dancers for quite a few years, and I was thrilled when they earned the bronze medal. Their free dance to Coldplay’s “Paradise” was not only beautiful and technically precise but emotionally moving as well. The sibling duo proves that ice dance does not have to be sexy or romantic to be great. In their entertaining vlogs and witty and upbeat social media presence, as well as in their on-ice performances, they have a style all their own and tell their own unique stories.

Mikaela Shiffrin’s roller coaster journey
Mikaela entered these Olympcis as the most dominant alpine skier in the world, expected to easily win two gold medals and contend for as many as five. Although she won a gold in Giant Slalom and a silver in Alpine Combined, she finished a disappointing fourth in Slalom, her best event. She reflected on these ups and downs in an inspirational series of tweets. “We all want a medal, but not everyone will get one,” she wrote. “That is real. That is life. It’s amazing and terrifying and wonderful and brutal and exciting and nerve racking and beautiful. And honestly, I’m just so grateful to be part of that.”

Evgenia Medvedeva gracious in defeat
For most of the last four years, figure skating fans expected the 2018 Olympics to be Evgenia’s coronation. However, this season she was overshadowed by the rapid rise of countrywoman Alina Zagitova, who narrowly beat her for gold. “I left my self on the ice in my performance,” she said after her skate. “I left here, all my soul, and now I have nothing inside, because everything, all my soul, all my emotions, all my mind on ice right now… I don’t think about scores, I only think about I must show my best, and I did my best today.” The passion and thoughtfulness that Evgenia conveyed are really impressive, especially considering that she is only 18, doesn’t speak perfect English, and must have been horribly disappointed. Although I never really rooted for her over the years, I’ve grown to admire her deep and philosophical spirit.

Historic finish in cross-country skiing
When Jessie Diggins narrowly missed a medal in the 10 km freestyle race, I was amazed at her positive attitude. “It’s a little heartbreaking to be so close, but at the same time, there’s more to a race than the number you are on a piece of paper and I am really proud of what I did out there today,” she told an NBC reporter. “I’ve had a lot of 4th and 5th and 6th places this year so that’s nothing to be ashamed of, and I’m really happy to be skiing with some really incredible women.” I was even more amazed when Jessie and teammate Kikkan Randall won gold in the team sprint, the first medal ever for US women in cross-country skiing. What a fitting accomplishment for these two inspirational ladies.

Hockey gold at last
One of the greatest victories for Team USA took place at 2:30 a.m. eastern time, when most people were asleep. For the last four Olympics, Canada had been victorious in women’s hockey. The American ladies, sick of settling for silver, finally pulled out the win when Jocelyne Lamoureux scored in the shootout and goalie Maddie Rooney stopped Canadian Meghan Agosta. Their jubilation, throwing sticks and gloves in the air for a joyous group hug, was infectious.

Two golds in two sports
When Anna Veith of Austria was announced as the winner of the Super-G, I was surprised and happy for her. Although she was the defending gold medalist, injuries in the ensuing years had prevented her from regaining her previous form or results. A little while later, however, the world was in for an even bigger surprise. Coming from way down in the starting order, well past the point when all the contenders had finished their runs, Ester Ledecka shockingly took the lead. What makes this accomplishment so amazing is that skiing isn’t even Ester’s primary sport. That would be parallel giant slalom snowboarding, in which she ended up winning the gold as well. For someone to compete at the Olympic level in two completely different sports, let alone to win gold in both, is just unheard of.

Miracurl on ice
The team of John Shuster, Matt Hamilton, Tyler George, John Landsteiner, and Joe Polo became the first ever to win men’s curling Olympic gold for the USA in what ice dancer Alex Shibutani dubbed the “Miracurl on ice.” I’ve never been super interested in curling, and some people dispute whether it should even be considered a sport, but I couldn’t help but root for these guys and cheer their improbable victory.