I have often waxed poetic about the enduring and glorious beauty of sport and there’s no greater stage for athletic achievement than the Olympics.
I looooooove the Olympics.
If you can get by many of the bilial aspects of the International Olympic Committee and the process of which-city-gets-the-games (which can be difficult) you get three weeks of unending accomplishment. That said, it’s also easy to be disenchanted at member nations who get busted for doping and then proceed to dope some more. Also a concern is the nationalistic commoditization of athletics, and getting overly focused on the competitive nature of the event.
As I get older, I care less and less about that. Sure, I check medal count as we go, but more than wanting my country of birth to succeed, I love seeing what the human body can accomplish when the human mind wills it to, no matter where you hail from.
To that end, I’ve compiled a list of my favorite things from this year’s games. I prefer the small moments to the bigger ones, in many cases, but there are a few of both. As I’m doing this compilation, I’m seeing that many of the things I’d love to show aren’t available for embedding. In those cases, I’ll link as well as I can.
This winter games featured the most nations taking part and the most nations to ever medal. To steal a phrase from our friends across the pond, that’s bloody fantastic.
#5: Simen Hegstad Krueger and Norway’s No Jerks Rule
Norway absolutely cleans up in every Winter Olympics, despite a fairly meager budget and no financial remuneration for their winners, who instead are rewarded with commemorative gold-colored shoes and cake.
And yes, usually:
But not in Norway! You really get cake in Norway.
More importantly, the team spends upwards of 250 days together per year, so they’ve adopted a “no jerks” rule. Can you imagine how refreshing that is?
Here’s one of those non-jerks like 100 meters into the Men’s 15KM + 15KM Skiathlon on like day two of the Olympics:
Why, you might ask, does this Norwegian have two Russians draped all over him? Is he on the Trump campaign team? No! He fell. Right at the start of the skiathlon. I mean, you train for your whole life and then right at the beginning of the race you Homer Simpson into the powder. How embarrassing.
But did Simen Hegstad Krueger give up? Hell no! He picked himself up, dusted the Russians off of him and got back to it, and proceeded to absolutely blow away the field and win the gold medal by a country mile. The announcers had been pumping up a younger, more ostensibly talented teammate of his (Johannes Hoesflot Klaebo) and by the end of the race, Krueger was so far ahead of everyone else that the conversation turned to the race for silver. It’s a lesson for all of us who have taken one on the chin: keep fighting. You never know.
Norway ended up taking silver and gold as well. Norway won so many medals, in fact, that they faced a shortage of golden shoes. Those are like Kanye problems. But we can take comfort in the fact that somewhere, Simen Hegstad Krueger did indeed get cake.
#4: Hungary wins its first gold medal ever and first medal in 38 years.
If you’re not from or don’t have relatives in a smaller country you may not realize just how huge this kind of event is. Medalists become instant national heroes. Overnight. Every single person in that country knows their name. Children are named after them. They arrive home to a hero’s welcome. It’s kind of awesome.
Also awesome is the call from the Hungarian announcers as they see history being made in the Men’s 5,000 meter relay in Short Track Speed Skating:
If the video doesn’t work, try clicking here and going to the 3:22 mark.
That’s just great. And now these guys will never buy a drink in Hungary again. I wonder if they’re ready for the amount of admirers that are about to be thrown at them en masse?
Yes. Yes they are.
#3: The German Commenters flipping out when Germany defeated perennial Hockey superpower Canada
Canada Hockey comes home with zero golds this Olympics, which I guarantee means they’ll win both next time. There’s going to be some borderline-profane abooting in the hinterlands after this showing.
#2: Jocelyne Lamoureux’s wrists
Much has been covered about how great Jocelyne Lamoureux’s shootout goal was, which set the stage for the American team to win gold in Women’s Ice Hockey. We know that the move has been dubbed the “oops I did it again” by Lamoureaux. But what we don’t hear enough about is the oops part. The insane wrist fake that sets the whole thing up. My god, it’s so fluid and yet snappy and beautiful.
For those of you who aren’t hockey players, it’s the very first thing she does when she approaches the Canadian goalie. As much as the goalies know the players from the other teams and thus, their shooting tendencies, they still largely rely on a near-superpower level quick twitch reaction time to shut shooters down.
So how best to beat a goalie like that? Use their reactions against them. And to do that you fake. In Lamoureaux’s case, it’s a little wrist fake to get the goalie off balance, committing to a backdoor fake to make the goalie lay out and then tucking it in on your forehand. She makes it look so easy, and in many ways, it’s one of the most basic things in hockey that even younger players can do, but they don’t do it that well on that stage with such smooth, seemingly effortless confidence. It’s beautiful.
#1: Jessie Diggins’ final rush for gold.
I didn’t know Jessie Diggins coming into this Olympics, but I got hooked one day watching the women’s relay and I just stayed with it. Cross Country skiing is a sport that’s virtually dominated across the board by Nords. Men and women alike. The United States has only won a single cross country medal — a silver by Bill Koch in 1976 — and it’s been a drought ever since.
Young American cross country enthusiasts have had posters of silver medalist Bill Koch on their bedroom walls for years. Because he was the only American to ever medal.
Until this year. In the Women’s Cross Country Team Sprint.
Coming around the final turn, Jessie Diggins put herself intentionally in third because “she knew she had better skis” and would be able to draft off her opponents from Norway and Sweden a bit.
As they finished the downhill portion of the final lap, Diggins turns it on. You just see her kick into another gear. It’s INSANE. And you can see a few versions of her final push online, but start with this one, which has the better announcer (I couldn’t find his name but his call on this is awesome - you only have to watch the first twenty seconds.
I get chills when I watch that. Just the will. The determination. It’s so inspiring.
I only picked five moments but there were so many more we could talk about, from any number of impressive figure skating performances to Johnny Weir’s hair. I loved the cultural part of the Closing Ceremonies and everything from the biathlon to the snowboarding. Use the comments section to post your favorite things about the Olympics, from the memes to the events themselves. What moments stayed with you?
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