The second Winter Youth Olympic Games were indeed memorable. Team USA won a record number of medals last February in Lillehammer, Norway. Three athletes won medals in mixed nation events. Alpine skier River Radamus made history by winning three individual gold medals. And a group of Olympic medalists, including skier Lindsey Vonn, spent some time with the Youth Olympians as a part of the ambassador program.
Here are 16 things and people to remember from the Lillehammer 2016 Winter Youth Olympic Games:
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Double The Fun
At the second Winter Youth Olympic Games, Team USA athletes doubled their medal count from the first. U.S. athletes collected 16 medals among 70 medal events, including 10 gold medals. Team USA totaled eight medals in the inaugural Winter Youth Games in 2012. Team USA’s 10 gold medals tied for the lead among any nation. Among the 64 medal events in 15 sport disciplines that the 62 Team USA athletes competed in, U.S. athletes combined for 45 top-10 finishes. “We could not be more proud of our athletes and how they represented our country, both on and off the field of play,” said Wes Barnett, a two-time Olympian and Team USA chef de mission.
Three Times Gold
River Radamus simply dominated the slopes. He won gold medals in men’s combined, giant slalom and super-G, becoming the most decorated U.S. athlete in Youth Olympic history. He was the first American to medal in alpine skiing at the Youth Games, as well as the first U.S. Youth Olympian, winter or summer, to win three gold medals. All of it happened within one week’s time. “For me to win three gold medals is something that I never could have imagined,” Radamus told TeamUSA.org.
Two Golds For Rising Star Chloe Kim
Sore knee? Forget the pain. Few practice runs because of sickness? No problem. Chloe Kim, a 15-year-old rising star in snowboarding, completed a double-gold-medal performance by winning the women’s slopestyle event five days after she won the women’s halfpipe. She became the first U.S. woman to win an individual gold medal at the Winter Youth Games, and also served as Team USA’s Opening Ceremony flag bearer. And this came two years after not making the 2014 U.S. Olympic Team because at age 13 she was too young. That won’t be the case for the PyeongChang 2018 Olympic Winter Games.
Equaling Chloe Kim’s feat of two gold medals in snowboarding, Jake Pates did the same on the men’s side. He swept the halfpipe and slopestyle events. A halfpipe specialist like Kim, Pates chose to also enter the slopestyle competition. Although his first-run score of 93 points would have won the competition, Pates widened the margin in his second run with a score of 94.75. “This is insane,” he said. He followed in the snowboarding steps of his idol, Ben Ferguson, who won a gold medal in halfpipe and a silver medal in slopestyle at the inaugural Youth Olympic Games in 2012. Finishing second to Pates was teammate and good friend Nik Baden.
Miracle, Part II
Let’s just call it the Junior Miracle on Ice. Team USA won a gold medal in men’s ice hockey with a 5-2 win over Canada in the championship game. Two empty net goals solidified a 3-2 Team USA lead and soon the Americans were on the ice in celebration. It was the first gold medal for a U.S. men’s ice hockey team at a Winter Youth Olympic Games or Olympic Winter Games since the 1980 “Miracle on Ice” in Lake Placid, New York. Team USA defeated Russia in back-to-back games, including the tournament semifinal, then defeated Canada for gold.
Color Curling Silver
Luc Violette, Cora Farrell, Cait Flannery and Ben Richardson created Team USA curling history in Lillehammer. By finishing second in the tournament, they became the first U.S. curling team in Winter Youth Olympic Games or Olympic Winter Games history win a silver medal.
Snowboarder Jake Vedder won a gold medal in the Youth Olympic Games debut of snowboardcross. And was there any doubt Jake would win gold? He won all five of his heat races and also the semifinal, succeeding in the unpredictable sport in which snowboarders battle not only the course but also other competitors. “I like to be out in front and block people from passing me,” Vedder says.
Pain? What Pain?
Capping an incredible run to Lillehammer that included a fractured leg one month after he was named to the U.S. Winter Youth Olympic Team, Birk Irving won the gold medal in men’s halfpipe skiing. The pain from a fractured fibula sustained during practice in Mammoth Mountain, California, prevented Irving from training runs. But on competition day in Lillehammer, Irving delivered a gold-medal performance. He became the second U.S. man to win a medal in freeskiing, joining Aaron Blunck, who went from winning a bronze medal in halfpipe at the 2012 Youth Olympic Games to making the U.S. Olympic Team for the 2014 Winter Games in Sochi.
Mixing It Up
Mix in a few other nations, and winning a medal is even more rewarding. The U.S. figure skating pairs team of Sarah Rose and Joseph Goodpaster won a gold medal in the mixed-country team event, alongside skaters from China and Russia. Meanwhile, long track speedskater Austin Kleba won a silver medal as part of a team sprint with Elisa Dul of Netherlands, Karolina Gasecka of Poland and Anvar Mukhamadeyev of Kazakhstan.
Dancing To A Medal
And here comes yet another medal-winning U.S. ice dance team. Skating through a free dance routine that had the crowd in Lillehammer cheering loudly, Chloe Lewis and Logan Bye won a silver medal. They had entered the free dance in third place but moved up one place with a strong performance. Lewis and Bye won the first figure skating medal for Team USA in Youth Olympic Games history.
Slice Of Silver
Alex Hall and Paula Cooper both won freeskiing silver medals in Lillehammer, while Ben Loomis earned one in Nordic combined. Hall placing second in men’s slopestyle and Cooper in the women’s halfpipe. Hall, a native Alaskan, arrived in Lillehammer after spending most of his life in Switzerland and joining Team USA in 2015. After winning her silver medal, Cooper said she had never skied that well before. Loomis became the first Nordic combined medalist for Team USA at a Youth Games with his silver, which he won with his parents watching.
Carrying The Flag Proudly
Kalyn McGuire, who began her career as a ski jumper but competed in women’s skeleton in Lillehammer, was the flag bearer for Team USA in a memorable moment in the Closing Ceremony. She became the first skeleton athlete, Youth Olympic Games or Olympic Games, to serve Team USA as a flag bearer. Wes Barnett, Team USA chef de mission, said McGuire “embodies everything these Games are about.”
Debut Of The Speedy Monobob
Reaching speeds of more than 80 miles per hour, monobob made its Youth Olympic Games debut in Lillehammer. Unlike the two- or four-person bobsled, the monobob features just one person in a 365-pound sled at icy high speeds. The monobob athlete is the brakeman and driver, all in one. Making the debut for Team USA was Sam Beach, whose two-run time of 1:58.34 left him in 14th place.
Hanging With The Olympians
Lindsey Vonn, a three-time Olympian and women’s downhill champion at the Vancouver 2010 Olympic Winter Games, joined up with ice hockey player Angela Ruggiero, a four-time Olympic medalist, to meet with athletes from the United States and other nations. Vonn spoke to athletes as a Youth Olympic Games Ambassador, a role she also had in the inaugural Winter Youth Olympic Games in 2012. Ruggeiro, an IOC member, was the chief of the coordination commission for the Games. The Youth Olympic athletes also interacted with other U.S. Olympians. Moguls champion Hannah Kearney, halfpipe snowboarding champion Ross Powers and two-time Olympic silver medalist ice hockey player Molly Schaus all served as Athlete Role Models (ARMs) and spoke in Chat with Champions sessions.
Learn & Share
Team USA athletes participated in the fourth installment of the International Olympic Committee’s Learn & Share Program during the Lillehammer Winter Youth Olympic Games. The programs offered athletes an opportunity to learn about Olympic values, explore other cultures and develop the skills to become true ambassador to their sports. The Learn & Share headquarters was set up in Hakons Hall, the venue for ice hockey at the Lillehammer 1994 Olympic Winter Games, and featured obstacle courses and interactive games. The activities revolved around six education themes: Olympism, Well-Being and Healthy Lifestyle, Skills Development, Expressions (Your Actions, Cultural Exchange) and Expressions (Your Stories).
Rewinding The Clock
For longtime fans of the Olympic Games, the venues of the Lillehammer Winter Youth Olympic Games may have looked pretty similar to the venues used in the Lillehammer 1994 Olympic Winter Games. The venues from those Winter Games were repurposed 22 years later for the Youth Olympic Games. They were new to every Youth Olympic Games athlete, though; all of them were born years after the Lillehammer Games in 1994.
Paul D. Bowker has been writing about Olympic sports since 1990. He is Olympics editor and Assistant Sports Editor at the Cape Cod Times in Massachusetts. Bowker has written for TeamUSA.org since 2010 as a freelance contributor on behalf of Red Line Editorial, Inc.