If you were a little groggy throughout the daylight hours in February, you weren’t alone. And you were certainly justified. Team USA gave fans back home plenty of reason to stay up late and wake up early to tune into the Olympic Winter Games PyeongChang 2018. The legends shined, the newcomers raised the bar and the storylines were typically compelling.
Here are 18 moments we won't soon forget from the 2018 Olympics:
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Red Gerard Wins Team USA’s First Medal, And It’s Gold
One of the youngest athletes on Team USA at 17, Gerard wasn’t one to let the pressure get to him. The Colorado native grew up snowboarding with his brothers in the backyard, and he took that experience to the slopestyle snowboarding course in PyeongChang. Listed at 5-foot-5 and 116 pounds, Gerard navigated through windy conditions, closing out his winning final run with a triple-cork 1440. Scoring 87.16, Gerard took home Team USA’s first medal of the Games and became the youngest snowboarder to win an Olympic gold medal. Afterward, the teenager was so in-demand that he flew back to the U.S. for media hits before coming back and competing in big air, where he finished fifth.
Shaun White Returns To Gold, Earns No. 100 For Team USA
White was sitting in second place heading into not just his final run on the halfpipe but the final run of the competition. It wasn’t a bad place to be for a 31-year-old who won the first of his two Olympic gold medals in the event 12 years earlier. But White wasn’t going for second place; the 2006 and 2010 champion was seeking redemption from a disappointing fourth-place finish in 2014. He executed the run of his life, flawlessly landing back-to-back 1440s among the gravity-defying tricks that would ultimately give him his third gold medal. White knew the moment he landed his last trick that he’d done something special, throwing both arms in the air in celebration, then could only wait for his score. The announcement left White in tears. He dropped to his knees before taking the American flag and celebrated what is now one of the most memorable runs in Olympic snowboarding history. His medal also marked the 100th gold medal for Team USA in Winter Games history.
“Here Comes Diggins!” For Cross-Country History
After qualifying first in the semifinal of the women’s cross-country team sprint, the U.S. team of five-time Olympian Kikkan Randall and two-time Olympian Jessie Diggins was right there alongside Norway and Sweden heading into the final lap. Coming down the stretch, Norway dropped off and Diggins made a furious surge. “Here comes Diggins! Here comes Diggins!” shouted NBC broadcaster Chad Salmela as the 26-year-old reached to edge Sweden by the slimmest of margins. Diggins fell to the snow as Randall dropped to her knees to hug her teammate in one of the enduring images of the Olympic Winter Games. Sharing the American flag, the duo continued to look at one another in disbelief and were later dancing on the podium as they prepared to accept not just the first women’s cross-country skiing medal ever awarded to the U.S., but the gold medal.
Women’s Hockey Team Beats Canada In OT Shootout For Gold
That the U.S. women’s ice hockey team had not won the gold medal since the event’s Olympic debut in 1998 was one of the major storylines heading into the Winter Games. Four years after watching their two-goal lead slip away and losing to Canada in overtime to win the 2014 silver medal, the U.S. had to come from behind to tie the 2018 gold-medal rematch in regulation. It went to overtime, then a shootout, and the shootout was tied at 2-2 until Jocelyne Lamoureux-Davidson skated down with a winding deke move she calls “Oops, I did it again” to score. U.S goaltender Maddie Rooney stopped Canada’s last shot from Meghan Agosta, and the celebration was on as the team converged on one another.
“Team Of Rejects” Captures Country's First Curling Gold
To say the U.S. team was an underdog coming into the Winter Games doesn’t quite cut it. Skip John Shuster was at his fourth Olympics, and the last two times had finished last and next-to-last. That story is well known now, of course, because in an “only at the Olympics” type of plot line his rink was on the verge of elimination with a 2-4 pool-play record before rattling off three must-win victories and then beating three-time defending gold medalist Canada in the semifinals. That set up a final against highly-favored Sweden. The match was tied until Shuster’s double takeout with the last throw of the eighth end — an instant highlight that will be talked about for ages amongst American curling fans — gave them a decisive five-point lead. The Swedish team conceded in the 10th and amidst cheers of “USA! USA!” as the Americans celebrated the country’s first Olympic gold medal in the sport.
Chloe Kim’s Halfpipe Victory And Tweets
Kim had the expectations of not just one but two nations on her in the women’s snowboarding halfpipe competition. The 17-year-old sensation from California with South Korea-born parents had gained fame off the slopes as well as on, and, as the face of her sport, she was heavily favored to win the gold medal. Throughout the Olympic competition, Kim gained more renown — and social media followers — when she tweeted about being “hangry,” eating churros and wanting ice cream between her runs down the halfpipe. With her high-flying ability, Kim took the drama out of the competition, locking up the gold medal before her final run. Yet she still managed to end the competition with her most memorable run yet. Kim gave a thumbs up and clapped before launching into her victory lap, then became the first woman to land back-to-back 1080s in Olympic competition. She scored a near-perfect 98.25 on the run and became the youngest woman to win Olympic snowboarding gold.
Nathan Chen’s Astounding Comeback Free Skate
It wasn’t supposed to be this way for Chen. The two-time U.S. national men’s figure skating champion whose past two years seemed to have been all building toward Olympic glory wasn’t supposed to be in 17th place after the short program. But Chen had fallen and made scores of uncharacteristic mistakes, both during the team event and the individual event in the short program, and he entered the free skate with no hope of medaling. It would have been understandable if the 18-year-old was shaken to his core, but instead he responded with a brilliant, beautiful and redemptive free skate. He became the first skater to successfully land five clean quads — his hand touched on a sixth — and scored a personal best of 215.08, the highest score of the night. Chen finished in fifth place overall and won the free skate by nearly nine points.
Lindsey Vonn Closes Out Her Olympic Career With A Medal
Vonn battled through a lot to make her fourth Olympic team, her injury struggles having never stayed away for long since having to withdraw from the 2014 Olympics in Sochi due to a knee injury. But eight years after winning gold in the downhill and bronze in the super-G in Vancouver, Vonn won her third Olympic medal when she took bronze in the downhill. The all-time women’s leader in world cup wins was moved to tears in a post-race interview talking about her last Olympic downhill and skiing to make her late grandfather proud. She finished just .47 second behind gold medalist Sofia Goggia of Italy, and at 33 years old became the oldest woman to win an Olympic medal in alpine skiing.
Team USA Gets Some Superfan Celebrity Support
Comedian Leslie Jones established herself as a Team USA superfan in Rio in 2016, documenting her support for all things U.S. Olympic Team on social media before traveling to the country to cheer her favorite athletes on in person. She was back at it in PyeongChang as the “Saturday Night Live” star posted her commentary on everything from figure skating outfits to luge and her love for Chris Mazdzer. When it came to supporting the U.S. curling team, however, Jones had nothing on Mr. T. The actor was tweeting about curling from Day 1, and as the U.S. team got deeper and deeper into the tournament, his #curlingiscoolfool tweets only intensified. He even called Team Shuster on the eve of the gold-medal match against Sweden to offer a pep talk, and he made his own predictions about the result: “I predict PAIN for Sweden and victory for the USA! Yeah that’s what I’m talking about. We’re in it to win it fool! #curlingiscoolfool"
Mikaela Shiffrin Wins A Second Gold In A Second Event
Shiffrin was in second place in the giant slalom when she started her final run, but she wouldn’t be there when it was over. The 22-year-old attacked the course and her aggressive run paid off, finishing with a time of 1:10.82. Her combined time of 2:20.02 gave her the lead ahead of Norway’s Ragnhild Mowinckel with just one skier remaining. Shiffrin raised her arms in the air, then rested her hands on her helmet, poles outstretched, then covered her goggles with her gloves. The time was enough to hold off first-run leader Manuela Moelgg of Italy, and Shiffrin won her second Olympic gold medal to go along with her slalom win in 2014.
Adam Rippon Wins Over Everyone — And Also A Bronze Medal
The 28-year-old Rippon finally made the Olympics in his third try, and he did it his way. At a time when men’s figure skating is all about pushing the limits with more and more quads, Rippon proudly emphasized his technique and artistry all the way to a team bronze medal. As much as Rippon’s skating captivated fans, though, his personality helped push him to superstardom. The first openly gay American to make a U.S. Olympic team, Rippon fully embraced the Olympic experience, and his enthusiasm was contagious throughout the Games. At one point or another, it seemed that everyone was tweeting about Rippon, including Reese Witherspoon and Britney Spears. It’s no surprise, then, that he trended to No. 1 worldwide on Twitter.
David Wise Defends Halfpipe Skiing Gold
Halfpipe skiing made its Olympic debut in 2014, and Wise scored a 92.00 on his first run, a score that held up to give the 23-year-old the gold medal. Four years later he was back to defend his title, but this time the first two runs hadn’t gone well. He had binding troubles and came out of his skis both times. But after a few adjustments, Wise came out to nail his third and final run. The level of difficulty was something few in the sport could do, with double corks performed in all four directions, and Wise did it masterfully to score a 97.20 and continue his legacy as skiing’s king of the halfpipe.
Chris Mazdzer Surprises For Silver - Best Result By An American
Mazdzer’s story is another that will be told whenever the subject of what’s great about the Olympics comes up. The singles luger had struggled coming into his third Olympics and wasn’t finding much success on the world cup circuit. He posted to social media in January that his ability to compete with the top sliders in the world seemed to have disappeared. Yet when it came his time in PyeongChang, Mazdzer finished in fourth place after his first two runs. It was his third run in which he jumped up to second place, and he would hold steady there with a final combined time of 3:10.728 seconds, just .026 seconds out of first place. After his fourth run Mazdzer bounded off the track to his supporters. His silver medal marked the best performance by a U.S. singles luger in Olympic history and the first medal for the U.S. in men’s singles.
Women’s Team Pursuit Squad Ends Lengthy Drought
Time was running out for the U.S. to end its speedskating medal drought. Still empty-handed as the race schedule was entering its final days, the women’s team pursuit squad of Heather Bergsma, Brittany Bowe, Mia Manganello and Carlijn Schoutens represented the last best chance for the U.S. to get its first long track medal since 2010. They were crushed by Netherlands in the semifinal, but in the bronze-medal final beat Canada by .45 seconds to win US Speedskating’s first women’s medal in 16 years.
Jamie Anderson Defends Her Slopestyle Gold
Fierce winds whipped across the Phoenix Snow Park, forcing the women’s slopestyle snowboarding final to be delayed for more than an hour. Though the wind finally calmed enough to compete, the final was still condensed to two runs apiece, instead of the standard three. Braving the frigid, unpredictable conditions, Anderson opened with a scaled down run, featuring a backside 540, a cab 540 and a front 720. Importantly, she landed them all, scoring 83 points. On a day when few runs ended cleanly at the bottom of the hill, that was enough for Anderson to defend her Olympic gold medal, making her the only female snowboarder to own two gold medals. And before all was said and done, the 27-year-old Anderson added a silver medal, too, this time in the big air competition that was making its Olympic debut in PyeongChang.
Mirai Nagasu Makes History With Her Triple Axel
A singles figure skater always commands the arena, but the anticipation was palpable when Nagasu took the ice for the free skate portion of the team competition. The 24-year-old came into the Games promising to perform the rarely seen triple axel, and when early in her performance she took off facing forward, spun more than three times, and then landed cleanly, the anticipation turned to a release. Nagasu became just the third woman to land a triple axel in Olympic competition, and the first American to do so. The difficult jump helped Nagasu and the U.S. team claim the team bronze medal for the second time in a row. Although the jump wasn’t as successful in the individual event — Nagasu over-rotated and fell during the short program (with many fans appreciating what they called a quadruple axel attempt), and bailed in the free skate, en route to a 10th-place finish — the historic execution in the team event won’t soon be forgotten.
Even An Appendectomy Couldn’t Stop Bobsledder Justin Olsen
Everyone knows bobsledders are tough. Olsen took that to another level in PyeongChang. On Feb. 5, four days before the Opening Ceremony, the veteran pilot developed a stomachache. Soon after, he was in a South Korean hospital undergoing an appendectomy. After a few days in the hospital, Olsen was back in the hotel and posting a video of himself doing pushups. Although the results weren’t as strong as Olsen’s Olympic debut, when he won a four-man gold medal as a push athlete in 2010, he managed to drive Evan Weinstock to a 14th-place finish in the two-man competition on Feb. 18-19, and then on Feb. 24-25 he piloted his four-man sled to 20th.
Ice Dancing Shib Sibs Become First Of Asian Descent To Medal
With their obvious chemistry on the ice and their approachable style off it, siblings Maia and Alex Shibutani — aka “the Shib Sibs” — developed a following long before the 2018 Winter Games. Now out of the shadow of teammates and 2014 Olympic gold medalists Meryl Davis and Charlie White, the Shib Sibs shined in the 2018 Olympic spotlight. Performing an inspired free dance to Coldplay, the brother-sister duo helped the U.S. win a team bronze medal. In the process, they became the first ice dancers of Asian descent to medal at the Olympics. A few days later they added another bronze medal, this time in the individual ice dance competition. “We started out strong in the team event,” Alex said, “and we continued to grow, just embracing the Olympic energy and pulling from within ourselves.”
Karen Price is a reporter from Pittsburgh who has covered Olympic sports for various publications. She is a freelance contributor to TeamUSA.org on behalf of Red Line Editorial, Inc.