My top 2018 Olympic moments

Feb. 22: Team USA gets its revenge

It’s arguably the greatest rivalry in all of sports. Since its introduction in 1998, every Winter Olympics but one has had the same two teams in the women’s hockey gold-medal final: Canada and the United States. The U.S. won in 1998, and Canada won in 2002, 2006, 2010 and 2014, the last of those being the greatest Canadian women’s hockey moment of all time (down 2-0 with three and a half minutes left to go, the team rallies, with the help of Brianne Jenner, Marie-Philip Poulin and an empty net goal post, and Poulin scores again in overtime to give Canada the gold).

The national teams seemed to have settled into a pattern, where the U.S. tends to win world championships (seven of the past eight went to the U.S.) and Canada tends to win the Olympics. During the preliminary round match on Feb. 15, Canada won 2-1. But everyone knew both teams would make the final.

In the gold-medal match, Team USA’s Hilary Knight, who was devastated when her team lost the 2014 gold in Sochi, scored first, but Haley Irwin and Poulin put Canada in the lead in the second. With seven minutes left in the third, Monique Lamoureux equalized for the U.S. and the game went to overtime. As is written.

But Poulin couldn’t score the gold-medal-winning goal for a third straight Olympics. Overtime ended without a goal, so it went to a shootout, over the objections of hockey fans everywhere. It was 2am on a Thursday, but Canadians were still glued to their TVs, breathlessly following every shootout attempt on USA’s Maddie Rooney and Canada’s Shannon Szabados.

First round, USA leads 1-0. Second round, Canada equalizes. Third round, Melodie Daoust puts Canada ahead on a patient deke, but Amanda Kessel quickly equalizes. Jenner and Knight are both unsuccessful, so it goes to a sixth round.

Jocelyne Lamoureux takes the puck in slowly and gets Szabados to bite on a sweet move to score. Agosta’s attempt almost trickles in to the net, but Rooney swats it away, and just like that Team USA makes Canada feel what it felt four years ago.

It’s heartbreak for Canada, but a rivalry where one side always wins isn’t really a rivalry. We’ll get them again next time.

Feb. 23: Canada goes 1-2 — again — in women’s ski cross

One of the highlights in Sochi was women’s ski cross, when Marielle Thompson and Kelsey Serwa of Canada took gold and silver.

This time, there were four Canadians among the top 24 in the 1/8 finals. Thompson fell after the first jump in her heat, and couldn’t catch the others to advance. India Sherret lost her balance landing one jump and couldn’t get back upright before the next one, causing her to hit the ground hard. That left two Canadians in the quarterfinals: Serwa and Brittany Phelan, who train together and are close friends. Serwa and Phelan both advanced to the semifinal — the same semifinal — with the top two in that race advancing. They ended up finishing 1-2, with Phelan crossing the finish first, to make the big final.

Serwa, who was dominant in most of her races that day, went to an early lead in the final, but Phelan had a bad start and was already in fourth at the first feature. She briefly caught up and was neck and neck with the other two competitors — Fanny Smith of Switzerland and Sandra Naeslund of Sweden — but otherwise spent about 45 seconds in fourth place.

And then it happened. On a tight left turn on the course, as Smith and Naeslund are rubbing shoulders, Phelan takes the inside line and blows right past both of them. Five seconds after being a ski’s length behind them, she’s just barely ahead, and she hits the gas. I mean, as much as you can hit the gas when gravity and momentum are the main forces propelling you forward. The gap grows and 20 seconds later, after Serwa crosses the line for the gold medal, Phelan finishes almost a full second ahead of her competitors.

The two celebrate a second straight 1-2 finish for Canada, and third straight gold medal (Ashleigh McIvor won it in Vancouver). A bit later, as they wave the Canadian flag together, Serwa turns to Phelan and yells: “Britt! We won the Olympics!”

Feb. 23: Curling fever hits Korea

South Korea is known for being dominant in short track speed skating and figure skating, but curling?

The team, with four athletes named Kim, an alternate named Kim and a coach named Kim went 8-1 in the round robin, losing only to Japan. They met Japan again in the semifinal, and by then the country had gone crazy for their curlers.

Korea started by scoring three in the first end, then trading singles and doubles. They were ahead 7-4 in the ninth end, but Japan’s Satsuki Fujisawa scored a double, and then Kim EunJung’s final stone in the 10th rolled too far after hitting its target, giving away a steal.

In the 11th end, Kim was under pressure to throw a draw to the four-foot ring with her final stone. The rock was a bit light, and they swept as hard as they could. The shooter grazed the Japanese stone and came to rest at the edge of the button for the win.

The arena went nuts.

Korea ended up losing to Sweden in the final. It left the Olympics with silver medals, and the hearts of a nation.

1 thoughts on “My top 2018 Olympic moments

  1. dilbert

    For the me, the olympics left me cold – and not just because of the weather. It’s because the Olympics are no longer about athletes being great in and of themselves but rather in a never ending, more and more expensive process of eliminating hundredth of seconds from a performance through aerodynamic testing, improved materials, hi-tech and insanely expensive equipment, and the like.

    Bobsleds? The number bandied about for the Jamaican team was somewhere around $50,000. You can imagine the piles of money put into development skis, snowboards, uniforms, googles, whatever. It’s not best athlete with a standard kit, but often the powerhouse countries who can afford the most high end equipment that win.

    That’s sad.

    Few sports are immune to the problem, the Olympics just make it a little more obvious at times.

    I didn’t even get into doping. The amount of money, time, and effort put into doping, anti-doping, anti-anti-doping, masking agents, sneaky (and cheaty) IV drips and whatnot… it’s all pretty disheartening.

    I long since got over the Olympics, any national pride is always overwhelmed by the idea that our athletes might do better with more funding, or would be beaten soundly by better athletes if their countries would finance the whole deal. That seems to kill the idea of amateur sports.


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