The First Medal of the 2018 Winter Olympics

The First Medal of the 2018 Winter Olympics
Local advises Pyeongchang Olympics visitors to prepare for cold weather
nBeau [email protected] LogoFeatured ColumnistFebruary 11, 2018 CommentsComment Bubble IconPyeongchang Winter Olympics 2018: Previewing What to Watch for on Day 30 of 6

Feb. 12 in South Korea (Feb. 11-12 in the United States) offers up a fun mix of classic events (speedskating, biathlon), newer events (snowboard slopestyle) and new twists on old events (figure skating’s team event, women’s ski jumping).

And it could be a massive day for Team USA, with several medal events counting Americans among the favorites. Unfortunately, one of the biggest names wearing stars and stripes will have to wait for her hardware. The women’s Giant Slalom was postponed due to high winds, delaying Mikaela Shiffrin’s highly anticipated Pyeongchang debut. 

The Pyeongchang organizing committee got somewhat of a break in the opening ceremony with temperatures just under freezing but the wind still persisted.  Colder-than-normal temperatures were expected starting Sunday due to an incoming cold front and wind chill. 

To watch live Olympics coverage in real time, including the highlighted events detailed below, you can visit NBC’s Olympics site anytime. Reminder: South Korea is 14 hours ahead of Eastern time, so an event that takes place Monday morning in Pyeongchang will be on Sunday night in the U.S.

Local advises Pyeongchang Olympics visitors to prepare for cold weather
Local advises Pyeongchang Olympics visitors to prepare for cold weather

David Ramos/Getty ImagesIn 2014, Jamie Anderson first caught attention by talking about her excitement at using Tinder in Sochi. More important, she shook off the pressure to lay down a stellar second run in the then-new slopestyle event to take gold in Russia.

“When it’s, like, in the teens, in single digits, with wind blowing on the ice, it becomes like marble and that grip goes away,” luger Chris Mazdzer said. “That’s one thing we’re going to have to figure out.”

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Since then, she has continued to reign among the world’s elite. In six World Cup events over the past three seasons, she has four firsts, a second and a third. And she just won the X Games slopestyle, where the final five are also the top Olympic contenders, with a silky smooth second run.

“Today, training was a little gusty walking up to the elevator,” Casey Larson said. “Then you kind of get up top, and it’s still windy. But they do have wind nets all over the place, and those do a pretty OK job.”

The qualifying rounds were canceled because of the high winds that have forced a few schedule changes in the mountain events. Sunday’s final (8 p.m. ET) will start with all 27 athletes.

You can also catch Anderson, fellow American Julia Marino and most other slopestyle stars in the new big-air event later in the Games.

Biathletes also have to contend with wind. They’re practiced in preparing to accommodate it when it’s coming consistently from one direction, but switching directions during a race makes it more challenging, Bailey said.

Marcio Jose Sanchez/Associated PressAdam Rippon is already making history. He and freestyle skier Gus Kenworthy are the first openly gay men to compete for the USA in the Winter Games.

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Rippon will have a tough time cracking the podium in the men’s figure skating event in the Games. But in the team event, the USA stands third after Saturday, one point ahead of Italy.

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Even before Nathan Chen’s disappointing short program, Rippon was scheduled to compete for the U.S. team in the free skate (8 p.m. ET) on the third and final day of competition. Mirai Nagasu gets the call to get the USA through the women’s free skate (9:10 p.m. ET), and the Shib sibs—Maia and Alex Shibutani—get the anchor leg in the free dance (10:20 p.m. ET).

Prior to the Games, some cyber-security experts had expressed concern that countries like Russia and North Korea might try to target the event.

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Matt Dunham/Associated PressU.S. speedskaters had a rotten time in Sochi. They managed to get one medal in short-track, but a long-track squad filled with accomplished World Cup stars and world champions was shut out.

However, a spokesman said that the International Olympic Committee would not be commenting on who might have been behind the incident.

Heather Bergsma and Brittany Bowe have had a long wait to get back to this point. Not that they’ve been sitting around.

Bergsma, a former inline skater known as Heather Richardson before she married Dutch skater Jorrit Bergsma, has continued to dominate, winning the 1,000 meters and 1,500 meters in last year’s World Championships. She also went 6-of-6 in World Cup 1,000-meter races last year and won the 1,500-meter season title.

The official Winter Olympics website was taken offline after being hit by a cyber-attack, officials have confirmed.

Bowe, who played college basketball at Florida Atlantic, won several World Championship medals in 2015 and 2016 but suffered a concussion that forced her out of the 2016-17 season. She and Bergsma have traded off owning the world records in the 1,000 and 1,500.

TV and internet systems at the Games were also disrupted, though operations were restored about 12 hours later.

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Monday’s race, the 1,500 meters (7:30 a.m. ET), is an opportunity to exorcise a few demons and cap outstanding careers with the ultimate winter sports prizes.

‘They Are Listening Now’ The odds are that among the women chasing medals on Pyeongchang’s slopes and slides, some have stories to tell. Scientific research shows that the more elite an athlete is, the more likely they are to be victims of assault, Greinig knows, because the higher an athlete climbs the more they have to lose. Abusers know that, and exploit it. The Olympics is a natural home to the kind of power dynamics that foster abuse: coaches to athletes, athletes to maids.

Kin Cheung/Associated PressMoguls skiing occupies an unusual middle ground between traditional Olympic events and the X Games competitions; the IOC has added through the years to attract younger viewers. It’s not really “X” enough for the X Games, which moved onto halfpipe, slopestyle and other free-form events. Moguls are more regulated, and time is as much of a factor in the scoring as the tricks skiers do off the two “kickers” on the course. The biggest factor is the paradoxical quest to keep one’s legs together during a bunch of bumps.

But Team USA continues to bring good athletes through this freestyle skiing pipeline. Jeremy Bloom was a top moguls skier who also happened to play college football at Colorado. Today the top U.S. hopeful is Bradley Wilson, who took silver in the non-Olympic event of dual moguls in the 2017 World Championships and took third in a World Cup event in Utah last month.

Every Olympic athlete in Pyeongchang should be vocal about climate change
Every Olympic athlete in Pyeongchang should be vocal about climate change

The man of the moguls at the moment is Canada’s Mikael Kingsbury. He’s well on his way to his seventh straight World Cup season title. He had won a staggering 13 straight World Cup moguls and dual moguls events until slipping all the way to second in a January competition. He has medaled in the last four World Championship moguls events, though he only has one gold. And he has Olympic silver from Sochi.

So this year, for the first time, there is an organized and advertised contingent of offices designed to help sexual assault victims dotted around the sprawling Olympics venues — from clinics that cater to world-class athletes to Sister Droste’s four trailers, organized by the local community for the army of 14,000 volunteers, most of them young, 70 percent of them female.
2018 Winter Olympics athletes adjust to harsh cold with layers, sharper blades, wind nets
2018 Winter Olympics athletes adjust to harsh cold with layers, sharper blades, wind nets

Kingsbury posted the best score in Friday’s qualifying, sailing to the final (7 a.m. ET).

Seo Ji-hyeon, a 45-year-old prosecutor, went on national television to say she was groped at a funeral by a high-ranking government official. When she reported it, instead of punishing him, her superiors demoted her by sending her away to work in a fishing village. Her story inspired others to come forward in recent days — a lawmaker, a university student, a news reporter.
2018 Winter Olympics athletes adjust to harsh cold with layers, sharper blades, wind nets
2018 Winter Olympics athletes adjust to harsh cold with layers, sharper blades, wind nets

Only one thing is missing from that trophy case. Kingsbury is only 25, so he could always go for another run, but Pyeongchang presents a golden opportunity.

This year, she has an office in the Olympic villages, and marches around with a pin on her jacket that reads: “Need to talk?” A sign is plastered to her office door says “I see, I hear, I speak.” The posted hotline number for athletes to report sexual abuse routes to her cell phone and she checks it every few seconds.

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PETER PARKS/Getty ImagesTen years ago, a group of dreamers in Utah was pushing hard to get women’s ski jumping included in the Olympics. Among them was a tiny athlete, barely in her teens, named Sarah Hendrickson. When the sport was controversially denied a place in the 2010 Olympics, they kept fighting, in part for that youngster who kept flying with the poise of someone much older.

During the Summer Games in Rio, two athletes were accused of assaulting housekeepers. A horrified world recently watched dozens of women and girls, some of them Olympians, describe in detail how Larry Nassar, the gymnastics doctor, had sexually abused them for decades as layers of elite athletic organizations failed to stop it.

World Cup competition began in the 2011-12 season, and Hendrickson won the season title by nearly 400 points, taking first in nine of 13 competitions. The Utah native slipped to second place behind Japanese rival Sara Takanashi the next season but still won at the World Championships.

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In 2014, women ski jumpers finally got their place in the Games. But Hendrickson wasn’t at full strength, having torn her MCL and ACL a few months before Sochi. She was given bib No. 1, so she at least had the honor of being the first woman to jump in the Olympics, but she has had four knee surgeries since then.

Now Hendrickson is 23. She’s not the World Cup leader or world champion. Can she turn back time in Pyeongchang? Competition starts at 7:50 a.m. ET.

David Ramos/Getty ImagesChloe Kim is one of the athletes to watch in these Olympics by any definition. She’s a first-generation Korean American who has relatives in the host nation. She’s a phenom making her Olympic debut.

She’s also the first woman to land back-to-back 1080s, and she’s the reigning X Games champion.

If you start to get below -20, that’s a different story, because then the extremities are at risk. The extremities don’t have much muscle contraction, so there’s not much heat produced. As long as you have glycogen, as long as you’re not tired and you can maintain the base, then there is no issue. But, of course, the longer the exercise, the lower the intensity, so at some point the intensity wont be high enough to produce enough heat. It’s a compromise between how much heat you produce and how cold it is.

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We’ve already seen one U.S. teenager, slopestylist Red Gerard, walk away with gold in South Korea. A win for Kim would be a little less surprising.

The 1994 Olympics were in Lillehammer, Norway; I remember that because one of my best friends in France [participated] as a cross-country skier. He didn’t do very well, [partly] because he was too skinny, and was shaking with cold. But I remember after the race the winner was basically naked – he didn’t have any shorts on. That was at the end of the race, right after crossing the finish line. He’d produced so much heat that he was able to stay like that for several minutes.

She’ll make her Olympic debut in the first qualifying run (11:30 p.m. ET). The second run immediately follows.

At a cross-country ski area outside of Carbondale, Colo., the thin track was recently refreshed with a meager two inches of snow. Yet people were out in droves, delighting in all manner of snow sliding. It was a hot January day, so blistering that a local rancher called it beautiful “for April.”

Around one turn, some skiers had built two miniature snowmen. They had raisin eyes and stick arms, and they stood only 10 inches high — scale replicas, really, an homage to a past era of abundance. It didn’t matter. Give people even a little snow and they will find a way to celebrate being alive.

Unseasonably warm temperatures and limited snow delayed resort openings across the country this winter.

It’s not much of a leap from those two underweight snowmen to the Winter Olympics. Yes, the Games are big business. But every Winter Olympian’s love of their sport began with a childlike vision of fun. That’s the real reason climate change poses such a menacing danger to winter sports: Rising temperatures are threatening not just what we do, but who we are.

There’s even a word for it: solastalgia. A climate scientist friend, Elizabeth Burakowski, told me the term describes “the existential distress caused by environmental change, the homesickness felt when one is still at home. It is the unease one feels during those warm, snowless winters.” Today, many lifelong winter athletes are familiar with solastalgia — and a lot of everyday Vermonters and Utahans and Californaisn are too.

The anxiety is justified. NASA scientists named 2017 the second-warmest on record, surpassed only by 2016. According to both NASA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, 17 of the 18 hottest years have occurred since 2001.

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Colder places and colder seasons are changing faster than warmer ones. NOAA has reported that since the turn of the 20th century, winter temperatures in the U.S. have increased at almost twice the rate of summer temperatures. Researchers at the University of Waterloo predict that, by 2050, 9 out of 21 former Winter Olympic sites will be too warm to host the games. Pyeongchang, fortunately, is one of the predictably cold ones, though organizers still expect this year’s games will require man-made snow.

The athletes grasp the full scope of global warming. Bode Miller, the most decorated American Olympic ski racer, recently told the Colorado Springs Gazette: “We’re dealing with a climate issue that’s massive, and it’s going to screw everything up. If you’re not on the cutting edge of that, you’re going to get toasted.”

It’s fair to say that American ski areas already are getting toasted. Unseasonably warm temperatures and limited snow delayed resort openings across the country this winter. One season doesn’t make a trend, but even one dry year means hundreds of millions of dollars in losses.

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In a report that will be released after the Olympics, the nonprofit Protect Our Winters finds that high-snow years in the U.S. produce, on average, an additional $692.9 million in economic value and more than 11,750 additional jobs nationally. During low-snow years, snow country loses $1 billion in value and more than 17,350 jobs compared with an average season.

Of course the numbers distract from greater potential losses — afternoons of family sledding, the madness of skitching, the look of street lamps in a blizzard.

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Olympic athletes are uniquely positioned to sound alarms about climate change. Many of them already do: Ski racing legends Ted Ligety and Steve Nyman; cross-country skiers Kikkan Randall, Andy Newell and Simi Hamilton; and snowboarders Jamie Anderson, Kelly Clark and Danny Davis. They represent a new breed of competitor, focused almost as much on the need to save their craft as they are on the craft itself. Increasingly, their sponsors align. Burton, the company that made the U.S. snowboard team’s Olympic uniforms, is one of the most outspoken businesses about the perils of global warming.

But we need more than leadership from a few. The Olympics are an international stage from which athletes can demand action from the countries they represent and mobilize their sponsors and fans. This year, all the Olympians competing in Pyeongchang should be vocal in some way — every last one.

The Olympics are about achievement and execution, about pushing the limits of human physical ability. Pyeongchang, more than any other winter games in the past, will also be about other limits: how much humans will allow global temperatures to rise and the willingness of elite athletes to use their power, money and global platform to save their livelihoods, and ours.

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Auden Schendler is a senior vice president of Aspen Skiing Co. and a board member of Protect Our Winters.

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