Another Winter Olympics has come and gone, with the nation enjoying the best of the coolest sports (if you’ll pardon the pun) being broadcast from Pyeongchang in South Korea. Team GB’s collection of athletes put on a performance Eddie the Eagle would have been proud of, as they surpassed their previous medal count record and achieved five medals, one of which wasn’t bronze. The Games were full of highlights, thrills and spills, slips and trips, but copious amounts of talent and skill on show for the world to see.
The opening ceremony was a traditional spectacle, though not void of awkward moments in classic Olympics-style. Augmented reality was used throughout the show to enhance the experience for those viewing at home, whilst those in the stadium were left watching people awkwardly staring upwards at something that wasn’t there. Rising tensions between North Korean leader Kim Jong-un and United States President Donald Trump inevitably led to impersonators attempting to make their way into the stadium before they were foiled by security, and subsequently removed.
The infamous Tongan, Pita Taufatofua, who came to worldwide attention at the 2016 Summer Games whilst parading his nations flag topless and covered in oil, also made an appearance in the same fashion despite the sub-zero temperatures. One of the more emotional moments from the opening ceremony was the parading of a singular Korean flag, with athletes from both nations walking together around the arena. Thomas Bach, current President of the International Olympic Committee said that the joint parade was “a great example” of the “unifying power” of sports during his opening speech and went on to commend them for their message of peace.
Once the opening ceremony was over however, it was down to business for everyone, and it didn’t take long for records to be set. Sweden took the first gold medal of the games, with Charlotte Kalla improving on her runner-up place in Sochi to take first place in the 15km skiathlon. However, it was second-placed Marit Bjoergen who took all the headlines, becoming the most decorated female Winter Olympian ever, with her eleventh medal. By the end of the games, Norway had set a new medal record, achieving 39 and topping the United States’ previous benchmark by two.
Records were set by British athletes as well, achieving five medals and securing a number of top four, or top ten, finishes throughout the games. With four bronze medals and one gold courtesy of Lizzy Yarnold defending her skeleton title, Team GB had a memorable Winter Olympics. Team GB were made to wait for the first medal however, not coming until day seven, when Dom Parsons raced down the track in the Men’s Skeleton, securing only second place with two riders left. Someone needed to make a mistake. With bated breath, the nation watched on and prayed for a miracle. Lo and behold, after a mistake from Latvian athlete Dukurs, Parsons was gifted Team GB’s first medal of the Winter Olympics.
The medal hopes were high on Yarnold to retain her title and claim a gold medal, though not overpowering. Overcoming the opposition from Germany and Austria, Brits Lizzy Yarnold and Laura Deas put in slick and speedy performances on day eight to claim the gold and bronze respectively in the women’s skeleton. Day eight also proved fruitful for Izzy Atkin, who nailed her performance in the freestyle skiing slopestyle, to take home the bronze medal. Mechanical, methodical, and marvellous, her jumps and rails were crisp and clean, earning her a high enough score for another British medal after three other skiers failed to catch up to her. This was Britain’s first ever medal on skis, and she was understandably emotional, but elated, once the result was announced.
Billy Morgan came into the men’s big air event as a potential contender, but after two jumps, sat down in eighth place. With nothing to lose, and the world to gain, Morgan decided to risk it all on his final effort. Pulling off a magnificent jump, Morgan found himself in the medal positions, and in contention to stay there. Again, the nation waited impatiently for the other jumpers, praying for a mistake somewhere. Once again, the nerves played a huge factor and Morgan went on to secure Britain’s fifth and final medal of the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics.
Sadly, not all Olympic stories have a happy ending. Elise Christie, competing in the 1500m Speed Skating, crashed out for the second time in the semi-final on the final corner, robbing her of a place in the final. In the curling, expectations were high for Eve Muirhead and the ladies curling team, but they could only manage fourth place finish behind a spirited South Korean team, pipping them to the bronze medal.
Team GB had set records themselves, surpassing their previous record of four medals to claim five and meeting their pre-Olympics target. The result comes off the back of £28.35m funding from UK Sport, but according to an interview with the BBC, Sir Steve Redgrave thinks there should be more funding made available for athletes to practice in the United Kingdom. Speaking to the BBC, Redgrave said “The money should be concentrated on more of those sports that we could do. We’re very good at curling. We could have more curling, more volume of people involved in that. Something like skeleton, bobsleigh, luge, the alpine skiing events – we’re not brought up on a mountain, we’re not going to have that opportunity.” Katharine Grainger, chair of UK Sport who provided the funding for the athletes, also spoke to the BBC and said, “We have seen two weeks of phenomenal sport, there is a real interest from the British public and people do like to see us successful.”
The Winter Olympics are a joy to behold, watching inhuman feats of skill and precision from the most genuine and down-to-earth humans. Perhaps with the arrival of Storm Emma and the “Beast from the East”, more of us will be tempted to try and get into winter sports? Or simply settle for unwittingly slipping our way to lectures on a frosty Friday morning.