Winter Olympics: hits and misses from the Pyeongchang Games

With the 2018 Games behind us, here is a look at some of the highs and lows of South Korea’s Winter Olympics

Hit: North Korea’s cheerleaders

North Korea sent more synchronised cheerleaders than athletes to Pyeongchang, and everywhere they went the women were constantly photographed and cheered. For many South Koreans it was the first time they’d ever met any of their northern neighbours. The DPRK’s male minders made sure, though, that they were kept very separate from the general population.

Miss: Mike Pence

It was a tough Olympics for US vice-president Mike Pence. Before and during the Games he was vocally criticised by LGBT athletes Gus Kenworthy and Adam Rippon for his attitude to gay rights. Then at the opening ceremony Pence found himself awkwardly sat near to Kim Jong-un’s sister and the North Korean VIP delegation, at a time when at home the USA was piling more diplomatic pressure on the DPRK over its nuclear programme. He did not shake their hands.

Hit: Marit Bjørgen

Norway’s Marit Bjørgen made history as the most decorated ever Winter Olympics athlete. With 15 medals overall, she claimed her seventh and eighth gold medals in cross-country skiing in South Korea. Aged 37, it was her fifth Olympics. The top three Winter Olympians of all time are Norwegian: Ole Einar Bjørndalen and Bjørn Dæhlie have 13 and 12 medals respectively, and the country topped Pyeongchang’s medal table.

Marit Bjørgen of Norway posing with her record-breaking 15th Winter Olympics medal.
Marit Bjørgen of Norway posing with her record-breaking 15th Winter Olympics medal. Photograph: Maddie Meyer/Getty Images

Miss: Elizabeth Swaney

Swaney performed the world’s dullest halfpipe ski routine, attempting virtually no tricks, to much ire on social media. She was born and bought up un the US, but her grandparents are from Hungary, allowing her to compete for that country. Her unambitious programme would usually guarantee she’d finish above competitors who had fallen and failed to score, but on this occasion it took her no further than finishing last in qualification. Still, she fulfilled her long ambition to reach the Games, and gets to call herself an Olympian for life.

Hit: Team GB’s Super Saturday

It was an unprecedented feat as Britain’s first Olympic medal-winning skier Izzy Atkin was joined by Lizzy Yarnold’s gold and Laura Deas’s bronze in the skeleton. The first time Team GB had ever won three medals in a day at a Winter Olympics, with Yarnold becoming the first Briton to retain a Winter Olympic title in the process.

But your heart went out to Austria’s Janine Flock. Her final run saw her slip from leading the skeleton, to missing out on the medals altogether. Team GB ended up with their best ever Winter Olympics medal haul.

Great Britain’s Lizzy Yarnold (left) and Laura Deas celebrate winning gold and bronze.
Great Britain’s Lizzy Yarnold (left) and Laura Deas celebrate winning gold and bronze. Photograph: David Davies/PA

Miss: Elise Christie

In stark contrast to Team GB’s success on the skeleton track, on the speed skating ice Elise Christie crashed out. Not once. Not twice. But three times. Despite being a triple gold medal winner in 2017’s World Championships, Christie now has a run of six successive crashes or disqualifications at the Olympics.

Elise Christie had another Winter Olympics to forget.
Elise Christie had another Winter Olympics to forget. Photograph: Mike Egerton/PA

Hit: South Korea’s ‘garlic girls’

The gold medal eluded them in the end, but the five Kims on South Korea’s women’s curling team became national heroes as they unexpectedly reached the final. Dubbed the “Garlic girls” after their garlic-producing hometown Uiseong, the nation took them to their hearts as they made thrilling progress through the tournament.

Miss: South Korea’s speed-skating ‘bullies’

Less popular with the South Korean public were the women speedskaters. Kim Bo-reum and Park Ji-woo were accused of bullying team-mate Noh Seon-yeong after a disastrous pursuit quarter-final where Noh had been dropped off the back of the team, and was left in tears by the trackside. In a press conference afterwards one of the skaters appeared to laugh about Noh not being able to keep up. More than 500,000 people then signed a petition calling for Kim and Park to be ousted from the team.

Kim Bo-reum and Park Ji-woo leave team-mate Noh Seon-yeong behind.
Kim Bo-reum and Park Ji-woo leave team-mate Noh Seon-yeong behind. Photograph: Kimimasa Mayama/EPA

Hit: Chloe Kim and her ice cream desire

Chloe Kim became one of the stars of the Games at just 17, becoming the youngest woman to win an Olympic snowboarding medal, taking gold in the women’s snowboard halfpipe. Her approachability was typified by a tweet she sent saying “Could be down for some ice cream right now” – in the middle of competing.

Chloe Kim tweets about ice cream while competing in the Olympics.
Chloe Kim tweets about ice cream while competing in the Olympics. Photograph: Twitter

Miss: weather

High winds saw several events included ski-jumping cancelled and pushed back a few days. Not so the women’s snowboarding slopestyle final, which went ahead in conditions described by competitors as “too dangerous”. Only nine of the 52 runs in the final were clean, making the result something of a lottery.

Hit: trousers and knitting

Beyond topping the medal table, Norway also made a sartorial impact, with their curling team once again sporting extravagant trousers. On Valentine’s Day they graced the Pyeongchang ice with a uniform featuring pink love hearts. Meanwhile Finland’s Olympians caught the eye with their knitting hobby – the squad was collectively making a blanket for the Finnish president’s newborn child.

Norway’s Valentine’s Day trousers.
Norway’s Valentine’s Day trousers. Photograph: Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images

Miss: the Gabriella Papadakis dress

French ice dancer Gabriella Papadakis will remember her appearance in Pyeongchang for all the wrong reasons. While dancing with Guillaume Cizeron, her dress became unfastened, revealing rather more than intended. “It was my worst nightmare happening at the Olympics,” she said. The couple retained their composure, however, and eventually secured silver.

Gabriella Papadakis and Guillaume Cizeron after the wardrobe malfunction.
Gabriella Papadakis and Guillaume Cizeron after the wardrobe malfunction. Photograph: Jean Catuffe/Getty Images


Martin Belam

The GuardianTramp

Related Content

Article image
The LGBT athletes making history at the 2018 Winter Olympics
Eric Radford has made history as the Games’ first openly gay gold medalist, while other stars have lit up social media

Martin Belam

14, Feb, 2018 @5:00 AM

Article image
Winter Olympics closing ceremony: 10 highlights from Pyeongchang
The Games came to a spectacular end. Here’s what stood out from the two-hour show

Martin Belam

25, Feb, 2018 @2:15 PM

Article image
Team USA's Winter Olympics highlights and lowlights: our writers' verdicts
From Chloe Kim’s gold to Elizabeth Swaney’s slouch towards glory, Guardian writers on the big stories from Pyeongchang

Bryan Armen Graham, Beau Dure, Les Carpenter and DJ Gallo

26, Feb, 2018 @12:27 PM

Article image
Our dark political times have infected the Winter Olympics | Jack Bernhardt
From Russia’s drug-abusing to North Korea’s cheerleaders and way too much Mike Pence, the dystopian Games bode ill, writes comedian Jack Bernhardt

Jack Bernhardt

21, Feb, 2018 @9:00 AM

Article image
Winter Olympics 2018: who will shine for your country at Pyeongchang?
Which athletes do you expect to win medals in Pyeongchang and whose performances might surprise a few people?

Tom Stevens and Guardian readers

17, Jan, 2018 @11:10 AM

Article image
Gay men are winning this year’s Winter Olympics – and making it a joy to watch
Eric Radford is the first voluntarily out gay man to win a gold medal, while Adam Rippon and Gus Kenworthy have achieved other firsts on the slopes

Hadley Freeman

21, Feb, 2018 @12:23 PM

Article image
Pyeongchang Winter Olympics 2018: 'the Games of new horizons'? | Sean Ingle
Russian scandal couldn’t overshadow spectacular sport and thawing relations between North and South Korea

Sean Ingle

25, Feb, 2018 @7:55 PM

Article image
Winter Olympics 2018: the 10 best moments from Pyeongchang
From Ester Ledecka’s double-discipline golds to Lizzy Yarnold’s skeleton heroics, our writers in South Korea pick their favourite moments from the Winter Olympics

Sean Ingle, Bryan Armen Graham and Benjamin Haas in Pyeongchang

25, Feb, 2018 @2:32 PM

Article image
Winter Olympics 2018: day five from Pyeongchang – as it happened
Shaun White won his third gold medal in the snowboard halfpipe on another day that was disrupted by poor weather conditions in Pyeongchang

Kate O’Halloran (earlier) and Nick Miller (now)

14, Feb, 2018 @3:33 PM

Article image
Winter Olympics 2018: day nine from Pyeongchang – as it happened
Controversy in the women’s curling as GB lose to Sweden; GB men beat Italy; James Woods finishes fourth in the slopestyle final; and Martin Fourcade of France took the mass biathlon in an amazing finish

Kate O’Halloran (first) Daniel Harris (earlier) and Ben Fisher (at the end)

18, Feb, 2018 @2:13 PM