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It was a slow start to the 2018 Winter Olympics for Team USA. Through the first three days of competition, the Americans failed to earn a medal, and heading into the men’s snowboard slopestyle event last weekend, it looked to stay that way. Of the four Americans competing, only one snowboarder—a 17-year-old kid from Colorado—made the 12-man final.
After his first two runs, Redmond Gerard sat in last place. But on his third and final run, the scrawny teenager from Silverthorne went big—throwing down a huge, nearly perfect run under pressure—to claim a surprising gold medal. He was exuberant. He dropped an F-bomb on not-quite-live television. America rejoiced.
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Gerard was the spark Team USA needed. A few hours later, Chris Mazdzer earned a silver medal in luge—the first American man ever to medal in the sport—and on Monday, veteran snowboarder Jamie Anderson won gold in the women’s slopestyle event (she also dropped an F-bomb on live television) as American figure skaters took bronze in the team competition. It’s no surprise that a Coloradan kicked off the medal count for Team USA, as the Centennial State boasts more winter Olympians this year (31) than any other state.
So, as we enter the 12th day of competition in PyeongChang, let’s take a look at how Colorado’s Olympians have done so far and what you can expect for the next week of competition.
Mikaela Shiffrin Wins Gold in GS, Falls Short in Slalom
Mikaela Shiffrin’s 2018 Olympic debut was ultimately postponed twice, but when she took to the giant slalom course Wednesday night (Thursday morning in Korea), she was ready.
Though Shiffrin skied a solid first run, she trailed Manuela Moelgg from Italy by two-tenths of a second. But on her second run (lowest combined time wins), Shiffrin threw down the gauntlet. She won the race with a combined time of 2:20:02, beating the second place finisher by .39 seconds. The victory marked Shiffrin’s second Olympic gold (she won slalom in 2014).
But when Shiffrin took to the slalom course on Friday morning (Thursday evening in North America), she fell short in a race she was widely expected to win. She vomited before her first run, and was in fourth place (.48 seconds behind the leader) entering her second. Ultimately, she wasn’t able to make up the gap and finished off the podium in fourth place—a major shock, as she’s been the world’s most dominant slalom skier over the past several years. She skipped Friday evening’s Super-G race, and will not compete in the downhill on Tuesday. She will, however, still compete in the alpine combined event later this week. Read more on Shiffrin here.
Lindsey Vonn—the four-time Olympian who lives in Vail—began her 2018 games this weekend as the women’s speed events (Alpine Combined, Downhill, and Super-G) ramp up heading into the second week. She was a medal hopeful in the super-G, but made a mistake near the finish line which cost her half a second. She finished in sixth place. She takes to the course Tuesday evening in the women’s downhill race.
Several men are also representing Colorado in alpine skiing this week. Aspen’s Wiley Maple, who overcame huge odds to make the Olympic team, raced Wednesday night in the men’s downhill event and placed 30th. David Chodounsky of Crested Butte will race slalom next week, on Thursday, February 22.
Nordic Combined Team Struggles
When it comes to winter sports, “Nordic” is an all-encompassing term. Various types of skiing, in which the athlete’s toe is fixed to the ski but the heel can rise freely, are considered “Nordic.” Therefore, the Nordic Combined Olympic event—half ski jumping, half cross-country skiing—requires athletes to be particularly versatile. And due to its unique history (Howelsen Hill has helped produce a record number of Olympians), Steamboat Springs sent four Nordic combined athletes to PyeongChang.
But as competitors took to the course (and hill) on Wednesday, the Coloradans came up short. Bryan Fletcher and his younger brother, Taylor, finished in 18th and 35th place, respectively. Steamboat Springs also sent two first-time Olympians—Jasper Good, 21, and Ben Berend, 22—who finished in 45th and 41st place, respectively. The Nordic Combined team will be in action again next week for two more events.
Mogul Skiers Come Up Short
The American women—three of whom hail from Colorado—were heavily expected to earn a medal (if not three) in the moguls competition in PyeongChang on Sunday. Four Americans qualified for the 12-woman final, but none of them made it through to the “super final” of six women. Tess Johnson, a 17-year-old from Vail, and Telluride’s 22-year-old Keaton McCargo both made uncharacteristic mistakes that kept them out of the final. But the biggest surprise came from Jaelin Kauf (she was born in Colorado but now lives in Wyoming), the top-ranked women’s mogul skier in the world. Her 76.03 score landed her in seventh place.
The American men, however, faced less pressure in moguls. And the only American to make the six-man final was Casey Andringa from Vail. He was a long shot to even make the Olympics, so when he finished in fifth place on Monday night (Monday morning in North America), he was thrilled. It was the best Olympic finish by an American male mogul skier since 2010.
Female Snowboarders On a Roll
After Jamie Anderson won gold in the snowboarding slopestyle competition (where high winds also played a huge—and controversial—factor), American women kept dominating. On Tuesday morning (Monday night in North America), teenage sensation Chloe Kim demolished the field in the halfpipe competition, posting a near perfect score on her third run to claim gold.
While the night belonged to Kim, 20-year-old Steamboat Springs resident Arielle Gold posted an 85.75 on her final run to earn the bronze medal for Team USA. And if that wasn’t impressive enough, she did it with a separated shoulder.
Athletes To Keep Your Eye On
Two Coloradans are playing hockey for Team USA in PyeongChang. Troy Terry, a Highlands Ranch native who plays hockey at the University of Denver, is skating for the men’s squad while Nicole Hensley of Lakewood is the women’s goalie. Both hockey teams will be in competition throughout the Olympic games.
Katie Uhlaender, a four-time Olympic skeleton racer from Breckenridge (she’s a Vail native), looks to earn a medal after barely missing the podium four years ago. Look for her in competition Saturday morning (Friday night in North America).
Colorado also boasts a number of freestyle skiers and snowboarders who will be competing later this week and next. Among the most notable is Gus Kenworthy of Telluride, who was a favorite to win gold in the men’s slopestlye competition but was not able to complete a clean run in the finals. Torin Yater-Wallace of Basalt will compete this week in the men’s skiing halfpipe competition.