Eric Parks, Staff Writer
Prior to the 2018 Winter Olympics, Team USA was projected to place in the top three in medal count and seriously contend for the top spot. At the end of the games, America had nine gold medals and 23 total, finishing fourth in both categories.
After being banned from the 2018 games for systematic doping, Russia, who edged out the United States for the top spot in 2014 before several of their medals were stripped- was out of the competitive field in Pyeongchang. Because Russia lost 13 of its medals earned in 2014, the United States were in a position to win the medal count for the third consecutive winter games. Unfortunately for the U.S., Norway, Germany, and Canada all took home more gold and total medals, leaving America to fall short of their own lofty expectations. Entering the Olympics, Team USA was expecting to take home 37 medals, a total that would have put them in serious consideration for another Olympic victory. Their end total of 23 was far fewer than most experts had predicted.
The main reason why Team USA failed to defend its title was because other countries outperformed expectations. While Norway isn’t known by many as an athletic powerhouse, skiing is a staple of their culture, and the source for most of their Olympic success in Pyeongchang. Thirty-four of their 39 medals came from skiing related events, including 14 in cross-country skiing. Norway found success in speed skating, winning four medals and taking home the bronze in curling. Germany didn’t quite live up to their own expectations either, but after winning 14 golds (tied for first) and 31 overall (second), they cannot be disappointed with their results. Germany, like the United States, is on much more well-rounded team than Norway, but doesn’t exceed nearly as much in one type of event as Norway does in skiing. The Germans took home medals in nine sports, ranging from curling to bobsled, biathlon to hockey. Canada also fared well, taking third in gold medals with nine and third overall with 29.
Although the raw medal count was not encouraging for the United States, the team had special moments throughout the games. Early on, the United States found themselves atop the first two snowboarding events for both men’s and women’s, including inspiring success stories from Chloe Kim and Red Gerard, as well as an incredible performance from the legend Shaun White. The men’s curling team won gold after qualifying for the gold metal match for the first time in team history. The match was tied 5-5 in the eighth end (similar to an inning in baseball), but Sweden, who had also never reached the championship match before, made an error that allowed the United States to score five points. Towards the end of the tenth end, Sweden conceded, knowing they had no way of winning.
Perhaps most satisfying for American fans was the women’s ice hockey gold medal. In 2002, 2010 and 2014, Canada had defeated the United States in the final which helped enhance the rivalry between the two North American hockey powerhouses. Canada was vying for their fifth straight gold medal, and were up 2-1 with 6:21 left in regulation when Jocelyne Lamoureux-Davidson evened the score for Team USA. She also won the game in the ensuing shootout, giving the United States a 3-2 advantage in the sixth round of the shootout before goaltender Maddie Rooney sealed the victory with a save. While the United States didn’t fare as well in the medal count as they had intended to, women’s hockey, men’s curling and many other athletes helped make the 2018 games enjoyable for viewers across America.