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Olympic Poseur: PyeongChang Day 5

We’re good at snowboarding

Pyeongchang 2018 Winter Olympics Mens Freestyle Snowboarding Halfpipe Qualifications
He’s silly good
photo by Sam Mellish / In Pictures via Getty Images

Again, with the wind.

The weather caused delays and eventually postponement for both the women’s slalom and the women’s biathlon. Probably a good idea not to have bullets going off course. But we’re nearly a week into the Olympics, and we’ve only seen ONE Alpine event completed.

Of course, they still made people ski jump. I know most people get their chuckles with biathlon for being the most random events thrown together, but there is a real logic to shooting and cross-country skiing. There are famed ski troops, and that’s simply a common way to hunt in the Nordic countries.

No, the truly insane juxtaposition of disciplines is the Nordic Combined, which was surely invented by two drunk Scandinavians on a bet. It combines cross-country skiing with ski jumping, and I literally have no idea how anyone mashed those two together. That’s like track and field having a marathon preceded by the pole vault.

The event seemed largely determined by how you did in the ski jump anyway. Only ten competitors were even with 20 points of the leader in the jump scoring, which impacts when you are allowed to start the cross-country portion. Only six guys started with a minute of the leader, Franz-Josef Rehrl of Austria. He dropped off, but the other five formed the eventual top five of the event. Eric Frenzel of Germany beat Akito Watabe of Japan in the sprint to the line over the final km.

The US speedskating team continued its disappointing Olympics, just missing the podium in the women’s 1000m. The US failed to medal in speedskating for the first time in 30 years at Sochi, causing the federation to institute reforms in order to alter the team’s fortunes. So far, to no avail.

Part of the problem is just how dominant the Dutch have been. Ireen Wust set the pace early in an event that is outside her specialty, finally losing the lead on the 12th pair to countrymate Jorien Ter Mors, who set an Olympic record. However, American Brittany Bowe stayed within 0.80 of her and sat in second place.

Two Japanese skaters, Nao Kodaira and Miho Takagi, would narrowly edge Bowe’s time to take positions on the podium. That led up to the final pairing, another Dutch skater and American Heather Bergsma, our best chance to medal. Both came in over a second behind, and off the podium. Bowe finished in fourth place, so tantalizingly close.

While things are not going the Americans’ way on the track, it certainly is in snowboarding. The winds did not seem to impact the halfpipe at all, as Shaun White came from behind to win his third gold medal in the snowboard halfpipe over his career. Yeah, he’s pretty good.

The Americans have swept the snowboarding events so far, winning four golds over four events. The gap between the US and the rest of the world is narrowing, Ayumu Hirano’s run was ever bit as spectacular as White’s, but American dominance is safe for at least one more Olympic cycle.

Not only is winning cool, but give snowboarding credit, they move the event along quickly. They got through three different cycles through the starting lineup in just over an hour, with a long delay for a horrific looking injury. The sport is TV gold. It’s fast-paced, thrilling, and there is a real element of risk.

Shaun White genuinely caring about winning the Olympics is the cherry on top. Some of the X Games athletes treat this as just another event, which is totally fine, but it does make it sweet to have a guy who raises his game for the bigger spotlight outside the usual confines of his sport.

Finally, we closed out the day (or started our morning) with Olympic hockey. The US dominated Slovakia early on, taking a 2-0 lead, but Slovakia came back when they pulled their goalie and scored in the game’s final minutes. Slovakia would then score just 38 seconds into OT, sending US to a stunning opening defeat. Things do not look good, but the US at least gets a point out of it.

Today’s Medal Events

Again, always take the starting times with a grain of salt. Still, live by the app, die by the app. Tonight, we see the organizers desperately trying to get back on schedule. All times are in God’s time zone.

7:30 PM Pairs figure skating
8:30 PM Men’s downhill (rescheduled)
10:30 PM Men’s snowboard cross
10:45 PM Women’s giant slalom (rescheduled)
12:30 AM Women’s 10km freestyle cross-country
2:15 AM Women’s 15km biathlon (rescheduled)
5:00 AM Men’s 10,000m speed skating
5:20 AM Men’s 20km biathlon (rescheduled)
6:30 AM Luge team relay

And while not for a medal, the US women play Canada at 9:10 PM in ice hockey, in what should be one of the best games of the tournament. It is likely to be a preview of the gold medal game. Do yourself a favor and catch a period if you can.