The Olympics fever seems to have comfortably settled in East Asia as Beijing hosts the Winter Olympic Games 2022, following the 2020 Tokyo Summer Games, which were finally held in 2021, and the 2018 PyeongChang Winter Games. With this, Beijing became the only city to have hosted both the Summer (2008) and the Winter Games.
Despite Covid-19 concerns, the Games were once again witness to the absolute glamour, brilliance and conditioned tenacity of the athletes with 91 teams participating across a record 109 events. Norway, riding on their established Winter Games supremacy, lead the medals tally again, while the US continued to be the only contingent to have won a gold medal across all editions since the inception of the games.
Peppered with moments of untamed euphoria, perfect swan songs to glittery careers, nervous collapses and forgettable upsets, t2oS looks back on few of the highlights of this year’s edition.
The Russian Saga
It was a range of disparate emotions in the Russian camp despite bagging the gold and silver medals in women’s figure skating. Fifteen-year-old Kamila Valieva who was the favourite to clinch the gold has been embroiled in a torrent of controversies with doping investigations ensuing. Valieva was allowed to participate but the IOC had stated that if she would clinch a podium place, no medal would be awarded. However, poetic as it might have been, Valieva faltered in the final, with her teammates Anna Shcherbakova and Alexandra Trusova taking home the gold and silver, respectively.
It was finally curtains for 35-year-old Ireen Wust’s speed skating career quite fittingly as she became the only person in history to have won five individual gold medals at five Olympics, beginning with Turin 2006 and completing the final lap by setting a new Olympic record and clinching the gold in 1,500m category in Beijing, becoming the oldest speed skating gold medalist ever.
Kaillie Humphries stapled her name to the pages of history as she became the first ever medalist in Monobob, an event which made its Olympic debut in Beijing. Humphries clinched a medal for the first time as a US citizen, having previously won gold in two-woman bobsled at the 2010 and 2014 editions, representing Canada.
Short Track G.O.A.T.
It was sheer glory as Canada’s Charles Hamelin scripted history after winning gold in the men’s 5,000m short track relay, in his final Winter Games. Having six medals and four golds to his name since his first at the 2006 games, 16 years later, the 37-year-old left the Games as the most decorated Canadian winter Olympian alongside long track veteran Cindy Klassen.
In a highly anticipated showdown, American wonder boy Nathan Chen let nothing come in the way of the coveted gold as he became the first American men’s skater to win gold since 2010. With this, he now has medals of all three shades at the Olympics. However, it was heartbreaking to witness Yazuru Hanyu of Japan, who was chasing a historic third consecutive Olympic gold, fall short by attempting the incredibly difficult jump on ice, the quad axel.
Redemption for Canada
The arena braced itself for an electrifying showdown between familiar rivals Canada and the US in the final of Women’s Ice Hockey. It was the sixth time the neighbours met to fight it out for the gold medal. Canada, still nursing disappointment of their shootout defeat in 2018, had numerous points to prove, but it was sweet revenge when the final scoreboard read 3-2 in favour of the Canadian women, reclaiming their podium following a nervy final episode. Finland secured the bronze medal defeating Switzerland.
For 18-year-old Eileen Gu, it was the moment to celebrate, as she clinched the gold in freestyle skiing halfpipe, marking his third medal at this year’s Games. Previously, she bagged gold in women’s big air and a silver in slopestyle, making her the first freestyle skier of any gender to win three medals at a single Winter Olympics.
The last Waltz
After 11 years of a sparkly career, ice dance duo of Madison Hubbell and Zachary Donohue ended their partnership on ice with an Olympic bronze. Former romantic partners, Hubbell and Donohue kept their professional camaraderie unsoiled, as they defeated the 2018 blues where they finished fourth, with a final Olympic medal.
India’s Lone Warrior
India’s solitary participant at the Games, Jammu and Kashmir’s Arif Khan’s campaign ended on a sad note, with him failing to complete in the men’s slalom event. Finishing 45th with an Indian record and becoming the first Indian ever to qualify for two events at the Winter Games, Arif gave it his all, and can only soar in the years to come.
• First Winter Olympics were held in 1924, Chamonix, France (left)
• The original five Winter Olympic Sports were bobsled, curling, ice hockey, Nordic skiing and skating
• The US has hosted the Winter Olympics four times, followed by France’s three times
• The Games were held in the same year as the Summer editions till 1992, when IOC decided to place both on alternate even-numbered years with usual four-year cycle Thus, a 1994 edition followed
• Norway leads with an all-time medals tally of 368
• Norwegian cross-country skier Marit Bjorgen holds the medals record with 15 medals to her name
• Walt Disney headed the committee that organised the opening day ceremonies at the 1960 Games in the US
• The Sochi 2014 Olympic Torch was the first to travel in space, with Russian cosmonauts walking a leg of the relay