Monday, February 26, 2018

Bad Ass Olympic Performances

The Winter Olympics have wound down, leaving only memories of great performances.  One thing that struck me about these games is that the women's events were equally or more compelling than the men's.  In fact, when I think about the most memorable performances I saw, which are admittedly heavily biased to alpine skiing, nordic skiing, and biathlon, they were all by women.  Thus, here's my list of top bad ass performances during the Olympics. 

  • Marit Bjoergen, women's 4x5 relay: Bjoergen appears 3 times in this list as she cemented her place as the greatest Winter Olympian of all time at these games.  She skied the anchor leg in this race, schooling the younger Stina Nilsson of Sweden.  
  • Marit Bjoergen, 30-km mass start: As far as endurance races go, this is about as dominating as you get.  Bjoergen pushed the pace from the start and was a locomotive for 30 km, winning by near 2 minutes.  The performance was the epitome of "a confident athlete is a fast athlete."  She knew she was the fastest and she knew her pace, and she just laid it out there for 90 minutes.  
  • Marit Bjoergen, everything: Five medals in 2018.  8 golds overall. 15 medals overall.  Insane.  Micheal Phelps gets well deserved accolades for his accomplishments, but he doesn't win everything from sprints to the 1500 meters.  Bjoergen won medals in these games in everything from the team sprint to the 30-km mass start.
  • Jessie Diggins/Kikkan Randall, Team sprint: I often grow tired of NBC's US-centric coverage of the games, but these two overcoming 66 years of frustration is a well deserving feel-good moment.  Plus, the race was AWESOME.  I knew the winner when I finally sat down and saw the replay and was still on the edge of my seat as Diggins slides back into 3rd place on the final downhill and somehow finds a way to thread the needle and win the sprint.  Heart of a champion.  

  • Ester Ledecka, anything on snow: I didn't even know there was anyone competing in both Alpine skiing and snowboarding, and then Ledecka comes along, wins a surprise gold in the Super-G, and then follows that up with a parallel GS victory.  She was a favorite for the latter, but the darkest of dark horses for the former.  Sadly, NBC had broken away from the Super-G and had to cut back to her surprise run. 
  • Anastasiya Kuzmina, Women's 12.5 km mass start: It's a wonder Biathlon isn't more popular in the U.S. given our fixation on guns.  The intensity of this sport is INSANE, but especially insane in mass start races where the top skiers enter the range at roughly the same time and shoot next to each other.  In this race, Kuzmina nailed 19 of 20 targets and 5 of 5 in her final round of shooting.  Talk about ice water in the veins.  Honorable mention for Laura Dahlmeier who won golds in the 7.5 km spring and 10-km pursuit.
There were certainly some great male performances during the games, including Aksel Lund Svindal and Kjetil Jansrud going 1-2 for Norway in the downhill, but I found none of these to be as exciting as those above.  A special shoutout for Norway, which dominated the games and seemed to do it with class, style, and sportsmanship.  

It's now 4 years until the next Winter Olympics, which will be held in Beijing, which has a climate that is not all that unlike Pyeongchang with cold, dry, windy winters.  The mountains get even less snow than those in Pyeongchang.  Of course, climate is what you expect and weather is what you get, but to all the reporters out there who called me about how cold it is in Pyongchang, bring a down coat and add a pollution mask to your suitcase.  


  1. The US Team of Jessie Diggins/Kikkan Randall,winning gold was an amazing race. I was yelling at my TV (computer) during the last downhill and finish section. Where is the womens hockey gold medal game ?!?!?!? That is a great rivalry. Great history between USA and Canada. That game was unreal!

    1. The hockey is a good addition to this list, but I simply didn't catch the game. Thanks for noting it.

  2. I recently saw this research article of (what I believe to be) Bjoergen's training regimen in her year-by-year buildup to the Korea games. Its pretty wild that ~90 of her work is low-intensity base training and only ~5% speed/sprint work. But, I guess 5% is a lot when you're skiing ~80hr/month! Go slow to go fast!