Spring is quickly approaching, making our sun shine longer each day with the coming summer months on their way. While I, like many of you, am eager for this season to arrive, I cannot help but feel sad to see this winter go.

No, I’m not one for winter’s below-freezing temperatures or the pitch black darkness of the sky before it’s a mere 5 o’clock in the afternoon. But I am going to miss the events and experiences of the Winter Olympic Games held in PyeongChang, South Korea, from Feb. 9-25.

No matter if you care for winter athletics and sports or not, the Winter Olympics are an event the entire family — even the entire country — can come together and enjoy watching.

From the opening ceremony, the PyeongChang Olympics were meant to be remembered as a celebration of unity, resilience and empowerment in every corner of our world. With these Olympic Games now recorded in history, let’s look at some of the sports and memorable moments and how these games affected our modern society in a way that no other Olympic Games ever could.

1. Figure skating. The perfection, poise, elegance and insanely intricate moves make this sport my absolute favorite to watch. I was especially excited to see Salt Lake City native Nathan Chen, 18, take the ice competing in his first Olympics. While Chen did not do as well as expected, he made an unforgettable comeback from being in 17th place after the men’s short program final to fifth place in the men’s free skate, where he landed five quads, the most ever achieved at any Olympics.

Other notable figure skating mentions are Yuzuru Hanyu of Japan, who took gold in the men’s program; the sibling duo of Alex and Maia Shibutani of the United States, taking bronze in the ice dancing competition; and the two Russian skaters who made the podium in the single ladies’ program, Alina Zagitova (who received the gold) and Evgenia Medvedeva (who took silver). 

Also, American figure skater Adam Rippon made his mark on these games by becoming the first openly gay Olympian to compete. Despite not being able to throw down the talent and technique of other skaters, Rippon showed the world how sexuality doesn’t determine what an individual is capable of accomplishing.

Overall, the United States figure skating team did remarkably well, taking a bronze medal after competing in the team event.

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2. Snowboarding. Insanely dangerous flips, jumps that send riders hurtling into the sky, and risky moves that could send someone sprawling across the snow — what could go wrong?

Well, not much if you’re Shaun White, who became a three-time Olympic gold medalist after winning the 100th gold medal at the games for Team U.S.A. in the men’s halfpipe final. Many were skeptical of how White would perform in PyeongChang after his crash while training in New Zealand and his advancing age. However, “The Flying Tomato” took on the challenge and beat Ayumu Hirano of Japan and Scotty James of Australia for first place.

Another snowboarding gold medalist was America’s own Chloe Kim in the women’s halfpipe final, taking on her first Olympics at 17. Watching Kim sail up and down the pipe was mesmerizing and made me believe she may be the United States’ next Shaun White.

The U.S. primarily dominated in snowboarding, besides poor Lindsey Jacobellis, who missed the podium yet again in the women’s snowboard cross. Qualifying for the final run, Jacobellis couldn’t hang on to a medal position and slipped into fourth place. Yet, despite this being her final chance at landing a spot on the Olympic podium, Jacobellis expressed optimism and joy after the conclusion of her Olympic event.

3. Bobsleigh. “Jamaica, we’ve got a bobsled team,” at these Olympic games in PyeongChang. If you’ve seen the classic film “Cool Runnings,” you love bobsledding and root for the underdog countries. In South Korea, Jamaica had not one but two bobsledding teams, one of which was the first women’s team to represent that country. Although they didn’t take home any medals from the event, Jamaica’s bobsledders will forever remain a favorite team to root for and will hopefully continue constructing more, as well as better, bobsledding teams.

At my junior high school this past month, we held our own week-long bobsleigh event in the hallways by having three people riding on scooter boards be pushed by a fourth team member. We held a practice, semi-final and final run and had an assembly to award the gold, silver and bronze in front of the entire student body.

We, too, had a team called Jamaica in our bobsledding event and they received a special award for suffering a major crash in the final round of the competition. I know, it sounds too good to be true, but it happened all the same, exactly like it happened to the first-ever Jamaican team.

Other praiseworthy moments in South Korea were Germany and Canada tying for gold in the two-man final, Germany claiming first in the four-man final as well as the two-woman final, and the United States’ Elana Meyers Taylor doing it again with her teammate Lauren Gibbs by winning a silver medal in the two-woman final.

The 2018 Olympics were more than a bunch of athletes coming together to compete for a gold, silver or bronze medal. These games in PyeongChang were about breaking down barriers, building better trust among ourselves and appreciating talent that is capable of coming from all over the world. Examples of this ranged from the Tongan skier who competed only after learning what the sport of skiing was two months prior to the games, or the South Korea women’s hockey team combining with hockey players from North Korea to play, despite their cultural and language differences.

From the moment the torch was lit to the time that it was doused, I felt the thrill, enthusiasm and patriotism that one can only experience while watching their country, and other countries around the globe, interact and compete with each other in the Olympic Games.

Siena Cummings is a freshman at Rocky Mountain Junior High School who loves classic books and movies. Email her at cummingssi@wsdstudent.net.

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