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A Review of the Winter Olympics

February 25, 2018

- Grant Whittington

The Winter Olympics have always carried a unique air of romance, thanks to the history of the event and the idyllic locations in which it is usually hosted.

This year’s installation was no exception to this rule, with the picturesque county of Pyeongchang in South Korea providing a stunning backdrop for a hotbed of sporting activity. With its haunting views and a number of trails traversing across the beautiful Taebaek Mountains, there’s little doubt that those fortunate enough to compete at this years’ Winter Olympics would have inspired by their setting.

With this mind, we’ll review the true level of competition at this years’ Winter Olympics below, while asking how team GB fared throughout the fortnights.

A Golden Fortnight – But Who Came Out on Top 

In total, there were 102 gold medals available across 15 sports in Pyeongchang, including a number of new activities such as big air snowboarding, mixed-doubles curling, mass start speed skating and mixed-team alpine skiing.

While some things have may changed in terms of the host venue and the range of available sports, however, others remained largely unchanged. The four nations that ultimately finished top of this years’ medal table just happen to be among the five most successful Winter Olympic countries of all time, for example, with Norway in particularly enjoying a truly golden fortnight.

While this Scandinavian nation may be a minnow in terms of size and population, it has always been a powerhouse in the world of winter sports. Even prior to the opening ceremony in Pyeongchang, Norway was the most successful country in the history of the event, but two weeks later it had added 39 medals to its total haul and set a new record in terms of medals won at a single Olympics.

With 14 golds and 39 medals in total, Norway surpassed the previous record of 37 set by the U.S. team at Vancouver back in 2010.

The U.S. themselves endured a slightly more difficult games, as the events’ second-most successful nation trailed fourth in the medals’ table with a tally of 23. While this is not necessarily disappointing in itself, the American side achieved 16 less medals than their Norwegian rivals despite taking a staggering 133 more athletes to Pyeongchang. They also recorded eight less medals than Germany’s haul (31), who came second in the table and featured a team with only 45 more competitors than Norway.

Germany also matched Norway’s haul of 14 golds, excelling in the bobsleigh and skiing disciplines throughout.

The one striking name from the medals’ table was Russia, who topped the table in Sochi four years ago but found themselves banned from South Korea after the discovery of state-sponsored doping in 2014. As the sixth most successful Winter Olympics’ nation of all-time (and with a huge population of athletes to choose from), Russia’s absence was certainly from the games was certainly evident and arguably lowered the overall standard of competition on show during the Games.

Norway certainly benefited directly from the absence of a Russian team, with the latter known to excel at cross-country skiing and the Norwegians ultimately claiming an impressive 14 of their 39 medals in this discipline. 

What About Team GB? 

Prior to the games, there had been a great deal of controversy surrounding the level of investment made in winter sports during the last four year cycle. In total, UK Sport invested £28.35 million in Team GB, and critics argued that this capital would have been better spent on sports like basketball (which lack medal potential but are far more accessible to youngsters).

The investment at least yielded some form of dividend, however, with Team GB’s total medal haul of five beating their previous best of four (recorded at Sochi in 2014 and Chamonix in 1924). This also met the target set by UK Sport, with snowboarder Billy Morgan earning bronze as a big air snowboarder and Lizzy Arnold successfully defending her skeleton title to claim Great Britain’s only gold.

Izzy Atkin also claimed a bronze medal in the ski slopestyle, and overall Team GB can look back on the 2018 Winter Olympics with a genuine sense of satisfaction.

Ultimately, the Games were a huge success, even allowing for the absence of Russia and the underwhelming performance of the U.S. team. Great Britain’s record-breaking success will also increase anticipation and participation ahead of the 2022 Games in Beijing, regardless of any further investment from UK Sport.

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