Winter Olympics Kick Off With Biting Winds And History-Making Wins
Sweden won the first gold medal of the Winter Games on Saturday, but the United States and Norway also made history on a blustery and bitter cold day in Pyeongchang, South Korea.
Swedish cross-country skier Charlotte Kalla won top honors in the women's 15-kilometer skiathlon with a finishing time of 40:44.9.
Norway's Marit Bjoergen came in fewer than eight seconds behind to take silver, adding to her trove of 10 prior Olympic medals, making her the most decorated female Winter Olympian of all time.
In 2014's Sochi Winter Games, at the age of 33 and 324 days, Bjoergen became the oldest individual female gold medalist in the sport.
On Saturday, the 37-year-old acknowledged that her age may be catching up with her. "I have been very good for many years, but I'm also getting older and the younger girls are getting better," she said, reports The Associated Press.
Finland's Krista Parmakoski rounded out the top three with Sweden's Ebba Andersson finishing fourth.
American Jessica Diggins, 26, was next with a time of 40:59.6. While she came up short of a medal, Diggins' fifth-place finish represented another history-making moment — it was the best ever for an American woman in the sport.
ESPN reports Diggins is scheduled to race again Tuesday in the women's individual sprint.
"It was really cool being seconds away from a medal, and seeing it right there," Diggins said. "I know it's possible. I know I have what it takes."
Also Saturday, host country South Korea got the chance to celebrate one of its own, when Lim Hyojun won gold in the men's short track speedskating. ESPN reports that Hwang Dae-heon who had been heavily favored to win, but his crash in the final allowed his compatriot to overtake him.
The Netherlands' Sjinkie Knegt took silver. And Semen Elistratov won bronze, the first medal for a Russian athlete at the games. Elistratov is competing under the Olympic flag, in accordance with the rules the IOC instated following Russia's doping scandal.
In the women's 3,000-meter speedskating, the Netherlands made a clean sweep taking all three of the top spots.
Germany's Laura Dahlmeier won the first biathlon gold of the Games in the women's 7.5-kilometer sprint. And German Andreas Wellinger won the men's normal hill title. He said the harsh conditions may actually have helped him nail his jump of 113.5 meters.
"The wind was quite good," Wellinger told ESPN.
And while the Korean women's ice hockey team may embody lofty hopes around reunification, they were trounced by Switzerland on Saturday. The gaze of South Korea's president and the sister of the North Korean leader, alongside the choreographed moves of the famed North Korean cheerleaders couldn't help elicit a single goal; the Swiss won 8-0.
Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.