Tuesday, July 17, 2018
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10 things we can’t quite believe happened at the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics

10 things we can’t quite believe happened at the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics
Games over (Pictures: AP/Getty/PA)

As always, this year’s Winter Olympics has been a testament to the power of dedication, determination and sporting prowess in conditions so cold that anyone wearing water-based make-up found it literally froze to the face.

8 ways in which the Winter Olympics are better than the Summer Games

But Pyeongchang 2018 has also thrown up a whole host of strange, unpredictable and eye-raising incidents that may well last longer in the memory than all the awe-inspiring medal-winning achievements.

From opportunistic skiers and topless Tongans to wardrobe malfunctions and unlikely celebrity fans, here’s a look at ten in particular.

The halfpipe skiing chancer

Elizabeth Swaney, an American-born halfpipe skier representing Hungary in Pyeongchang, barely attempted a trick during her freestyle run, leading many to question how she qualified in the first place — and whether she should have.

Read more: https://t.co/1M5zNOcRIDpic.twitter.com/JZRbWvn8ED

— CBC News (@CBCNews) February 23, 2018

From Eddie The Eagle in 1988 to Vanessa Mae in 2014, the Winter Games has seen its fair share of underdogs exploit certain qualification rules to become an unlikely Olympian.

And Elizabeth Swaney joined that list this year thanks to a mix of wiliness, guile and ability to keep upright.

Competing for Hungary, the American halfpipe skier – much better than most amateurs but completely inept compared to her fellow competitors – managed to achieve the 13 World Cup finishes required to qualify simply by showing up and making it to the end of the course.

And having achieved her dream of making it to the Games, she didn’t try and go for broke.

Indeed, Swaney was more than content to simply glide her way up and down the ramp, avoiding even the most unchallenging of tricks, to finish dead last.

While some purists believe she was making a mockery of the Olympics, others believe she embodied the spirit of taking part.

Whatever your viewpoint, it’s hard to disagree that her comically basic performance, and the bewilderment of the commentary team, was one of this year’s most surreal moments.

Elise Christie’s impossibly rotten bad luck

A black cat must have once crossed Elise Christie’s path as she smashed a mirror while opening an umbrella inside on Friday the 13th.

It’s surely the only explanation for what must count as perhaps the most agonising run of bad luck in Olympics history.

Four years ago, the hotly-tipped speed skater had come home empty-handed after being disqualified from not just one but three different events.

But Pyeonchang proved to be just as disastrous as she crashed out in the 500m final, was taken to hospital following a collision in the 1500m semi and was disqualified from the 1000m quarter-final for an infringement.

Despite such an overwhelming amount of heartache at two consecutive Olympics, the plucky Christie has already announced that she will be back for Beijing 2022.

The 3000m short-track pile-up

There was more speed-skating drama in the 3000m women’s relay when Italy, Canada and South Korea found themselves in an epic pile-up.

The home nation managed to pick themselves up to win gold, but both Canada and China – who were judged to have impeded racers following the crash – were disqualified.

And with only four teams competing, that meant the bronze medal had to go to a country that wasn’t even on the ice, with B-final winners the Netherlands the lucky recipients.

The Russian curling doping scandal

10 things we can’t quite believe happened at the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics
Alexander Krushelnitsky admitted he’d violated an anti-doping rule (Picture: Wang Zhao/AFP/Getty Images)

The inclusion of supposedly clean Russian athletes at this year’s Olympics – all of whom competed as neutrals under a team named OAR – was already a major source of debate.

But not even the most fervent anti-doping advocate would have thought about casting an eye towards the seemingly sedate sport that is curling.

After initially denying any wrongdoing, Russian curler Alexander Krushelnitsky eventually admitted he’d violated an anti-doping rule, and, alongside partner Anastasia Bryzgalova, he was subsequently stripped of the mixed doubles bronze medal.

The wardrobe malfunctions

10 things we can’t quite believe happened at the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics
France’s Gabriella Papadakis struggled with her costume (Picture: Mladen Antonov/AFP/Getty Images)

Not just one but two figure skaters found themselves making headlines for their clothing choices rather than their routines this year.

Firstly South Korea’s Yura Min was forced to continually readjust her sparkly red dress when it kept threatening to fall off during her performance with partner Alexander Gamelin.

And then France’s Gabriella Papadakis experienced a nip-slip when her gold-and-green sequinned outfit came undone at the start of her routine with Guillaume Cizeron.

Impressively, the skaters carried on regardless and impressively still finished second on the day, later picking up the silver medal.

The hype over Kim Jong-un’s sister

One of the most controversial stories from this year’s Games emerged shortly after the opening ceremony, when none other than the sister of Kim Jong-un was treated by some news sites as though she was a Hollywood celebrity.

CNN reported that Kim Yo-jong ‘stole the show’ when she guested at the event, seemingly forgetting that she’s related to the leader of, and a senior figure in, the world’s most oppressive regime.

The topless Tongan

10 things we can’t quite believe happened at the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics
(Picture: Jean Catuffe/Getty Images)

One slightly more welcome sight at the opening ceremony was the return of Tonga flagbearer Pita Taufatofua.

The 34-year-old first caught the world’s attention when he went shirtless for the opening ceremony in Rio 2016, where he was competing in the taekwondo.

Despite sub-zero temperatures, the versatile sportsman opted to bare his oiled-up chest once again as he walked his nation out at the Winter Games, where he finished third from last in the 15km ski cross-country.

In fact, Pita enjoyed the experience so much, he made another topless appearance at the Games’ closing ceremony too.

The Swiss team’s extra-curricular activities

Switzerland had a relatively successful Winter Olympics, winning five golds, six silvers and four bronzes.

And they also became one of the viral sensations of the Games thanks to the playful behaviour of their freestyle ski team.

Bored during their downtime, team members Jonas Hunziker and Fabian Bosch decided to partake in a spot of bobsleighing – but using a pallet truck down a car park slipway.

A few days later Bosch was at it again, only this time he was attempting to see how long he could dangle from the side of a moving escalator.

The return of Gangnam Style

Just when you thought you’d finally got PSY’s annoyingly infectious K-Pop anthem out of your head, along comes the Winter Olympics to implant it firmly back in there.

As one of South Korea’s biggest pop cultural exports, it was perhaps always inevitable that Gangnam Style would be played at the opening ceremony.

But we didn’t expect a Dutch brass band to be playing it during the long-track speed-skating events, or USA’s bronze medal-winning figure skating team using it as a celebratory dance anthem.

Mr. T’s enthusiasm

I like curling, it’s less wear and tear on the body. I wrestled, boxed, and studied martial arts. I have nothing else to prove. Therefore I choose curling. #curlingiscoolfool

— Mr. T (@MrT) February 14, 2018

Twitter can often be just as entertaining as the events themselves during the Olympics, as every man and his dog try to make sense of sporting events that only attract mainstream attention once every four years.

And they don’t come much more entertaining than Mr T, the A-Team star, who often provided a running commentary on the Games’ least action-packed event, curling.

Ending each tweet with the hashtag #curlingiscoolfool, the actor repeatedly professed his new-found admiration for those involved, describing it as “a finesse sport” as he cheered on Team USA.

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