Road To The Olympic Games

Pyeongchang 2018

Pyeongchang Olympics have seen broken records and broken barriers

There's a red, white and blue flag that has dominated these Olympics and it's probably not the one that first comes to mind.

Norway conquers medal game, Dutch rule oval, Americans ride teenage kicks

From left to right: Austria's Marcel Hirscher, Netherland's Ireen Wust and Natalie Geisenberger of Germany have all dominated their respective disciplines in Pyeongchang.

By Ignacio Estefanell, CBC Sports 

As these Winter Games wind down, there are volumes of patriotically proud performances produced by Canada's 226 Olympic athletes in Pyeongchang.

Canada's medal total stands at 29 going into the final few competitions, the most ever won by the nation's Olympians at a Winter Games, good for an unprecedented second in the overall standings.

Sitting atop those standings is a red, white and blue flag that has dominated these Olympics, and likely not the country that first comes to mind. With a little more than five million inhabitants, Norway has taken home a whopping 38 medals and counting.  

With nearly 2,500 athletes from 93 different countries competing in 102 events, spread across 15 different sports, it can be difficult to keep up with the who, what, when, and where of the Games. 

Here are some highlights from the past two weeks:

Nordic blast

If the sport is on skis then Norway has probably put a flag on it. That's especially so in cross-country skiing, where they've tied the record of 13 medals in a single Games set by the former Soviet Union in Calgary 30 years ago.

A record they may yet break with one cross-country event remaining.

History, however, was already made on Day 12 when Marit Bjoergen captured her 14th Olympic medal and her fourth in Pyeongchang. The 37-year-old's bronze in the women's team sprint free final made her the most decorated winter Olympian of all time.

It's a record she jokes may not last, considering 21-year-old countryman Johannes Hoesflot Klaebo has taken three gold medals for Norway in South Korea alone. The wins tie Klaebo with French biathlete Martin Fourcade for the most gold medals thus far in Pyeongchang.

The Czech Republic's Ester Ledecka pulled off perhaps the most improbable feat of the Games. The 22-year-old became the first Olympian to compete in both alpine and snowboard events at the same Olympics.

And then won gold in both.

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She was a longshot winner in the women's super giant slalom last week — on borrowed skis, no less —and then followed that up with gold in the parallel snowboard giant slalom — her own board, at least. 

Mountain high

Perhaps the only force to equal Norway's dominance — at least in the beginning — was the wind. It wreaked havoc on the alpine schedule, forcing the men's downhill and then the women's giant slalom to be postponed.

When they didn't subside, organizers on Day 2 were forced to cancel the women's snowboard slopestyle qualifiers. A day later boarders were again affected, crashing or giving up on 41 of the 50 attempted runs in the final.

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One of the few to successfully avoid disaster was Canadian Laurie Blouin, who won silver in slopestyle.

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House of Orange

While the wind played havoc on the mountain, the Dutch were creating a whirlwind of their own inside the oval. To date the Netherlands had won 14 speed-skating medals. And while it's far off the mark of 23 that they set in Sochi, they remain the undisputed masters.

Ireen Wust claimed a record 10th and then 11th Olympic speed skating medals with gold in the women's 1,500-metre and silver in the women's team pursuit . She won her first silver in Pyeongchang following a heartbreaking 0.08 second loss to compatriot Carlijn Achtereekte in the 3,000.

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No less impressive was Sven Kramer's gold in the men's 5,000 — his third straight in this distance. Kramer was hoping for more in the men's 10,000 but was kept off the podium by Canada's own flying Dutchman, Ted-Jan Bloeman, who snagged gold, followed by Jorrit Bergsma of … you guessed it, the Netherlands.

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Bayern Express

There were 12 luge medals up for grabs in Pyeongchang; Germany nabbed six, including three of four possible gold.

Natalie Geisenberger delivered top honours in the women's event, while the Bayern Express pair of Tobias Wendl and Tobias Arlt won in men's doubles. Germany's third gold medal came in the team event.

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Germany would have swept the women's podium if not for Canada's Alex Gough. Her third-place finish behind Geisenberger and silver medallist Dajana Eitberger was followed by yet another German, Tatjana Huefner in fourth.

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Gough, however, snagged more than just a bronze on Day 4. She delivered Canada's first-ever Olympic luge medal. And it wouldn't be her last; two days later Gough, Sam Edney, Justin Snith and Tristan Walker combined to bring home silver in the team event.

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King of the hill 

In Canada, when it comes to the slopes, moguls gold medallist Mikael Kingsbury is king. But ask an Austrian who's king and they'll probably say Marcel Hirscher.

The 28-year-old alpine star was already considered a skiing legend prior to Pyeongchang, having won six World Cup titles. But despite appearances in two previous Winter Games the best he had to show was a silver in slalom at Sochi.

Hirscher silenced his critics in South Korea by winning gold in the men's alpine combined on Day 4. He then cemented his legacy with another top podium performance in the men's giant slalom on Day 9.

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Disappointment struck, however, on Day 13 in the men's slalom, when Hirscher, who had been having trouble during practice, skied out early in his opening run.

Teenage kicks

If one wanted to hear victorious chants of "U-S-A" in Pyeongchang, then Phoenix Park was the place to be.

American Chloe Kim, 17, became the youngest female athlete to capture gold in the Winter Games after scoring a near-perfect 98.25 in slopestyle with back-to-back 1080s on Day 4.

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A day later, another American 17-year-old, Red Gerard, matched her, beating out Canada's Max Parrot and Mark McMorris on his final run in men's slopestyle. Wearing an oversized borrowed coat — having woken up late and unable to find his own — Gerard, in the words of BBC commentator Tim Warwood, "turned up with a packet of crayons and delivered a Monet."

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Canada would again play second fiddle as Jamie Anderson beat out Blouin to claim her second successive gold in women's slopestyle. But arguably the biggest win for the stars and stripes was delivered by 31-year-old Shaun White. The Flying Tomato — as he's known due to his once long, flowing red hair — put down back-to-back 1440s on his final run to capture his third gold medal in the event.

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Barrier breakers

Nigerian bobsledders Seun Adigun, Ngozi Onwumere and Akuoa Omeoga weren't aiming at medals in Pyeongchang. Their goal was to set a benchmark, becoming the first black athletes to represent Africa in this sport.

"With more time and more preparation and funding I think we're proving that we can be as competitive as everyone else," Adigun told the BBC after they finished last in the 2-man women's event.

North Korean figure skaters Ryom Tae Ok and Kim Ju Sik were also looking to become more than just a feel-good-story.

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Having trained in Montreal alongside Canada's Eric Radford and Meagan Duhamel, who won bronze in the pairs event, the duo were a part of North Korea's 22-athlete delegation to these Games. But their invitation was earned through merit, not diplomacy.

The couple finished in 13th place with a season-best 193.63 in their free skate, delighting the South Korean crowd with their skills as well as their friendly demeanour.