Every Olympics is a tapestry of moments, large and small, of triumph and disappointment. Eventually, some of them emerge as defining memories of the sporting world’s 17-day trip to a beautiful, remote part of South Korea that ultimately put on a successful Winter Games.
Now that the 23rd Winter Olympics is complete, here are the most memorable moments from each day of competition.
... And we can't forget the pandas that stole the show at the Closing Ceremony.
Day 1: An understated but beautifully presented Opening Ceremonies wrapped up in a swift 2 hours, 15 minutes, perhaps as a concession to the bitter cold that swept across the Pyeongchang region. The night was framed by two controversies. American speedskating legend Shani Davis was passed over as the flagbearer (and subsequently not attending) for luger Erin Hamlin. Meanwhile, the Korean peninsula was transfixed by the arrival of Kim Jong Un’s mysterious sister, Kim Yo Jong, to lead the North’s delegation. U.S. vice president Mike Pence attended, but didn’t stand for the unified Korean delegation’s entrance, bringing politics and international diplomacy into the Olympic arena.
Day 2: Marit Bjoergen, the Norwegian cross-country skier, became the most decorated woman in Winter Games history with a silver medal in the skiathlon, her 11th podium across five Olympics. Bjoergen later became the most decorated Winter Olympic athlete of all time, ending these Games with 15 overall medals,
Day 3: Three-time Olympian luger Chris Mazdzer, who was in the midst of one of the worst stretches of his career, came up with the performance of a lifetime to win the first U.S. medal ever in men’s luge. Mazdzer, whose girlfriend and sisters cheered on from the stands wearing bikini tops despite sub-zero wind chills, finished a mere .026 seconds out of the gold.
Day 4: A star was born as figure skater Adam Rippon, the first openly gay American athlete at the Winter Olympics, helped the U.S. to a bronze in the team event. Rippon had already built a reputation for his personality and outspokenness about Vice President Pence representing the U.S. delegation at the opening ceremonies but added hundreds of thousands of fans for backing it up with a brilliant free skate.
Day 5: Chloe Kim, the 17-year old daughter of South Korean immigrants, performed like the halfpipe prodigy she is, blowing away the field with a score of 98.25 out of 100 on her third run, even though her first (93.75) was plenty good enough to win gold. The quirk was her propensity to Tweet between runs. Thanks to the miracle of social media, we learned before her final run that she was “hangry” due to not finishing her breakfast sandwich.
Day 6: No matter what happened in the men’s halfpipe, Shaun White’s status as the best to ever ride a snowboard and a cultural icon for the entire extreme sports industry was secure. But to win one more gold medal against the young kids, the 31-year old had to go bigger and bolder than ever. And he pulled it off on the third and final run, performing back-to-back 1440s to to win America’s 100th gold medal at the Winter Games.
Day 7: The 10,000-meter event is the one jewel missing from the crown of Sven Kramer, arguably the greatest distance skater ever from the nation that loves speed skating more than any other. But instead of completing his Olympic resume, Kramer lost to Ted-Jan Bloemen, who couldn’t make the Dutch Olympic team in 2014, moved to Canada, changed his entire regimen (and citizenship), rediscovered his love for the sport and won the race of his life.
Day 8: Mexican German Madrazo, who had never put on a pair of skis until last year, predictably finished last in the 15 km cross-country race. But even as he crossed the wire 26 minutes out of first place, he was greeted like a champion just for doing enough to make the race, waving a Mexican flag handed to him from the crowd and getting carried on the shoulders of other skiers after he crossed the finish.
Day 9: It was arguably the biggest shocker in Winter Olympics history. Ester Ledecka, primarily a snowboarder from the Czech Republic, somehow won the women’s Super-G in an event where she was ranked 43rd in the world. When Ledecka finished her run, she stared at the scoreboard with mouth agape, sure there was some mistake with the timer.
Day 10: After winning bronze in slopestyle at the Sochi Games, Nick Goepper suffered from a post-Olympic depression, turning to alcohol and contemplating suicide. Instead, he went to rehab, worked his way back to the big stage and won the silver in Pyeongchang.
Day 11: Bobsled races are usually decided by fractions of a second, but they’re almost always decided. Not this time. After four runs, the Canadian and German two-man sleds finished in exactly 3:16.86, splitting the gold medal. Practically in shock, the teams could do nothing but hug and high-five each other as the crowd roared its approval.
Day 12: What started as an uncertain experiment in letting North Korean players join the South Korean women’s hockey team became one of the Olympics’ feel-good stories, as the team sold out every arena to raucous crowds, even though it finished winless. After its final game, fans waved Korean unification flags and players wept on the ice.
Day 13: Kikkan Randall was a pioneer for the U.S. women’s cross-country program, often toiling by herself to help compete on the world stage. And in her fifth and final Olympics, she finally won America’s first women’s cross-country medal alongside Jessie Diggins in the team sprint. In one of the most dramatic moments of these Games, Diggins chased down skiers from Norway and Sweden on her final leg to win gold.
Day 14: An entire generation of players had passed through the U.S. women’s hockey system since it last won the gold medal in 1998, and the subsequent Olympics had produced a lot of heartbreak at the hands of the Canadians. So it was that much sweeter for U.S. hockey fans when Jocelyn Lamoureux-Davidson made a perfect move to score an iconic shootout goal that ultimately gave the Americans a much-celebrated 3-2 victory.
Day 15: The “Olympic Athletes from Russia” won their first gold medal, as 15-year old Alina Zagitova edged out fellow Russian Evgenia Medvedeva in the women’s figure skating competition.
Day 16: It’s a quirky sport with a small following in the U.S., but for one day there was no bigger Olympic star than John Shuster, the skipper of the U.S. curling team who had failed so miserably in 2010 and 2014 that he was told his services were no longer wanted. But after winning his way back on the national team, he and his band of self-titled rejects won an improbable gold medal, defeating powerhouse Sweden, 10-7.
Day 17: The Games concluded on an awkward note, as the Russians were banned from carrying their flag at the closing ceremonies due to two of their athletes testing positive for banned substances during the course of the Olympics. But they also left Pyeongchang on a high as they won a long-awaited gold medal in hockey. It was the first for Russia since 1992, when it played as part of a unified team of former Soviet countries. This team, by far the most talented in the field, needed a goal with 56 seconds left against Germany to tie it, then won in overtime on a goal by 20-year old Kirill Kaprizov.