Top five Winter Olympics breakthrough stars from Pyeongchang

David Cooper 25/02/2018
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New stars have been born over the course of the past two weeks at the Winter Olympics.

Here, we look at five such young talents who delivered on the biggest stage of their respective sports.

We kick things off on the slopes…

ESTER LEDECKA

The 22-year-old Czech became the first woman to capture gold medals in two different sports at the same Winter Games, with the haul really being the making of her. She first captured the women’s super-G alpine skiing title, in what was a huge shock, and then topped that by winning the snowboarding parallel giant slalom competition. The two-time world snowboarding champion is now known as the Queen of Snow.

TOPSHOT - Gold medallist Czech Republic's Ester Ledecka celebrates on the podium during the victory ceremony for the women's snowboard parallel giant slalom event at the Phoenix Park during the Pyeongchang 2018 Winter Olympic Games on February 24, 2018 in Pyeongchang. / AFP PHOTO / LOIC VENANCE (Photo credit should read LOIC VENANCE/AFP/Getty Images)

CHLOE KIM

Just 17, the American became the youngest woman to win an Olympic snowboarding gold medal when she triumphed in the halfpipe in her first Winter Games. Kim, who also won two golds at the Youth Games two years ago, really realised her potential on the biggest stage and is set to become one of the most-marketable athletes given her huge rise in Pyeongchang.

GANGNEUNG, SOUTH KOREA - FEBRUARY 13: (BROADCAST-OUT) Gold medalist in Snowboard Ladies' Halfpipe Chloe Kim of the United States poses for a portrait on the Today Show Set on February 13, 2018 in Gangneung, South Korea. (Photo by Marianna Massey/Getty Images)

ALINA ZAGITOVA

The 15-year-old’s meteoric rise has been the stuff of dreams. Indeed, the figure skater pipped fellow Russian and the more experienced Evgenia Medvedeva in the ladies’ individual event, recording a world-record score of 82.92. In an Olympics where the spotlight has been on Russian athletes for differing reasons, she became the first from her country to claim gold.

Russia's Alina Zagitova performs during the figure skating gala event during the Pyeongchang 2018 Winter Olympic Games at the Gangneung Oval in Gangneung on February 25, 2018. / AFP PHOTO / Mladen ANTONOV (Photo credit should read MLADEN ANTONOV/AFP/Getty Images)

ZOI SADOWSKI-SYNNOTT

Became New Zealand’s youngest-ever Olympic medallist, at 16 years and 353 days, after her bronze-placed finish in the inaugural Big Air snowboard competition. Compatriot Nico Porteous, also aged 16, finished third in the freestyle skiing. Given the fact the Kiwis had not won a medal for 26 years before the Games, they’ll both be a pretty big deal when they arrive back home.

PYEONGCHANG-GUN, SOUTH KOREA - FEBRUARY 25: Flag bearers Zoi Sadowski-Synnott and Nico Porteous of New Zealand pose for a photo on day sixteen of the PyeongChang 2018 Winter Olympic Games on February 25, 2018 in Pyeongchang-gun, South Korea. (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)

NATHAN CHEN

The 18-year-old American won bronze in the Olympic figure skating team event but after initially performing poorly in the free skate segment, he made Olympic history by becoming the first athlete to attempt six quads in one program and land five of them cleanly. His score of 215.08 in the free skate, the highest in Olympic history, elevated him from 17th to fifth in the rankings. If only he had started better…

GANGNEUNG, SOUTH KOREA - FEBRUARY 17: (BROADCAST-OUT) United States Men's Figure Skater Nathan Chen poses for a portrait with his bronze medal in the team event on the Today Show Set on February 17, 2018 in Gangneung, South Korea. (Photo by Marianna Massey/Getty Images)

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Winter Olympics: Marit Bjoergen grabs record-extending 15th gold as Norway top medal table

David Cooper 25/02/2018
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Marit Bjoerge of Norway on her way to a landmark 15th Winter Olympics gold medal.

Marit Bjoergen grabbed a record-extending 15th Winter Olympics medal as she won the 30km cross country to put Norway top of the final medals table in Pyeongchang on Sunday.

The cross-country legend, 37, signed off in style after a glittering Olympic career as she won 1min 49.5sec ahead of Finland’s Krista Parmakoski, as Stina Nilsson of Sweden took bronze.

After the final event of the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, Norway and Germany both have 14 gold medals. But the Norwegians have a record 39 medals overall, compared to Germany’s 31.

Bjoergen became the most successful Winter Olympian of all time earlier in the Games, when she finished third in the team sprint free.

Her bronze with Maiken Caspersen Falla put her on 14 Olympic medals, outstripping fellow Norwegian Ole Einar Bjoerndalen, who has 13 in biathlon.

Bjoergen is also the second most successful woman at either the Summer or Winter Games, trailing only Soviet gymnast Larisa Latynina with 18 medals.

Norway, a country of 5.2 million people, have enjoyed a barnstorming Olympics, breaking the United States’ 2010 record of 37 medals at a single Winter Games.

Provided by AFP

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Silver for South Korea in women's curling as Sweden claim Winter Olympics gold

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Close to top spot: South Korea.

South Korea fell agonisingly short in their fairytale bid for women’s curling gold on Sunday, beaten 8-3 in the final by Sweden, oblivious to the celebrity status they have acquired.

Skip Anna Hasselborg’s Swedes saw off the so-called “Garlic Girls” in Pyeongchang for the Scandinavians’ third Olympic title, after Vancouver in 2010 and Turin four years earlier.

Sweden’s King Carl XVI Gustaf, watching the match at the arena, said the clinical Swedes were “cold as ice.”

For the Koreans this was the end of a remarkable journey from the eighth-ranked team in the world to Olympic silver medallists.

Skip Kim Eun-jung and her high school team-mates cried as they waved to the crowd after conceding the final after the ninth end.

“This was the first medal in Korean curling history and we won silver, so we are very honoured,” said Kim.

The high school friends who make up Team Kim revealed they only had an inkling of the fame they had achieved.

“We gave up our mobile phones at the start of the Olympics to better concentrate on our curling,” said the Winter Games hosts’ skip.

“I haven’t received my phone back from the coach yet so I’m not sure but the atmosphere and the support has changed completely since the first game and the final match.

“I have no idea how famous we are!

“I will check the internet as soon as possible. But I know that there has been a lot of support, we received letters and presents from fans so we are very grateful.

“We are just so happy and grateful that Korean curling is receiving this much attention.”

The Swedes’ success helped alleviate their male counterparts’ pain at losing gold to the United States 24 hours earlier.

“They were cold as ice and really alert today,” said King Carl XVI Gustaf “It’s a great joy.”

Hasselborg was expertly assisted by Sara McManus, Agnes Knochenhauer, Sofia Mabergs and Maria Prytz.

Team Kim’s unexpected rise has made them headline news in a country where curling was barely heard of a fortnight ago.

Now it’s the hot topic of conversation across the nation.

And of course in their home town of Euiseong too, famous for garlic farming where thousands gathered at a local gymnasium to watch the final from a large projector and cheer on Pancake, Yogurt, Steak, Cookie and Sunny, the nicknames the girls chose to avoid confusion as they all share the same surname, Kim.

Friends and families of the curlers packed the gym, where banners proclaimed: “Let’s dig for gold with the same strength we dig for garlic!”

Under the assured guidance of Skip Kim (Yogurt) Korea were smart out of the blocks, bagging the first point but the Swedes were 3-1 ahead by the fourth end.

With charismatic Kim biting her lip pensively her opposite number Hasselborg secured another point to put the Swedes 4-1 up at the halfway point of the 10-end game.

Team Kim pulled one back after the restart but their dream was dealt a hammer blow with Sweden picking up three points in the seventh end to make it 7-2.

Urged on by noisy support from the near 3,000-crowd at the Gangneung Curling Centre the Koreans nicked a point to go 7-3 but the Swedes got two in the next and skip Kim extended her hand to her opposite number to concede the final.

Swedish skip Hasselborg paid tribute to Team Kim, and said the welcome they had received in Korea had helped them take gold.

“We love Korean BBQ, therefore we love Korea!” she smiled.

“We’ve felt so at home in the Olympic village, all the volunteers are so smiley and nice and helpful that it’s helped us to be on top form this week.”

Japan defeated Britain to claim the bronze medal.

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