Dick’s Sporting Goods: February 2018

After 18 days of exhilarating competition, the 2018 Winter Olympics in PyeongChang, South Korea came to a close last weekend. During the Opening Ceremonies, the power of the Olympics was on full display, as Olympians from North and South Korea marched under a unified flag. It was an extraordinary moment considering the tension between the two countries.

While the temporary unification of Korea was remarkable, these Olympic Games were particularly special this time for Americans, as they brought the country together and provided uplifting moments amid the tragedy in Parkland, Florida.

After the shooting, which occurred just days after the Opening Ceremonies, American ice skater Adam Rippon tweeted, “These shootings have to stop.”

Rippon was not alone. Fellow ice skaters Alexa Scimeca Knierim and Chris Knierim dedicated their performance to victims of the shooting during an event that occurred just hours after the massacre. American biathlete (the only Winter Olympics sport where athletes shoot guns) Lowell Bailey told the Washington Post she supported a ban on assault rifles, and her teammate Susan Dunklee said the high level of gun violence in America “takes a lot of the joy I have out of pursuing a sport like this.”

American Olympians also hoped to give Americans something to smile about as the country recovers from another school shooting. Scimeca Knierim said after her free skate, “I think I kind of put pressure on myself today because I wanted to honor those who were lost and skate well for them and have somewhat of a happy moment for our country… I wanted to lift the spirits of those who are probably mourning.”

The emotional and beautiful free skate from the Knierims was just the first of many inspiring performances from American athletes during these games. Teenage snowboarders Red Gerard and Chloe Kim both won their first gold medals. The figure skating team put on stellar performances and were awarded the bronze medal in the team event. Chris Mazder became the first American to ever win the men’s luge singles competition.

These medal-winning performances captivated televisions across the country, yet one American team really stood out in giving the country a reason to smile.

The U.S. women’s ice hockey team defeated Canada to win the team’s first gold medal since the inaugural Olympic women’s hockey tournament in 1980. Canada had won every gold medal from 1984 to 2014, including a heartbreaking loss for the Americans in overtime in the gold medal game four years ago. But last Thursday, 38 years to the day since the U.S. men’s hockey team’s “Miracle on Ice,” the women won in a thrilling and nerve-wracking shootout to end the long-running devastation.

Senior Megan Krikau, who plays for Fenwick’s women’s ice hockey team, was moved by the victory. “I watched the gold medal game in my living room with my dad,” she said. “It was one of the happiest moments when they won. As I was watching the medal ceremony, I got chills because it was so awesome.”

Krikau has looked up to the players on the U.S. team her entire life and acknowledged the importance of the victory moving forward. “Not a lot of people watch or care about women’s ice hockey, so it’s cool to see that so many people honored the women after they won.”

Krikau, like many Americans, was grieving over the Parkland shooting as the U.S. team played elimination games. “The shooting was heartbreaking and horrible. There have been way too many horrific shootings in America and it is time for a change.”

Krikau participated in the walkout of OPRF on Feb. 21. “It was so inspiring to see that  so many kids want a difference made,” she said. “I walked out because the things that are happening are not okay, and there needs to be a change in gun control immediately, or more innocent lives are going to be lost.”

The joy of the U.S. Olympic victory helped give Krikau and people across the country a reason to smile and celebrate. “Even though there are lots of tragic things happening in America, through the Olympics, you get to celebrate the good things happening from our country,” Krikau said.

The significance of these Olympics will not be forgotten. While every Olympic Games creates superstars and provides joy to people around the world, the 2018 Olympics will be remembered for doing so against the backdrop of an American tragedy.