More astounding action on Day 9 of the PyeongChang 2018 Winter Olympics.
Men's Ski Slopestyle
In ski slopestyle, the skiers run down an obstacle course of rails and hills and are scored on their jumps of ramps. It's a dangerous sport where crashes and injuries are common as the skiers attempt risky jumps and turns while soaring high in the air and landing downhill at fast speeds.
Norway's Oystein Braaten slides and flies to gold.
|Oystein Braaten of Norway competes during the Freestyle Skiing Men's Ski Slopestyle PyeongChang 2018 February 18, 2018, South Korea. Feb. 17, 2018 - Source: Cameron Spencer/Getty Images AsiaPac|
American Nick Goepper, the Sochi 2014 bronze medalist, soars to PyeongChang 2018 silver.
|Nick Goepper of the United States competes during the Freestyle Skiing Men's Ski Slopestyle PyeongChang 2018 February 18, 2018, South Korea. Feb. 17, 2018 - Source: Cameron Spencer/Getty Images AsiaPac|
And Canadian Alex Beaulieu-Marchand claims the bronze.
|Alex Beaulieu-Marchand of Canada in action during the Freestyle Skiing Men's slopestyle Aerial PyeongChang 2018 February 18, 2018 South Korea. Feb. 17, 2018 - Source: Clive Mason/Getty Images AsiaPac|
Sochi 2014 silver medalist, Gus Kenworthy, failed to land any of his three jumps, finishing 12th. There were doubts about him even competing with a broken thumb and a hematoma on his hip that had to be drained the day before competition. He sustained his injuries from falls during practice runs.
Since coming out, he has been a very vocal voice for the LGBT community. His unscripted peck with his boyfriend was a candid moment captured on live tv. It has caused some to applaud; others to complain; but perhaps the best reaction is just realizing that it's just a kiss, what every couple does to express their feelings for one another. That it happens with every couple should not be a surprise.
Men's Alpine Skiing Giant Slalom
Marcel Hirscher is golden!
|Marcel Hirscher of Austria competes during the Alpine Skiing Men's Giant Slalom PyeongChang 2018 February 18, 2018, South Korea. Feb. 17, 2018 - Source: Ezra Shaw/Getty Images AsiaPac|
The Austrian has won gold in the Giant Slalom, adding to his earlier Alpine Combined gold from Tuesday. Hirscher's two-run time clocked in at 2 minutes, 18.04 seconds. He is projected to win in his best event, the upcoming slalom on Thursday. Can he do it? It's the Olympics. Anything can happen.
Henrik Kristoffersen of Norway pulls off an incredible furious second run that leaped him from 10th place to silver, 1.27 seconds behind Marcel Hirscher.
Alexis Pinturault of France finished 1.31 seconds behind Hirscher's time, adding bronze to the Alpine Combined silver he won on Tuesday.
Defending Sochi 2014 champion, American Ted Ligety, had a slow first run, then a slower second run. He finished 15th in a very competitive field.
Men's Cross-country Skiing 4X10km Relay
The Norwegians continue to crush it in cross country skiing, making up for a terrible Sochi 2014 experience. Back then, bad ski wax and unfamiliarity with Russian ice and snow (and perhaps not enough training) were to blame. They finished off the podium in fourth, a shock to the usually dominant Vikings.
But this time, they redeem themselves in glorious fashion! Didrik Toenseth, Martin Johnsrud Sundby, Simen Hegstad Krueger, and Johannes Hoesflot Klaebo won the race in 1 hour, 33 minutes and 4.9 seconds.
It was an exciting race! The lead kept changing. Alexander Bolshunov laid down a spectacular run to set the OAR for its first gold medal of the games. He finished the second leg and handed over a huge 24 seconds (!) lead for the Olympic Athletes from Russia.
|Alexander Bolshunov of Olympic Athlete from Russia competes during Cross-Country Skiing men's 4x10km relay PyeongChang 2018 February 18, 2018 South Korea. Feb. 17, 2018 - Source: Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images AsiaPac|
But in a dramatic turn of events, Norway’s Simen Hegstad Krueger, the PyeongChang 2018 skiathlon Champion, hunted down Alexey Chervotkin, caught him, then left him in his flurry, wiping out the Russians half minute lead! And the French caught up and challenged for the top spot!
|Simen Hegstad Krueger of Norway competes in the third leg during Cross-Country Skiing men's 4x10km relay PyeongChang 2018 February 18, 2018, South Korea. Feb. 17, 2018 - Source: Adam Pretty/Getty Images AsiaPac|
In the final leg, OAR's Denis Spitsov kicked it up a notch and hunted after the the Norwegian and Frenchman. He catches the leaders, then he outlasted the French anchor Adrien Backscheider, who falls behind, making it a tight two man race for gold!
Norway's Johannes Hoesflot Klaebo tries his best to shake of Denis Spitsov, but Spitsov sticks to him like gum on a shoe! They kept changing leads!
And finally, in the last kilometer of the race, Klaebo, the PyeongChang 2018 Sprint Champion, starts to pull ahead and gun it. Spitsov couldn't match. Klaebo crosses the finish line first, giving the Norwegians it's first gold in the event since Salt Lake 2002!
With this historic win, Norway become the first nation to win both the men’s and women’s relay events at a single Olympic Winter Games for a second time, after Grenoble 1968.
Denis Spitsov clocked in 9.4 seconds later. His valiant efforts secured the OAR a second place podium finish. The OAR team of Andrey Larkov, Alexander Bolshunov, Alexey Chervotkin, and Denis Spitsov take the silver.
And the surprising, gutsy French team of Jean-Marc Gaillard, Maurice Manificat, Clément Parisse, and Adrien Backscheider claim silver.
Finland is fourth. And two time defending champions Sweden was fifth.
Men's Biathlon 15km Mass Start
The excitement continues in the thrilling Men's Biathlon 15km Mass Start.
After missing a shot that led to a penalty loop, top ranked biathlete Martin Fourcade of France fought his way to lead in the final lap of the race.
But then Germany's Simon Schempp surges from behind and caught up to Fourcade. It made the last 100m of the race a ferocious, furious battle to the finish line! Each kept jumping ahead of the other.
And then a mad dash for the finish line, and they both crossed it at the same time! Schempp pulled through, Fourcade slammed down his ski pole, thinking he had lost. It was his Sochi 2014 nightmare all over again!
But a dramatic foto finish showed that Fourcade actually edge out Schempp by narrowest of margins!
It is a complete reversal of fortune, as it was Fourcade who was beaten to gold in this same event at Sochi 2014! With a foto finish, too, by 3cm! This time, he wins PyeongChang 2018 gold.
Germany's Simon Schempp takes silver for his fantastic efforts. And Norway's Emil Hegle Svendsen, who beat Fourcade in that dramatic Sochi 2014 race, takes PyeongChang 2018 bronze.
Over in the high flying world of aerials, Oleksandr Abramenko edges out China's Jia Zongyang to deliver Ukraine's first Pyeongchang 2018 Winter Olympics medal, a gold!
|Oleksandr Abramenko of the Ukraine competes during the Freestyle Skiing Men's Aerials Final PyeongChang 2018 February 18, 2018, South Korea. Feb. 17, 2018 - Source: Quinn Rooney/Getty Images AsiaPac|
It is the third overall Winter Olympics medal for the Ukraine, after Oksana Baiul won gold in women's figure skating at Lillehammer 1994 and the women's biathlon team took gold at Sochi 2014.
Jia Zongyang was the last jumper. He did the same jumps as Abramenko. But Abramenko was scored higher. Jia Zongyang settles for silver, continuing the Chinese curse of missing out the Olympics gold. They've a bunch of silver and bronze medals, but still no gold.
And Ilia Burov, Olympic Athlete from Russia, put in a spectacular showing to earn the bronze. The OAR has yet to win a gold at the PyeongChang 2018 Winter Olympics.
Women's Speedskating 500m
The Speedskating powerhouse Dutch were shut out of the women's 500m race.
Japan's Nao Kodaira set an Olympics record of 36.94 seconds, becoming the first woman to clock under 37 seconds at sea level. The World Champion adds this gold to a 1000m silver she won on Wednesday.
|Nao Kodaira of Japan competes during the Ladies' 500m Individual Speed Skating Final PyeongChang 2018 February 18, 2018 South Korea. Feb. 17, 2018 - Source: Maddie Meyer/Getty Images AsiaPac|
Two-time defending champion and world record holder, Lee Sang-hwa of South Korea, settled for silver. She finished with a time of 37.33, just 0.01 seconds ahead of third place. Karolina Ervanova of the Czech Republic earned bronze, clocking in at 37.34.
Jorien ter Mors, who beat Kodaira in the 1000m, placed 6th, the highest Dutch finish.
In other news, an Olympic Athlete from Russia has tested positive for doping. This may make it impossible for the Russians to wear their colors at the Closing Ceremony, as the IOC was deliberating weather or not to let them. I don't think they should after this latest doping stunt. The identity of the doper is kept secret while the doping protocol process is under way.
Over at ski jumping, Japanese veteran Noriaki Kasai has qualified for the men's team large hill ski jumping final at the Olympics. Defending champions and three time winners Germany also qualified, along with Norway and Poland.
And so ends a fantastic Day 9 of the PyeongChang 2018 Winter Olympics, where the difference between being a champion or making the podium is a matter of centimeters or seconds. Every little bit counts, and in the races today, every little bit was crucial when it mattered.