American women set to out-medal their male counterparts for first time in 20 years

It began with, of all things, ice cream. Or, rather, the lackthereof. In between Chloe Kim’s qualifying runs in the halfpipe, she let the world know, via Twitter, that she really would have appreciated a bowl of ice cream.

Four magnificent runs, one more hangry tweet, and a gold medal later, the first American star of these Winter Olympics was born. It set the theme for the next few weeks to come: For the United States, these Games would be all about the women.

Pick your star, or your moment. There is Mirai Nagasu landing a triple-axel, something no American woman had ever done in an Olympics. She’d been to the Games before, in 2010, and finished fourth. Snubbed in 2014, a bronze in the team skate in PyeongChang made the redemption that much sweeter.

After her final skate on Friday, she said she wanted to be a star. She’ll be one, alright.

In this Feb. 13, 2018, file photo, Chloe Kim, of the United States, celebrates winning gold after the women’s halfpipe finals at Phoenix Snow Park at the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea. (AP Photo/Gregory Bull, File)
In this Feb. 13, 2018, file photo, Chloe Kim, of the United States, celebrates winning gold after the women’s halfpipe finals at Phoenix Snow Park at the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea. (AP Photo/Gregory Bull, File)

So, too, will Mikaela Shiffrin. The 22-year-old skier is the best in the world at what she does, so good that a gold and a silver in these Games seems almost a disappointment to some, a reaction the result of weighty expectations from others and herself. Prior to her first run, she was compared to Michael Phelps, the most decorated Olympian in history. She called it crazy.

It didn’t seem so then. It still doesn’t seem so now.

She’ll leave South Korea as, by definition, the most successful female skier in PyeongChang, carrying forward with her the hopes of American alpine skiing for perhaps, should she remain healthy and free of burnout, the next three Olympics. Those were the hopes once shouldered by Lindsey Vonn, who currently holds the title as the greatest female skier ever. Vonn took a bronze in the downhill, the event she has ruled for the better part of two decades. Legions called it a failure.

It was one more medal than any American man earned on the slopes.

It has been 20 years since the American women have out-medaled their male counterparts in the Winter Olympics. They tied in Sochi in 2014, 13-13, but in Vancouver the men’s 24 doubled the 12 of the women, and their 16 in Turin did the same in 2006.

That will not be the case in PyeongChang, where the women have won 12 and the men 8. And it’s not just a matter of quantity, but of magnitude as well.

The women produced both the biggest burgeoning star in Kim and the biggest moment, when Jocelyne Lamoureux-Davidson deked Canadian goalie Shannon Szabados for the go-ahead goal in the gold medal shootout, 20 years in the making, and Maddie Rooney followed it up with the save for the top of the podium and for the wikipedia title of U.S. Secretary of Defense.

And let that not overshadow the heart of Jessie Diggins, the cross country skier with the iron will who, while the broadcaster roared “HERE COMES DIGGINS! HERE COMES DIGGINS!”, zipped past Norway and Sweden in the final stretch to bring home the first American cross country skiing gold medal.

Yes, stories abound for the men, too. Shaun White electrified with his near-perfect halfpipe gold medal. Within hours of the women’s hockey team outlasting Canada, the men’s curling team stunned the heavily favored Canadians as well. David Wise’s halfpipe gold, a successful defense of his gold in Sochi, was magnificent.

But the moments that will be remembered from these Games will, for the most part, begin with the women. It is the genesis of Kim’s career. It is Diggins becoming the small town girl who could. It is Vonn passing the torch to Shiffrin and Lamoureux-Davidson providing the most iconic goal in the biggest game in U.S. women’s hockey history.

“What this group has been able to accomplish is way beyond sport,” Gigi Marvin, a forward on the hockey team, said, “and that is something that is never going to fade. That’s something we’re so proud of.”

She was speaking about the hockey team, though the sentiment could be applied to the rest of the American female medalists, to stars old and new.

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