The U.S. men’s curling team, coming off back-to-back Olympics finishing near the bottom of the tournament, completed a stunning turnaround by winning its first-ever gold medal.
Teenager Red Gerard, who won America’s first gold in Pyeongchang, faltered in big-air snowboarding competition and failed to medal. American Kyle Mack won silver.
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There will be plenty of excitement in Pyeonchang on Saturday (starting Friday night in the U.S.). Here are our must-watch events:
1. Team USA’s Curlers Sweep on for Gold
Four days ago, the men’s U.S. curling team was near bottom of the round robin standings with a 2-4 record, needing three consecutive wins — including a win against arch-rival Canada, a team they’d never beat in the Olympics — to have a chance at advancement.
What a difference four days makes. Team USA won gold, beating Sweden 10-7 in a stunning victory where the underdogs truly thrived.
"It's unbelievable," said John Landsteiner, one of Team USA’s four curlers. “I think we are going to play even better (in the gold medal game), because there’s pressure of ‘what if we get fourth?’ (or) ‘what if we walk away with nothing?’ With that pressure gone and the desire to get gold over silver, I’m excited for what that game is going to be like."
As expected, Sweden was a tough match. The Swedes beat Switzerland 9-3 in their semifinal to reach this game, and beat the Americans 10-4 early in round robin play.
This match was American’s best-ever finish in Olympic curling. Team USA won bronze in 2006, but finished 10th and ninth in the last two Olympics. Well, now they can say they're a gold-winning team.
2. Red Gerard Doesn't Medal, but American Kyle Mack Wins Silver.
Red Gerard won America’s first gold medal, but finished out of medal contention in the men's big-air snowboarding competition.
Canadian Sebastien Toutant won gold in the inaugural Olympic contest, Team USA's Kyle Mack won silver and the United Kingdom's Billy Morgan took bronze.
3. Make Way for the Mass of Skaters
Speedskating takes on a whole new look with the Olympic debut of the mass start. Out is the usual format, in which pairs of skaters race around the oval. In is the mass start, of up to 24 competitors race at the same time.
“Mass start’s amazing, because as soon as you cross the line, you know who first, second and third are,” said Joey Mantia, a medal favorite for Team USA in the men’s event. “It’s easy to follow. It’s just traditional racing.”
Mantia won the event at the 2017 world championships, but he should get stiff competition from South Korea’s Lee Seung-hoon, a three-time Olympic medalist who switched from short track.
In the women’s race, Americans Heather Bergsma and Mia Manganello, who both won bronze in the team pursuit, will be competing. South Korea’s Kim Bo-reum, who also switched from short track, and Germany’s Claudia Pechstein could also contend for medals.
“I really enjoy it because you have to have a tactic with it,” Bergsma said. “Not only the fastest person wins. Someone can break away from the group, or it can be an end sprint. You never know.”
Watch live on digital platforms Saturday at 3 a.m., or watch coverage on NBCSN at 6:30 a.m. Saturday.
4. Alpine Skiing Team Event Makes Thrilling Olympic Debut
Switzerland has beaten top-seeded Austria to take the gold medal in the Olympic debut of the Alpine team skiing event.
Switzerland was up 2-1 in the final matchup when Swiss ski racer Daniel Yule wrapped up the win as Austrian Marco Schwarz skied out along the side-by-side parallel slalom course.
Norway edged France in the bronze medal match. The countries were tied at 2, but Norway's top skiers were faster. Each team had two male and two female skiers.
The Swiss ski team ended the Pyeongchang Games with two gold medals and seven total. Austria's ski squad also had seven medals, including three gold. Norway's Alpine skiers also had seven medals, including one gold.
Several of the world's top racers, including American Mikaela Shiffrin and Austrian Marcel Hirscher, skipped the event.