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The biggest surprise winners at the 2018 Winter Olympics

There have been plenty of iconic moments throughout the 2018 Winter Olympics in PyeongChang, South Korea.

North and South Korea marched under one flag in the Opening Ceremony. Skier Gus Kenworthy and figure skater Adam Rippon became the first openly gay American’s to compete in the Winter Olympics. Team USA women’s hockey knocked off Canada to win the gold medal, and the USA men’s curling team did the same to Sweden. The list goes on and on.

Yet there were plenty of surprise moments, too, which kept viewers and athletes alike on their toes.

Check out some of the biggest surprise winners throughout the 2018 Games:

Red Gerard

Days into the Winter Olympics, the United States still hadn’t won a medal. Then came 17-year-old Red Gerard.

After falling on his first two runs in slopestyle snowboarding, Gerard was sitting in 11th place. Nearly everyone had written him off.

His final run, though, was nearly perfect. With an array of spins and flips, Gerard put up a score of 87.16 to catapult up the standings and win his first gold medal.

Red Gerard, of the United States, smiles after winning gold in the men’s slopestyle final at Phoenix Snow Park at the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea, Sunday, Feb. 11, 2018. (AP Photo/Lee Jin-man)

“It was awesome,” Gerard said. “I just told myself that I wanted to land a run, and I was a little bummed on my first two runs because I fell a couple of times.

“I’m just so happy that it all worked out.”

The 5-foot-5, 115 pound Gerard, who became the youngest American to win a snowboarding gold medal, had taken the early spotlight in PyeongChang — second only to his family, who was seen with “emptied and crushed cans of Cass Light, Fitz and even a Budweiser” in the crowd at Phoenix Snow Park cheering him on.

Gerard quickly ensued on a victory-tour in the coming days that landed him in Los Angeles on the “Jimmy Kimmel Show”, “CBS This Morning” in New York City, and big interviews with People, Time and Sports Illustrated. Then, Gerard took off back for PyeongChang to compete in the snowboarding big air on Saturday, which he finished fifth.

Ester Ledecka

22-year-old Ester Ledecka wasn’t supposed to win in the women’s Super-G in PyeongChang.

In fact, NBC had already declared Austria’s Anna Veith the winner in the event on Feb. 11, and cut to coverage to watch Adam Rippon skate

When Ledecka crossed the finish line after her run, the Czech slowly looked around. She didn’t realize what had happened. Nobody had.

She finished with a time of 1:21.11, just .01 faster than Veith.

She was so surprised by her win that during her post-race press conference Ledecka didn’t take off her goggles because she didn’t come wearing makeup. She wasn’t expecting to be on camera.


Ledecka started out as a snowboarder — which is what she came to the Olympics to do. Heading into the women’s parallel giant snowboarding slalom, Ledecka was ranked No. 1 in the world. Her run backed that up, too.

Ledecka cruised to a gold medal on Saturday, becoming the first woman to win a gold medal in two sports at the same Winter Olympics.

Jessie Diggins, Kikkan Randall

Jessie Diggins and Kikkan Randall went into the ski sprint final sitting in first place on Wednesday. Yet after fading in the first leg of the race, the American pair had fallen back to fourth, and looked out of the race.

Diggins had other plans.

The 25-year-old flew past Norway’s Maiken Caspersen Falla on the final downhill and then past Sweden’s Stina Nilsson on the last straightaway, finishing in 15:56.47 — less than two-tenths of a second ahead of the Swedes in a photo-finish.

The win marked both Diggins’ and Kikkan’s first Olympic medal, and the United States’ first ski sprint medal, too. The win even earned Diggins enough votes from the rest of Team USA to be the team flag-bearer at the Closing Ceremony in PyeongChang.

Germany Hockey

The German men’s hockey team was never supposed to be where they are now.

Germany went just 1-2 in the preliminary rounds, and then snuck past Switzerland 2-1 in the playoff qualification.

It seemed, though, that was all it needed to get the German’s moving.

Germany knocked off top-seeded Sweden in the quarterfinal round 4-3 in overtime on Wednesday, thanks to a goal from Yannic Seidenberg just 32 seconds into the extra period.

Germany then stunned Canada on Friday, mounting a 4-1 lead en route to a one-goal win to catapult it into the gold medal game on Sunday.

The win against Canada — who Germany had lost to 11 times in a row — guarantees its first Olympic hockey medal since 1976, and a shot at its first gold medal ever.

Germany ultimately fell to the Olympic Athletes from Russia on Sunday morning in the gold medal game. Canada captured bronze with a win over the Czech Republic.

Suzanne Schulting

Netherlands speed skater Suzanne Schulting was up against Korean favorites Choi Min-Jeong and Shim Suk-Hee, who were favored to reach the podium in the women’s 1,000 meter race.

Yet a rough crash in the last lap sent both Min-Jeong and Suk-Hee flying into the wall. Suddenly, the field was open.

Short Track Speed Skating Events – Pyeongchang 2018 Winter Olympics – Women’s 1000m Final – Gangneung Ice Arena – Gangneung, South Korea – February 22, 2018 – Choi Min-jeong of South Korea and Shim Suk-hee of South Korea crash. REUTERS/John Sibley

Schulting held strong and won the event with a time of 1:29.778, beating Canada’s Kim Boutin and Italy’s Arianna Fontana.

Schulting’s win marks the first short track speed skating gold medal for the Netherlands, who are traditionally a long track speed skating powerhouse.

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