As the Olympic closing ceremony concluded in PyeongChang, South Korea Sunday night, six out of the eleven athletes representing the greater Los Angeles area at this year’s Olympic games will be returning home with medals.
USA’s delegation at this year’s Olympic Games was comprised of 244 athletes, and 22 of them consider California their home, according to Team USA. 11 of these athletes call the greater Los Angeles area their home. And while Los Angeles may seem like the place for summer sports, a total of two gold, one silver and three bronze medals are being brought home by L.A. based athletes for their accomplishments in winter sports. This constitutes nearly a quarter of all medals won by Team USA at this year’s Olympic Games.
Overall, Team USA will be bringing with them nine gold medals, eight silver medals and six bronze medals, totaling 23 medals for the United States. Team USA will be leaving this year’s Winter Olympic Games with the fourth highest medal count of all participating countries, only beat by Norway, Germany and Canada.
17-year-old snowboarder Chloe Kim is returning home to Torrance with gold for her outstanding performance at the Women’s Halfpipe. Kim received a score of 98.25, outcompeting China’s silver medalist Liu Jiayu with an 8.5 point margin.
Kim made the cut for Team USA in the selection process for 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics, but was not old enough to participate, making PyeongChang her first Olympic Games. Kim has also won medals at every woman’s half-pipe competition at the X Games since 2014.
In an interview with People Magazine, Kim explained how she feels before every competition, “I’m shaking, my heart is pounding out of my chest, it’s like I’m freaking out.”
But Kim doesn’t let the pressure get to her and uses it to her advantage instead.
“At the end of the day, obviously there is going to be some pressure that comes along with it, but at the same time it’s like, you know, ‘Wow, these people really believe in me and have all this confidence in me.’ I think that pushes me to be better and motivates me,” she said.
Team USA Women’s Hockey player Cayla Barnes is also returning home with gold after Team USA beat Canada 3-2in the finals.
Barnes is currently the youngest player on the women’s hockey team. Barnes helped Team USA win the last three under-18 world championships and has taken a leave of absence from Boston University to play for Team USA full time.
The transition from university to play for Team USA wasn’t that easy.
“I had to jump into a team that’s been together for at least three months when I came in. That was hard,” said Barnes in an interview with Los Angeles Times.
She further explained that her teammates have helped to make the transition easier.
“They take me under their wing, almost, like my big sisters. So that’s super-awesome.”
Bobsledder from Los Angeles, Lauren Gibbs is bringing with her from PyeongChang a silver medal for her performance in the Women’s two-man Competition in bobsled. Gibbs’ team was beaten by Germany by an extremely narrow margin of .07 seconds, making the defeat so much worse.
Gibbs is a more unusual athlete. After earning an MBA from Pepperdine University, Gibbs at age 29 decided to leave her corporate job to join the U.S. bobsled team. In 2016, Gibbs won the bobsled world championships and now, at age 34, she is an Olympic silver medalist.
Gibbs has always been an active person. As a student at Westridge School in Pasadena, Gibbs played soccer and volleyball. In an interview with Los Angeles Times on the topic of her former career, Gibbs explained: “I had a corporate job and wore a suit to work every day, and I just kind of felt like I wasn’t living my authentic self or doing what I was passionate about.”
She further elaborated, “That was the path I expected to be on, but a path I’m glad I’m not on.”
Figure skater Mirai Nagasu from Arcadia and member of Pasadena FSC is returning home with a bronze medal. Nagasu won her bronze medal in the free skate portion of the women’s figure skating team event.
Nagasu’s first Olympic Games was the 2010 Vancouver games where she placed fourth in the Ladies’ singles event at the age of 16. Through her career, she has won numerous awards at the Four Continents Championships, the U.S. Championships and the World Junior Championships.
The final bronze medals were won by figure skaters Adam Rippon and Nathan Chen who live and train in Los Angeles. Both Rippon and Chen won their bronze medals as part of the male figure skating team event.
Rippon is currently ranked the eighth best male figure skater, according to the International Skating Union. Rippon has won numerous awards at the U.S. Championships, the Four Continents Championships and the World Junior Championships. Rippon is also the first openly gay U.S. athlete to win an Olympic medal.
Nathan Chen is the only figure skater to have successfully attempted and completed to land six quads at an Olympics competition. Similar to Rippon, Chen has also won numerous awards at the U.S. Championships, the Four Continents Championships and the World Junior Championships.
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