Perseverance, dedication, and endurance don’t even begin to describe what we witnessed during the Olympics this year. Athletes put everything on the line in every category of competition. As the sporting events come to a close at the PyeongChang Olympics, take a look back at the 13 most inspiring moments of the 2018 Olympics:
1. The miracle on snow
18 miles. 16 degrees Fahrenheit. Norwegian athlete Simen Hegstad Krueger was competing in his first ever Olympics. But he only got a few meters into the 30-kilometer cross country skiathlon before he was involved in a three-man pile up on the track. Because he was so far behind, commentators and fellow athletes didn’t pay him much attention. After all, with 22 kilometers to go, he was in 24th place. But by the second half of the race, he’d advanced to 14th place. In an amazing change of events, Krueger placed first with a ten second lead by the time the race was over.
“Lying down there at the start . . . I thought that it was over. It’s an incredible feeling to cross the finish line first in my first ever starting Olympics. It’s unbelievable,” Krueger told NBC.
Krueger could have let the fall at the beginning of the race define his time at the Olympics. But instead, he transformed the adversity into motivation and
You can watch Krueger’s incredible gold performance here.
2. When Catholic skater Yuna Kim lit the Olympic torch at the start of the games
Yuna Kim is a retired South Korean professional figure skater. This year, you may have watched her light the torch at the Opening Ceremony for the Olympic Games in South Korea. Although she retired from competitive ice skating, she served as an ambassador for this year’s Olympic games, which are hosted in her home country.
Yuna converted to Catholicism in 2008 after a devout Catholic doctor helped her heal from several skating injuries she experienced between 2006 and 2007. She chose the name ‘Stella’ as her confirmation name, in honor of Our Lady, Star of the Sea.
Read more: 4 Catholic Olympians to Keep Your Eye On
3. When Maame Biney thanked her earthly and Heavenly fathers for her success
Maame Biney is an American short track speed-skater. When she qualified for the Olympics, she started out by thanking God. “I am so sure that none of this would have happened if it wasn’t for him,” she wrote on Instagram. “If God hadn’t given my dad the strength to wake up, take me to practice, I wouldn’t be here today. I also want to thank God for giving me the passion to do this. Daddy, I know I can be a pain at times and do not appreciate what you’ve done for me. I do appreciate you. When I’m older I want to be just like you.”
4. That time when Ester Ledecka became the most unlikely gold medalist in the Olympics
Ester Ledecka, a Czech Republic athlete, took first in alpine skiing, making her win probably the most surprising in Olympic history. She beat the defending world champion Anna Veith from Austria by just 0.01 seconds. Ester is the first athlete ever to compete in both the snowboarding and alpine skiing events at the same Olympics.
Even Ester herself never thought she would win the competition. She gave her post-race press conference with her ski goggles on because she hadn’t prepared for the ceremony and didn’t put on makeup that morning.
5. When the German bobsleigh team set the fastest time despite a huge crash
German Olympic athletes Nico Walther and Christian Poser set a record time in the bobsleigh competition – even though the crossed the finish line sliding on their heads. Yes, you read that right.
This tweet from NBC Olympics shows what it looks like from the inside of the sled.
Their bobsleigh went around a turn so fast that Nico lost control of the sled. But even with that incredible upset, the pair still tied for first with their Canadian competitors and will return to Germany as Olympic champions.
6. The way the Finnish knitted through high stress situations
Athletes and coaches alike feel the pressure during the Olympic games. But the Finland Olympic team showed us how to handle stress in a calm (and creative!) way this year. Olympic onlookers first spotted Antti Koskinen, a Finnish snowboarding coach, knitting away at the top of the slopes.
But it’s not just the coaches who take to their needles in times of stress. The whole team worked on a blanket for Finnish president Sauli Niinisto and his wife, Jenni Haukio, whose son was born February 2.
7. That moment when the crowd rallied around Evan Bates and Madison Chock
If you’re looking for an inspiring story about community and perseverance, look no further than Evan Bates and Madison Chock’s fall in their long program at the Olympics. The ice-skating duo both fell in the middle of a turn element.
“That’s such an obvious mistake,” NBC’s Terry Gannon commented during the program. “It’s just kind of a given that you don’t fall if you’re going to challenge one of the top spots. . . I don’t know how you carry on with the rest of the program because you know your chance for a medal is gone.”
But Madison and Evan kept skating – and the crowd rallied around them. After they slipped, the crowed cheered as they got up and begin clapping to the music, encouraging the pair to finish strong. It was a bittersweet moment that taught us all about the importance of perseverance and support.
8. When team USA bobsledder Hakeem Abdul-Saboor was recruited by a Facebook video
Hakeem Abdul-Saboor is a rookie bobsled USA athlete who competed in the 2018 Olympics. He’s originally from Powhatan, Virginia. Hakeem grew up playing basketball, football, and running track. But it wasn’t until he recorded himself jumping so high that his head touched the 10 foot ceiling that Hakeem caught the attention of strength coach Brad DeWeese from the Olympic Site at Eastern Tennessee State University.
When DeWeese saw Hakeem jump and show of his explosiveness, he got in touch with the athlete and convinced him into competing in the next bobsled combine. “It means a great deal to me,” Hakeem said in a Team USA interview. “It’s every athletes dream to be able to make it to this level in any sport and represent their country.”
9. This Olympic skier finished dead last, but his celebration left us smiling
Olympic cross-country skier German Madrazo came in last place for the 15km men’s individual race in the 2018 Olympics, but his celebration left us cheering.
Madrazo just picked up skiing in 2017, and spent the past year training with his friends from Tonga and Chile. He completed the course 26 minutes behind gold medalist Dario Cologna from Switzerland. But as soon as Madrazo started down the final straight, he began waving his country’s flag in celebration. At the finish line, he received a hero’s welcome – showing that the first shall be last and the last shall be first. Congratulations, Madrazo!
10. That time the Nigerian women’s team made history as the first bobsled team from Africa
No African Nation has ever brought home a medal in the winter Olympic games. But Ngozi Onwumere and her teammates Akuoma and Seun didn’t come to try to win medals. They came as the first ever athletes to represent Nigeria at the Winter Olympics. They also were the first African representatives to qualify for and compete in the bobsled competition.
“You know what, I’m asking myself the exact same question,” Seun said in an interview with NBC Olympics. “How did you end up in bobsled, Seun? You retired from track and field in 2012 – after the games I retired from the sport. I think recently I started to have these epiphanies where I was just like, God had a plan for me.”
11. How USA Erin Jackson qualified for this year’s Winter Games with only four months of experience speed-skating on ice
If you looked up the word “rookie” in the dictionary, you’d find USA Olympic athlete Erin Jackson. She grew up in the roller rinks of Florida, but never dreamed that her inline skates would take her to the Olympics. But after just four months of ice-training, Erin found herself on Olympic ice.
“I surprised myself a lot,” she told NBC. “I really wasn’t expecting any of this, just coming in as a newbie, just trying to do the best I can.”
She got sick the first day of the games and had to skip the opening ceremony to rest. She’s struggled with migraines and insomnia throughout the games. But nothing can stop Erin from tackling a new challenge.
12. That time when Great Britain bobsledder Toby Olubi funded his Olympic journey by playing ‘Deal or No Deal’
It’s not cheap to compete in the Olympics. But British bobsleigh driver Toby Olubi didn’t let a price tag stop him from competing. He raised extra money by appearing on three TV game shows like “Deal or No Deal,” and “The Cube”.
Before his career in sports, Toby was a teacher, scouted to be on the team thanks to his 6 foot 4 inch height. “A lot of people have to support themselves through other means,” the 31-year-old told The Telegraph “It’s especially true in a sport like bobsleigh. Where there’s a will there’s a way, and this is the way I’ve chosen.”
13. Watching David Wise donate a portion of his sponsorship payout to One Leg Up On Life
Three years ago, Olympic athlete David Wise found out that his sister, Christy, had been in a paddle boarding accident. A speed boat had run over Christy while she was on the water, and her injuries resulted in the amputation of her right leg. In 2015, after her recovery, Christy founded One Leg Up On Life, a foundation whose purpose is to glorify God and help children live life by providing prostheses to kids who can’t afford them.
This year, David competed in the Olympics and pledged 10% of his sponsorship payout to One Leg Up On Life. “Every time I am on the podium, I will personally be donating 10% of my contest winnings, along with 10% of my sponsorship payouts to One Leg Up On Life,” David says in a video. “I challenge you to give generously with me! So that when I stand, kids around the world can stand on new prosthetics.”