The leading ladies of the Olympics
The American ladies of the Sochi games who wowed us and stole our hearts.
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The Olympics may be over and our guilty pleasures of keeping up with “Sochi problems” have been priceless. The United States did not top the list with the most overall medals or gold medals but there were a few female athletes who had us glued to our screens and even touched our hearts.
Noelle Pikus-Pace, Skeleton – It has been quite a tough journey for Pikus-Pace and her career. The 32-year-old Utah native began her career in 2001 but accidents and taking time off to raise a family has forced her to miss several seasons, one of which cost her chances at the 2006 Turin Olympics. After finishing fourth at the 2010 Vancouver Olympics, Pikus-Pace announced her retirement and the next would be filled with life-changing events. She gave birth to a son in 2011 but after suffering a miscarriage in 2012, Pikus-Pace’s husband encouraged her to give one more shot at the Olympics, so the Pace family of four packed their bags and joined Noelle in touring Europe as she raced in several world cups, before going for her last race in Sochi. She finished in second place, graciously, with her family to celebrate a 15-year journey.
Gracie Gold, Figure skating – Dubbed as the “Golden Girl of figure skating,” 18-year-old Gracie Gold of Chicago earned her spot on the Olympic team when she won first place in the U.S. Figure Skating Championship (yes, the one with all the controversy). Gold moved to California to be under the tutelage of legendary skating coach Frank Carroll (who coached Michelle Kwan and Evan Lysacek) just last fall and so far, the improvements have been obvious. Even though the American women did not medal at the individual figure skating events, Gold scored the highest, finishing in fourth place. We’re counting on her to put her last name for the real thing in 2018!
Lauryn Williams, Bobsled – If you love track and field, you know you’re already rooting for Lauryn Williams—can you believe she got into bobsledding only six months ago?! With the encouragement of fellow track and field teammate Lolo Jones to join bobsledding, Williams, along with Elana Meyers, the veteran who won silver in Vancouver, were heavily favored to win gold in the two-woman event. All hopes were on the 30-year-old sprinter-turned-bobsledder, who won silver and gold at the 100-meter dashes in Athens and London Olympics, respectively, to make history as the first woman to win gold in both the summer and winter Olympics. Williams and Meyers pushed their way to the fastest times in the first two runs and were only one-tenth of a second from making history, finishing second and making Williams the fifth Olympian ever to medal in both summer and winter Olympics. This may be her last Olympic games but this definitely paves the way for the American women to win gold at the next winter Olympics.
Erin Hamlin, Luge – Fellow New Yorker Erin Hamlin has always been the favored American to medal in luge. The Oneida native made history when she won gold at the 2009 FIL World Luge Championship, becoming the first American to do so. Sweeping the gold medal for Hamlin was highly anticipated at the 2010 Vancouver Olympics, but she finished in 16th place, the highest for the American women. In a sport which mostly Germans dominate, Hamlin captured the bronze medal and made history as the first American woman to medal in Olympic luge, ending the 50-year drought for the Americans. At 27 years of age, Hamlin is eyeing for another run at the 2018 Olympic games in Pyeongchang, South Korea, hopefully turning that bronze into gold.
Polina Edmunds, Figure skating – There are moments where you’re shocked by a score and then there are those moments where you’re shocked by just how young or old an athlete really is. This was a case of the latter. Though 15-year-old Polina Edmunds was not the youngest figure skater at the competition (that went to Russia’s Yulia Lipnitskaya [who is only 18 days younger]), she made her senior international debut at the games and finished in ninth place—not bad. Going to Sochi also meant going back to her roots as her mother, Nina, is originally from Russia and was also a figure skater. The Russian media already loves the Bay Area native’s diligence of Russian culture.