Unless midterms completely messed up your media intake or you avoided watching any events on purpose, you’ve probably heard many narratives coming from the Beijing 2022 Olympics that just ended. Though these Olympic Winter Games were incredibly tumultuous given China’s recent human rights record and the continued Russian doping controversies, there were still incredible moments of international camaraderie and achievement that really made the Olympics for me.
You’ve probably heard about golden boy Nathan Chen being crowned the best male figure skater in the world and Erin Jackson becoming the first Black woman to win an individual gold medal at a Winter Olympics. You probably also saw scenes of Chloe Kim and Shaun White flying above the halfpipe and Eileen Gu catching some big air on her skis. You might have even seen Mikaela Shiffrin somehow ski out of the two events she was favored to win. However, there are plenty of other stories from the Games that you might have missed if you weren’t staying up until 3 in the morning multiple times over the last two weeks in order to catch as many events as possible like me.
So here are my top stories from Beijing 2022.
The Liu brothers’ impact on short track
Both wearing the green, white and red of Hungary’s flag and pushing strong at the end of their short track speed skating races, Shaolin Sándor Liu and Shaoang Liu look almost identical on the ice. The brothers grew up in Budapest but their father is originally from Tianjin, China, so they have spent time training in both China and Hungary despite representing the latter on the world stage. They both speak Hungarian and Mandarin fluently and they’re both Olympic gold medalists. The only way to tell them apart? The numbers on their helmets. Each short-track skater wears a number denoting their world ranking. In Beijing, Shaoang wore number 1, and his older brother Shaolin wore number 2.
The Liu brother’s Olympic story was particularly special this year. Shaolin told the media before the Olympics began that his mother had given him a unique flag to wave after stitching half of the Chinese flag and half of the Hungarian flag together. During his races at the Olympics, broadcast announcers frequently quoted Shaolin: “If I get any medal, 50% is for Hungary and 50% is for China.”
In the midst of controversies surrounding other athletes with mixed heritage, the Liu brothers’ acknowledgment and acceptance from both of their parents’ home countries is special. The brothers have just as many fans in China as they do in Hungary, and during races, the crowd in Beijing cheered for them.
In the end, Shaolin and Shaoang each walked away with a bronze medal from the mixed relay, and younger brother Shaoang took an extra individual bronze as well as a gold medal in the men’s 500m race. Despite their mixed heritage, all of the Liu brothers’ accomplishments were added to Hungary’s medal tally.
Germany conquers the snow dragon
Most people in the United States know very little about the “sliding” sports – bobsled, luge, and skeleton. Though Americans like Elana Meyers Taylor and Kaillie Humphries did well in the bobsled events, luge and skeleton are far less popular among the American public. But in Germany, these sports are all the rage. The German luge team is so competitive that one German athlete even changed nationalities in order to make it to the Olympics.
“The Flying Snow Dragon” was the nickname given by locals to the luge, skeleton and bobsled course built in Yanqing for the Beijing Olympics. It is the first track in the world with a full 360-degree spiral turn. And the German team looked the best across every discipline on the track by far.
Germany alone took more than half of all of the medals up for grabs at the Yanqing National Sliding Centre. They took gold in every luge event. They won seven of the 12 bobsled medals, sweeping the two-man podium. They also took three medals in skeleton.
Among the incredibly experienced athletes on the German team, one whose performance should be singled out is the team’s best female luger, Natalie Geisenberger.
This is the third Olympic Games where Geisenberger has taken gold in every event she has entered. She now has six Olympic gold medals – two each from Sochi, Pyeongchang and Beijing – plus a bronze from Vancouver. She is considered by many to be the best female luger of all time.
Geisenberger also celebrated another feat in the four years between Pyeongchang and Beijing: becoming a mother. She joined an exceptional club of women who have competed in the Olympics after becoming mothers, a list which includes the likes of Allyson Felix and Kerri Walsh Jennings. Though Geisenberger initially had doubts about preparing for Beijing after giving birth to her son – mostly because of her concerns with competing in China – she decided to return to competition in 2020 after taking a season off.
The German luge success story not only shows how well the team prepared for these Olympics, but also the resilience of some of the best athletes to ever race down the ice track.
Bing Dwen Dwen falls down. Again. And again.
Every Olympic Games has mascots, a fact a lot of people weren’t aware of until this year when Beijing’s mascot Bing Dwen Dwen, a chubby panda in an ice suit, became a hit.
The Chinese media has been very particular about how Bing Dwen Dwen is represented, making sure that they don’t have an assigned gender or a voice.
What has become Bing Dwen Dwen’s signature move, it seems, is attempting athleticism only to fall. Figure skating Twitter all over the world has gone wild over what they have dubbed Bing Dwen Dwen’s “quadruple axel (4A)” attempts.
The joke of Bing Dwen Dwen continuously falling down quickly became an easy way for the non-verbal mascot to attract attention in a crowd. Sui Wenjing, the gold medalist in the pairs figure skating event, even pushed the panda down during the figure skating gala and proceeded to roll them along the ice.
I love Bing Dwen Dwen. I’ve been a huge fan of the various Olympic mascots going back to Vancouver 2010, and I have collected plushies of the Olympic Games mascots since then. But I have to say that Bing Dwen Dwen and the way the panda has been portrayed at the Games really gives them more of a personality than any mascot I’ve seen before. Let’s not forget their counterpart, Shuey Rhon Rhon, who will be making an appearance soon as the Beijing 2022 Paralympics get under way.
Shuey Rhon Rhon is a great reminder that the hype of Beijing 2022 is not over! The Beijing 2022 Paralympic Winter Games start on March 4th and go until March 13th. If you’re in need of some more high-speed winter sports action, make sure to keep up with the Paralympics as well!