Who Needs a Medal? These 5 Olympians Are Shiny Enough on Their Own
Not all the fanfare at the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang surrounds the medals. Plenty of athletes manage to steal the limelight whether they make the podium or not.
Here's some Olympians who are shining despite not yet having a medal.
No. 5 Matt Hamilton (and his sister Becca), U.S. Curling
Those shoes, that mustache, the lime green hat for good luck. Hamilton looks a little more like someone you might enjoy a beer with at the bar than an Olympic athlete.
He and his sister, Becca, became the first U.S. mixed curling team to compete in the Olympics. (The sport made its Olympic debut in Pyeongchang.) Although the brother-sister duo did not medal in that event, they are each competing on the men’s and women’s teams.
You also can catch up with the family duo on Twitter using #HamFam.
No. 4 German Madrazo, Mexico Cross-Country Skiing
Madrazo finished dead last — almost 26 minutes behind first place — in the men’s 15 kilometer cross-country skiing event, but you wouldn’t know it if you watched the end of his race.
Mexican cross-country skier German Madrazo crossed the finish line last, but he was all smiles as he did it proudly carrying his nation's flag. ❤️ pic.twitter.com/8qILNmFjyE
— NBC Olympics (@NBCOlympics) February 16, 2018
Madrazo started cross-country skiing a year ago because he heard it was the toughest sport. It may be tough, but he handled the race like a true champion.
No. 3 Nigerian Bobsledders
Akuoma Omeoga, Ngozi Owumere and Seun Adigun, are competing as Nigeria’s first-ever bobsled team.
The women, who are all American, are unapologetically Nigerian on social media, at public appearances and on the competition circuit, where they blast Nigerian music before races.
The team has also been eager to connect with fellow African athletes from such countries as Madagascar and Eritrea — also making its debut this year— and is close to Ghanaian skeleton athlete Akwasi Frimpong.
It is an important statement for the continent to be represented in the Winter Olympics, Adigun said.
"Just because you don't know what it means to see snow or to understand temperatures that are equivalent to ice, that doesn't mean you have to shy away from it," she said. "That's what Africa is representing — that we can take those risks and still be able to compete with the best in the world."
The women’s chance at a medal is highly unlikely. They came in 19 out of 19 teams in Saturday’s trial runs. The official event gets underway Tuesday.
No. 2 Adam Rippon, U.S. Men’s Figure Skating
Rippon — along with Gus Kenworthy — is one of two first openly-gay men from the U.S. to compete in the Olympics.
Rippon always is emotional. And classy. And fun. And his costumes are spectacular.
The 28-year-old came in 10th but the games overall were successful for him.
He’s unsure what’s next.
“They usually say that like, after the Olympic Games, somebody's life changes forever," Rippon said. "A lot of times it's the gold medalist, but I have a feeling that my life has changed forever."
One thing is for sure: He will make quite an impression in skating shows if he is done competing.
No. 1 Pita Taufatofua
Shirtless, chiseled, oiled-up Taufatofua didn’t have to do anything beyond the opening ceremony of the 2018 Winter Games to make a statement. It’s the second time the 34-year-old bore the flag at the Olympics for Tonga.
The first was at the 2016 Games in Rio when Taufatofua competed in taekwondo.
This time he, competed in cross-country skiing, coming in 114th of 119 competitors in the 15-kilometer individual race. He did reach his goal though: He didn't hit a tree.
Bonus: Korean cheerleaders
The all-female 229-member cheering squad from North Korea have been an especially big hit and an unmistakable part of every event they have attended — though their cheers usually have little connection to the action on the ice or snow.
The squads are usually made up of young women, often students or government workers from Pyongyang, selected for their looks, musical skills and family standing.
At their first appearance at a competition, an ice hockey game featuring the joint North-South women's team, they started off with a popular North Korean song called "Happy to Meet You."
The cheerleaders are seen as a way to keep minds off the North Korean regime.
"Right now, it seems we are distracted," said Shin In-kyun, president of the Korea Defense Network, a nonpartisan group of defense experts. "North Korea's operation is working."
We have to agree with him.
The Associated Press contributed material to this story. Photos by The Associated Press