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A Roundup Of The Winter Olympics So Far


Let's talk Olympics now. The U.S. won its first gold medal at the Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea, where athletes are into their third day of competition. The Americans also made history, winning their first ever medal in a longtime Olympic favorite, the luge. And there was the politics, the historic visit from Kim Yo Jong, the younger sister of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. To catch up on everything going on in Pyeongchang, NPR's Bill Chappell is with us. Hi, Bill, welcome. Thanks so much for joining us.


MARTIN: Early today, an American made history in the luge. Was this a surprise?

CHAPPELL: Well, it was. As long as there's been a luge in the Olympics, an American man had never won a medal in the singles discipline. Germany has just dominated. But we saw Chris Mazdzer, who lives in New York - he finally broke through on Sunday. He won the silver medal. And he won because he was just fast. He went down the course at more than 82 miles an hour. It was his third run, and he set a track record on that. It put him from fourth place into second. And then he just had to wait to see if he would keep that or get bumped to third. But he didn't, and he kept the silver. If you remember Erin Hamlin, the flag bearer from Friday night's opening ceremony, she was the first American to win a singles luge medal at all back in 2014. That was bronze, and this is silver. So it looks kind of like the U.S. luge team is really coming on.

MARTIN: And the U.S. did win its first gold medal of the 2018 Olympics. Who did that?

CHAPPELL: That was Red Gerard. He's a snowboarder from Colorado. He's just 17 years old. He pulled off this amazing comeback to beat two Canadians in the slopestyle competition. That's where they have kind of obstacles at the top of the course and then kind of a big ramp at the bottom to pull tricks on. And only the best score gets counted, and that's good because Gerard fell down on both of his first runs, leaving him last. But then on his third try, he pulled it off clean. He got the points he needed and he won. It was really...

MARTIN: Very excited.

CHAPPELL: Yeah. I mean, he was an - and he's an excited young man. I mean, he's 17. And this is the second Olympics to ever have the slopestyle competition. So far, the U.S. has won gold both times.

MARTIN: I understand that there are also high hopes for the U.S. women's ice hockey team, and they have now played their first game. How did they do?

CHAPPELL: Well, they did pretty well. They played Finland, and they came out just roaring around the ice. They were making good passes, but it seemed like they were maybe a little tense. They missed some chances to score, and Finland went up 1 to nothing. I was sitting near the parents, and they kind of groaned for that. But then they had reason to start celebrating because then, around midway through the game, the U.S. got a goal to tie it up. And then almost immediately, they got another one to go ahead. And they wound up winning 3 to 1.

The U.S. hasn't won a gold medal in the Olympics in this since 1998 when they won the first women's hockey tournament. So they're hoping to turn that around. And if you haven't been watching them, you could start soon because their next game is against the Russian team. And then they play Canada, who's their big rival. And that's just to advance to the next part of the tournament.

MARTIN: Oh, boy. OK, we'll keep an eye on that. But there's also another angle to this Olympics, and that of course is the politics. We've been reporting on this this weekend. So what is the story with Kim Jong Un's sister visiting?

CHAPPELL: Right, it's been a common theme during this. I mean, it's been on television all the time here. North Korea's Kim Yo Jong was here for three days. It's the first time a member of her family that's ruled North Korea for decades has visited the South like this, and it was a whirlwind. She flew all over the place. Well, she flew into Seoul and then visited Pyeongchang. And she did a series of public events. And that was - she also invited the president to visit North Korea. She went to a hockey game on Saturday where I was. It was a busy weekend. I mean, there have been protests also about North Korea being involved in these Olympics. But it's been really fascinating to see North and South try to find a way to come together.

MARTIN: OK. Bill, we have to let you go. But before we do let you go, how's the weather?

CHAPPELL: Well it's been, you know - at the opening ceremony, things kind of warmed up a little bit, but then it got cold again. It's been something that - it kind of changes some of the equipment expectations when it's this cold. Last night, it started snowing, so it really started to look a lot like the Winter Olympics.

MARTIN: OK. That's NPR's Bill Chappell in Pyeongchang, South Korea. Bill, thank you.

CHAPPELL: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Michel Martin is the weekend host of All Things Considered, where she draws on her deep reporting and interviewing experience to dig in to the week's news. Outside the studio, she has also hosted "Michel Martin: Going There," an ambitious live event series in collaboration with Member Stations.
Bill Chappell is a writer and editor on the News Desk in the heart of NPR's newsroom in Washington, D.C.