Moguls

McKayla Maroney, Tonga flagbearer among viral Olympic stars of 2010s decade

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NBCSports.com looks back at the 2010s this week. Here are 10 viral Olympic moments that defined the decade …

Vancouver 2010: Alexandre Bilodeau wins Canada’s first home gold, hugs brother
Canada went gold-less at both the 1976 Montreal Games and the 1988 Calgary Winter Games. A lot of thought was put into which athlete would earn its first title in Vancouver. It ended up being Bilodeau, who upset the defending champion and embraced his older brother, Frederic, who has cerebral palsy.

Vancouver 2010: Jon Montgomery’s celebratory drink after skeleton title
The Canadian came from behind to stun Latvian Martins Dukurs for gold. The scruffy car salesman/auctioneer then drank from a beer pitcher on a victory march through the Whistler ski village in one of the iconic moments of the Games.

London 2012: Queen/James Bond Opening Ceremony
Who could forget the Queen’s royal entrance into the London Olympic Stadium, “parachuting” in from above with the help of 007. Danny Boyle, the Oscar winner who directed the Opening Ceremony, originally thought an actress — perhaps Helen Mirren — would play the Queen in the skit, if approved by the royal family. “They came back and said, ‘We’re delighted for you to do it, and Her Majesty would like to be in it herself,’” Boyle said in 2013.

London 2012: McKayla Maroney not impressed
Stunned and upset that she was beaten for the Olympic vault title, Maroney became one of social media’s first major memes for her smirk on the podium. “I remember doing the face for literally two seconds,” Maroney said later. “Like, if you watch the video, it’s two seconds. And I remember thinking, did I just make a face? Because it’s natural. I do it all the time. I have pictures of me when I’m little doing it. I have it on my Mac computer when I’m like 13.”

Sochi 2014: Four-ring Opening Ceremony
By the third Olympics of the decade, everybody knew about hashtags. Among the more memorable #SochiProblems was an Opening Ceremony glitch where five snowflakes were supposed to open into five interlocking Olympic Rings. Only four did, leaving one snowflake that ended up looking like an asterisk. Organizers later made light of the mishap in the Closing Ceremony.

Sochi 2014: Johnny Quinn busts through bathroom
The U.S. bobsledder tweeted at 4:16 a.m. ET, “I was taking a shower and the door got locked/jammed…. …With no phone to call for help, I used my bobsled push training to break out. #SochiJailBreak.” And so Johnny Quinn became a social media sensation. He capitalized, training with a SWAT team (after the Games) and becoming a public speaker. Quinn, a former NFL preseason wide receiver, told his story in front of Fidelity Investments, school assemblies and LiftMaster, a suburban Chicago company whose products include garage-door accessories.

Rio 2016: Michael Phelps’ face
The swimming ready room in Rio became such a hit that a constant live stream was added to NBCOlympics.com’s wall-to-wall coverage. Phelps authored the best moment, stewing with a disgusted look as rival Chad le Clos shadow boxed in front of him. “I always know there’s two cameras in the upper right-hand corner right before I walk out, and I’m like sitting there, like spitting water,” Phelps said later. “As I’m making a face, I was like, yep, that’s on camera. … Someone will pick that one up tomorrow.”

Rio 2016: Usain Bolt’s mid-race smiles for cameras
In his last Olympics, the world’s fastest man created the most buzz while caught in still images in semifinals. Photos of Bolt — smiling while looking back at his 100m semifinal competitors mid-race — and exchanging glances with Andre De Grasse in the 200m semis — lit up social media. Tack them on to Bolt’s other viral moments, from crossing the finish line at the 2013 World Championships as lightning struck to getting run over by a Segway at the 2015 Worlds.

PyeongChang 2018: Tonga flag bearer Pita Taufatofua
Taufatofua actually debuted his shirtless, oiled-up Opening Ceremony appearance in Rio as a taekwondo athlete. But his journey to becoming a dual Summer/Winter Olympian is the stuff of legend. He traversed the globe picking up Olympic cross-country skiing qualifying points in Finland, Australia, Colombia and finally Iceland, clinching a spot thanks to the sport’s very lenient structure for athletes from nations without a Winter Olympic tradition. In PyeongChang, he braved near-freezing temperatures to again go shirtless at the Opening Ceremony. He then finished outside the top 100 in his ski race.

PyeongChang 2018: Here Comes Diggins!
The U.S.’ first Olympic cross-country skiing title changed the lives of not only Jessie Diggins and Kikkan Randall, but also NBC Olympics analyst Chad Salmela. The exuberant call from Salmela, who knew fellow Minnesota native Diggins since she was in high school, became the name of a new flavor at Selma’s Ice Cream Parlour in Diggins’ hometown of Afton.

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BEST OF 2010s: Summer Olympians | Winter Olympians | Teams
MOMENTS: Summer Olympics | Winter Olympics | Paralympics | Viral

One year after winning Olympic gold, Mikael Kingsbury is still striving for more

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While watching the 2002 Salt Lake Olympics, then-nine-year-old Mikael Kingsbury printed out the Olympic symbol on a piece of paper and wrote below it that he would win a gold medal. He taped it to the ceiling above his bed at his home in Quebec so that he could see it every night before he fell asleep.

Sixteen years later, Kingsbury stood on top of the podium at the 2018 PyeongChang Olympics – and over 6,000 miles away in Quebec, his brother scribbled across the sign so it read, ‘you did win.’ The edited version is still hanging above Kingsbury’s childhood bed today.

If anyone thought Kingsbury, 26, would take it easy now that he’s accomplished the goal he set at age nine, they were wrong. He opened his post-Olympic season with four-straight World Cup wins. If anything, he says his success in PyeongChang just inspired him more. “Winning gold just gave me more motivation,” he said in a phone interview at the end of January. “Once you reach the top, [you] want to stay there.”

In addition to his gold medal from PyeongChang, Kingsbury also owns silver from the 2014 Sochi Games. His dominance on the World Cup circuit is even more impressive. In 96 starts, he has stood on the podium 78 times, including 54 wins. His recent success is even more staggering: in his last 30 starts in singles moguls, he has won 23 times – and only finished off the podium twice. His strong results have helped him win seven-straight World Cup titles – and he’s well on his way to claiming an eighth this season. His consistency is even more improbable when you consider the unforgiving nature of moguls, an event that combines speed, form, and style – and is held on snowy slopes in ever-changing conditions.

Kingsbury’s record isn’t as flawless in world championship competition, though, something he says he’s hoping to improve upon this week in Park City, Utah. The singles competition will be held on Friday night, while the non-Olympic dual moguls event will take place on Saturday. At the 2017 World Championships, Kingsbury claimed bronze in singles, but placed 13th in duals.

“My last world championships didn’t go as well as I wanted it to,” Kingsbury said in January. “This year, [the world championships] are my main goal… I’m trying to be at my peak there.” Kingsbury has had plenty of previous success on ‘Champion,’ the slope at Deer Valley where this year’s World Championships are being held. (‘Champion’ is also the slope that was used at the 2002 Salt Lake Games, the competition that sparked Kingsbury’s gold-medal goal.) He has won the last four World Cup events at the venue,

The two-time Olympic medalist’s approach to competition is calculated carefully. In practice, he frequently skis up to a second-and-a-half faster than he generally does in competition. Because he typically qualifies in the top position heading into the final round, he’s able to watch his competitors go before him, and adjust his speed and tricks based on the score he thinks he needs.

Kingsbury also says his goals have changed since the PyeongChang Olympics, “Before it was only win, win, win. Now, it’s more about reaching my full potential.” He’s been working on new tricks to include in his repertoire and says he has a cork 1440 (four twists off-axis with skis crossed) ready to go if one of his competitor’s throws down the gauntlet.

He also trains double flips in the off-season, which are currently not approved for competition by the international ski federation (FIS). “I want to make sure I’m in the loop so if one day they say, ‘Ok, you can throw doubles,’ I’ll be ready.”

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Jaelin Kauf grabs first World Cup moguls win of season

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American Jaelin Kauf earned her fourth World Cup win in the last year, beating a field that included all three PyeongChang moguls medalists in Thaiwoo, China, on Saturday.

Kauf, competing at the site of her first World Cup moguls victory last Dec. 21, totaled 83.08 points and held off Australian Jakara Anthony by .66.

The 22-year-old Kauf has more World Cup wins between moguls and dual moguls in the last year than any other woman but was seventh at the Olympics, missing the six-skier final by .78. The Wyoming native struggled with turns while having the fastest time of the penultimate round.

Kauf’s parents were both pro tour moguls champions. They never competed in the Olympics, but both later took up ski cross. Her mom made X Games podiums in 1999, 2000 and 2002.

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