Team USA can thank Utah for most of its Olympic medals in Beijing

19 Olympians with Utah ties won medals at the Winter Games.

Lindsey Jacobellis took a long, satisfying sip of Olympic glory at the Beijing Games. The drought had felt long and loaded with stress and by the time the Westminster College alum lined her snowboard up for the women’s snowboard cross final, both she and the nation were parched.

But when the tip of Jacobellis’ snowboard sliced across the finish line first, the dams opened. Jacobellis got redemption — a common thread throughout these Winter Games, especially for Utah athletes — with her first gold medal in the sport and the United States’s first gold of the 2022 Games. She had to wait 16 years for that trophy, ever since her early celebration in 2006 resulted in silver. The U.S., meanwhile, spent six days in Beijing before it got a gold.

“It kind of just seemed like an unbelievable moment,” she said. “It didn’t seem real at the time.”

That same sense of surrealism washed over nearly a quarter of the approximately 80 skiers, snowboarders, skaters and sliders with close ties to Utah who competed in China over the past three weeks. In total, 19 athletes who either grew up, live or went to school in Utah will bring home medals. That’s 68% of the total medals collected by the U.S. in China.

Didn’t catch all the action? Here are some of the medalists and highlights you may have missed:

Gold standard

(Trent Nelson | The Salt Lake Tribune) Erin Jackson (USA) wins the gold medal in the speedskating women's 500m at the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing on Sunday, Feb. 13, 2022.

Erin Jackson, speed skating, 500 meters: It may not be possible to find a story that so perfectly embodies the professed spirit of the Olympic Movement. Jackson, the top of her class in the 500 meters, nearly misses out on the Games altogether after slipping in the Olympic Trials. Her teammate Brittany Bowe bows out of the event to open a path for Jackson, who hails from Bowe’s hometown of Ocala, Florida, and who trains with her in Kearns. Jackson refuses to squander that opportunity and wins the gold in the 500, becoming the first Black woman to medal in speed skating in the process. The Ice Ribbon overflows with tears and embraces.

Nathan Chen, figure skating, men’s singles: Somehow, the Salt Lake City skater managed to block out the specter of his short program stumbles in 2018 and drama over whether the U.S. team would receive silver or gold after a skater on the winning Russian team, Kamila Valieva, tested positive for a banned substance. He warmed up with a smooth short program skate in the team event. Then he let loose with a record-breaking one in the individual competition. By the time his free skate to Elton John’s “Rocket Man” ended, he had proven he’s in another stratosphere.

Lindsey Jacobellis, snowboard cross, women’s singles and mixed doubles: Like Chen, “redemption” isn’t the word Jacobellis would choose to describe her rise to the top. The experience at the 2006 Games fueled her, she said. As a result, she has won five world titles, two World Cup crystal globes, 10 X-Games titles, a silver medal and two gold medals.

She swiped a second gold when, after taking a slight advantage at the from partner Nick Baumgartner, she again broke the proverbial tape, this time in the new mixed team event. In the process, Jacobellis, 36, became the oldest American woman to win gold — a record previously held by Kikkan Randall of Salt Lake City. Randall won the team sprint gold in cross-country at the 2018 Pyeongchang Games at age 35.

Ashley Caldwell, Chris Lillis, Justin Schoenefeld, freestye skiing, mixed team aerials: It takes some real brazenness to think it’s possible to go into China’s house and beat them at their best event. But that’s exactly what these three did in the first aerials event on the docket at the Beijing Games.

(Trent Nelson | The Salt Lake Tribune) Alexander Hall (6) and Nicholas Goepper (9) celebrate their respective gold and silver medals in men's freeski slopestyle finals at the 2022 Winter Olympics in Zhangjiakou, China, on Wednesday, Feb. 16, 2022. At right is bronze medalist Jesper Tjader of Sweden.

Alex Hall, slopestyle skiing: Hall’s choice to go big didn’t pay off in the big air contest at Shougun. So he chose style over size in slopestyle and snatched the gold. The Park City skipper’s first run played out just like he’d envisioned it, including a physics-defying 900 pretzel on the last jump.

“I’m just stoked I did it, my best slopestyle run ever,” Hall said, “and for the world to see that.”

Silver linings

Jessie Diggins, cross country, sprint freestyle and 30k: A little history came with the two pieces of hardware Diggins collected in China. She became the first U.S. woman to medal in an individual cross country race when she took bronze in the sprint. Then she followed that up with silver in the 30k, ending an Olympics in which she raced approximately 90 miles. The former Westminster student’s first cross country medal, won in the team sprint in 2018 with SLC’s Kikkan Randall, was the first team medal won by the USA. Rosie Brennan of Park City also raced all six events, finishing among the top six in four of them.

(Trent Nelson | The Salt Lake Tribune) USA's Jessie Diggins (1) races in the women's cross-country skiing team sprint at the 2022 Winter Olympics in Zhangjiakou, China, on Wednesday, Feb. 16, 2022.

Colby Stevenson, big air: Stevenson threw a trick he’d never landed — and only tried once, in a previous heat where he crashed — and his audacity paid off. Six years after a life-threatening car crash, he’s a silver medalist.

Nick Goepper, freestyle skiing, slopestyle: The Park City resident has been on the podium all three years that slopestyle has been an Olympic sport. As he told a Team USA press officer, according to her tweet, that when she asked him if he collects Olympic pins, he said, “Nah, … I collect medals.”

Jaelin Kauf, freestyle skiing, moguls: The Salt Lake City resident’s Olympics built into a crescendo, starting with her making the Super Final four years after falling one spot short and then with her busting out a medal-worthy run.

“Every moment in that run, I was just fighting for it,” she said. “I just wanted it so bad.”

Ryan Cochran-Siegle, alpine skiing, super G: The former Westminster student took a nontraditional route to the national team in part because he was being raised by his single mother, Barbara Ann Cochran. In his second Olympics, he came within four-hundredths of a second of matching the Olympic gold medal in alpine skiing that she won 50 years ago.

Basking in bronze

Brittany Bowe, speed skating, 1,000: Bowe had made no bones about the fact that she wanted gold in this Olympics. Instead, by giving up her 500 spot to Jackson (she eventually got it back thanks to an international reallocation), she got a ton of goodwill, a great story and, not to be overshadowed, a bronze.

“When I looked up and saw the No. 3 next to my name, after taking a deep breath, I was filled with joy and honor to bring home a medal to the United States of America,” Bowe said.

Megan Nick, freestyle skiing, aerials: The Park City flier knew she couldn’t do a triple flip like the top four athletes in the super final, so she would have to do the best double she could. It was plenty to land her on the podium.

Alex Ferreira, freestyle skiing, halfpipe: The former Westminster College student managed to do some high flying despite the erratic wind gusting through Genting Snow Park on Saturday. David Wise, who won gold in 2014 and ‘18, took silver for Team USA.

Casey Dawson, Joey Mantia, Emery Lehman, Ian Quinn, speed skating, team pursuit: Just getting to the Olympics was a feat of endurance and persistence for Dawson, who cleared quarantine in time to catch a red-eye to Beijing, only to have the bag with his skates not make it. He’d gotten them by the time team pursuit happened, but the team of Dawson, Lehman and Quinn still couldn’t match the Olympic record time of Russia laid down in the semis. With Mantia leading the charge in the B final, they bounced back to take bronze.

Olympic moments

No medals were involved, but that didn’t make these moments any less significant for Utah athletes.

• First of his kind: Fayik Abdi, a University of Utah graduate in criminal justice, became the first athlete from the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia to ever compete in the Winter Games.

• Double dip: Nathan Ikon Crumpton joined an already rare club by qualifying to compete in both the Summer and Winter Olympics. But he may be one of just two people to do it within six months. Paralympic skier and runner Danielle Aravich also qualified for both Tokyo and Beijing. Crumpton said he plans to retire from skeleton, making this the last time he attempts the double.

• Hold my flag: Utahns Bowe (USA), Ikon Crumpton (American Samoa), Abdi (KSA), Maria Victoria Rodriguez Lopez (Argentina) and Asa Miller (Philippines) all served as flag bearers for their respective country in the opening ceremony.

(David J. Phillip | AP) Brittany Bowe and John Shuster, of the United States, lead their team in during the opening ceremony of the 2022 Winter Olympics, Friday, Feb. 4, 2022, in Beijing.

(Trent Nelson | The Salt Lake Tribune) Fayik Abdi leads the delegation from Saudi Arabia during the parade of athletes at the opening ceremony of the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing on Friday, Feb. 4, 2022.

• Class act: When it happened once, that’s speedskating. When it happens twice, it’s heartbreaking. But Kristen Santos never played the blame game despite seeing her medal chances dashed, twice, when another skater crashed into her and took her out of a race just as she was making her move into medal position.”