Every Olympian comes to the Games with one goal in mind: win a gold medal.
But beyond winning and losing, the Olympics have always had a greater meaning. Sportsmanship is at the heart of the Olympics, and that was once again true at the 2022 Beijing Games.
Here are the most heartwarming moments from the Winter Olympics:
Russian, Ukrainian athletes embrace
Amid rising tensions between their nations, Russia’s Ilia Burov and Ukraine’s Oleksandr Abramenko shared a touching moment after the men’s freestyle skiing aerials final.
Abramenko won silver in the event for Ukraine, while Burov took the bronze for the Russian Olympic Committee. While there is still uncertainty surrounding the controversy between the two countries, this was a friendly moment between two competitors.
Good karma for Brittany Bowe, Erin Jackson
Team USA’s top-ranked speed skater Erin Jackson nearly didn’t qualify for the 2022 Olympics after slipping during trials. But Brittany Bowe wouldn’t allow her to miss it, as she gave Jackson her initial spot on the roster. Bowe was added to the field after some nations returned Olympic quota spots – so both skaters were able to compete in the end.
To make matters even better, Jackson won the 500m gold. She was the first Black woman to medal in speed skating, and the first American to win gold in the 500m since 1994.
A few days later, Bowe skated to a bronze in the women’s 1000m.
Shaun White makes final snowboarding run
Snowboarding legend Shaun White made the final run of his storied career in Beijing, placing fourth in the men’s halfpipe. Even though he didn’t medal, the outpouring of support for White was incredible – it even brought him to tears after his final run.
White finished his career with three gold medals in 2006, 2010 and 2018.
David Wise helps Aaron Blunck after fall
On the final run of the men’s freestyle skiing halfpipe event, Team USA’s Aaron Blunk took a nasty fall. He lost any chance at a medal, and he appeared to be badly injured as he laid halfway up the halfpipe. His teammate David Wise, who was waiting at the bottom of the halfpipe, saw the fall and ran all the way up to tend to Blunck.
Blunck was able to ski down after spending an extended period of time laying on his back. Wise won silver in the event, but his show of sportsmanship is what stood out.
Sofia Goggia leaves encouragement for Mikaela Shiffrin
The 2022 Olympics didn’t go as planned for USA star skier Mikaela Shiffrin. She didn’t medal, and she skied out of multiple events. But her lasting memory might be the words of encouragement she received from Italian skier Sofia Goggia.
The two share the same ski manufacturer (Atomic), so Goggia loaned her skis out to Shiffrin for an event that Goggia wasn’t competing in. The Italian also left a kind note on the skis (pictured above), that said “You can fly on these skis.” It was a small, simple gesture that displayed what the Olympics are supposed to be about.
Snowboarders celebrate medals together
Three athletes from three different countries took the podium for the women’s snowboard slopestyle, but that didn’t stop them from rooting for each other. New Zealand’s Zoi Sadowski-Synnott claimed gold, and American silver medalist Julia Marino and Australian bronze medalist Tess Coady watched with joy during her final run. Afterward, they piled on top of her to celebrate.
Cross-country winner stays to congratulate final finisher
Finland’s Iivo Niskanen won the gold medal in the men’s cross-country 15km classic, but he didn’t pack up and go home. Instead, he stuck around for nearly 18 minutes to congratulate the final finisher of the race – Colombia’s Carlos Quintana.
Niskanen gave Quintana a fist-bump as he crossed the finish line, then embraced him for a hug. The skiers are from completely different backgrounds – one from northern Europe and one from South America – but they were able to come together at the Olympics.