The 2018 Olympics' Most Uncomfortable Moments

The 2018 Winter Olympics in PyeongChang, South Korea had no shortage of thrills, triumph, and heartwarming redemption stories. Bright young stars such as snowboarders Chloe Kim and Red Gerard both clinched their first gold medals at just 17-years-old. Fan favorite Shaun White put in one of the all-time great comeback performances on his own board with a own nail-biting gold medal run, and figure skater Mirai Nagasu made history as the first American woman to land a triple axle in Olympic competition. But there's a flip side to that coin, and as with any live broadcast, there have been plenty of other, less epic performances at this year's games. These were the 2018 Olympic moments that had us cringing rather than cheering.

Vice President Pence doesn't understand irony

In his capacity as Vice President of the United States, Mike Pence led the U.S. delegation to the games, making him essentially the official state figurehead of Team USA. That should be an easy gig, right? He just had to show up, shake hands, and cheer for the athletes donning the red, white, and blue. But Pence has hit a few snags over in PyeongChang and inadvertently stole some of the spotlight — and not in a good way.

One of the most talked about Pence moments was when he "snubbed" North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un's sister, Kim Yo-jong. Photos of the two seated uncomfortably close to each other at the opening ceremony went viral, and Pence later claimed in a press conference (via Newsweek) that he'd intentionally "ignored" Kim Yo-jong, whom he described as "the leader of [North Korea's] propaganda effort." He also described his behavior towards the entire North Korean delegation as a silent protest over the country's "appalling record of abuse of human rights of their own people."

Newsweek also reported that Pence was "one of the few in the stadium" who remained seated when North and South Korean athletes marched under a unified banner during the opening ceremony. The irony of his refusal-to-stand protest was not lost on social media where users were quick to point out Pence's apparent opposition to Colin Kaepernick's similar "Take a Knee" protest. The ladies of The View weren't too thrilled with it either.  

Are there any winners in the battle of Pence v. Rippon?

Weeks before the Olympics began, figure skater Adam Rippon told USA Today Sports that he had no interest in meeting with Vice President Pence over what he perceived were the politician's anti-gay sentiments. What followed was a war of words between Rippon and Pence's press secretary, Alyssa Farah, who issued a statement that outright refuted Rippon's remarks.  

Rippon then headed to Twitter with so-called "receipts" that allegedly quoted the vice president's controversial positions on legislation geared at LGBTQ rights. Pence then reached out directly to Rippon on Twitter, writing, in part, "I want you to know we are FOR YOU. Don't let fake news distract you." Meanwhile, the veep's team was issuing somewhat conflicting statements to the press, according to People, about how or why Pence's office did or did not specifically request a meeting with Rippon.

Ultimately, the whole thing was becoming too much of a distraction, and Rippon eventually said that he would rather "focus on my training and the Olympics" and "revisit" the possibility of a meeting after the Games. While the Rippon-Pence rift stands as the kind of celebrity showdown tailor-made for Twitter and a giant bag of popcorn, it begs the question: Was this at all appropriate to happen during the Olympic Games?

A fringe-worthy entrance

There were many eye-popping moments from the 2018 Opening Ceremony, including the Tongan flag-bearer repeating his shirtless, lubed up look from Rio, and thesole competitor from Bermuda rocking a pair of his country's eponymous shorts in subzero temps. But one of the biggest head-scratchers of the grand ceremony was the apparel of Team USA.

Entering the PyeongChang Olympic stadium to Psy's "Gangnam Style" (which is actually uncomfortable moment no. 1,) Team USA team members donned some seriously cool Ralph Lauren-designed heated jackets, which they paired with ... fringe cowboy gloves?  At first glance, it almost looked like they were all wearing giant foam fingers, but of course, someone on Twitter came through and nailed the reference within seconds: "Those USA gloves are straight out of Dumb and Dumber."

Boom, there it is. Shut it down, folks.

The debate over hooks versus stitches is over

Aside from getting injured and/or losing, what's the worst thing that could happen to an Olympian? If you answered "accidental nudity," congratulations! You don't win anything, but neither did South Korean ice dancers Yura Min and Alexander Gamelin, whose Olympic debut hit a snafu when the single hook holding Min's top together snapped five seconds into their first routine.

Though the pair gamely, ahem, held it together, their routine suffered due to the sudden need to improvise away from Min's choreographed arm gestures that would have surely had her pulling a Janet Jackson

I was like, 'Oh no!'" Min told the Detroit Free Press, adding, "If that comes undone, the whole thing could just pop off. I was terrified the entire program." 

Fortunately, the pair made it through without Min exposing herself. Unfortunately, they finished in 10th place. As for the problematic hook? That baby's getting sewn together before it sees Olympic ice again. Good call.

Is this The Hunger Games or the Olympic Games?

The most viral memes to come out of PyeongChang have to be the ones comparing figure skating announcers Johnny Weir and Tara Lipinski to characters from The Hunger Games. In particular, it's Weir's ever-enlarging pompadour, bedazzled jackets, and Liberace style jewelry that many have compared to Stanley Tucci's colorful character, Caesar Flickerman.

Both Weir and Lipinski have also taken to social media to graciously accept the comparison, with Weir tweeting, "I get it. Mommy loves it." Lipinksi reposted a comparative meme to her Instagram account.

Weir also admitted to NBC Sports anchor Liam McHugh (via Yahoo Sports) that he's actually been trying to dress like Flickerman since his debut as an Olympic commentator. "Going into Sochi (in 2014), Caesar Flickerman was kind of my muse in preparing and getting ready," Weir said, adding, "Now people are finally getting it. Only took them four years." 

Okay, it was fun when it seemed like a whimsical coincidence, but the fact that Weir is intentionally dressing up like a YA movie character during the Olympics is a bit awkward right? Yeah, we thought so too.  

Like a glove

As The New York Times points out, Olympic athletes usually get to wear some cutting edge gear while competing, whether it's necessary equipment for the sport or just a branding opportunity for a sponsor to show of flashy new products. But in U.S. curler Tyler George's case, he's more concerned with athletic superstition than he is with style.

Enter his ragged, foul-looking, eight-year-old competition Skechers (above, third from left) that look like he spends his off time wearing them to play soccer with a paper shredder instead of a ball. Describing the crumbling kicks to The Times as "a dumpster fire," George is keenly aware of how grossed out his funky footwear makes the rest of his team, not to mention the international viewing audience. But he doesn't care. "It's like a baseball glove," he said. "The ball has to feel right when it hits the webbing. Curling shoes — same thing. You have to be able to point your knee out the right way, and put the right amount of your foot on the ice."

George also pointed out, "If you make enough shots, everyone quiets up pretty quick." Spoken like a true Olympic champ, even if his shoes look like The Mummy lost a fight with Edward Scissorhands.

Shaun White's not at the Olympics to talk about gossip

According to ABC News, legendary snowboarder Shaun White committed an uncomfortable gaffe when responding to a reporter's question about a 2016 sexual harassment lawsuit he settled in May 2017 for "an undisclosed amount." A visibly irritated White said, "I'm here to talk about the Olympics, not gossip and stuff," during a press conference following his historic third gold medal win for the men's halfpipe.

That "gossip and stuff" was a lawsuit filed against White by the former drummer in his band, Bad Things, Lena Zawaideh, who alleged, among other things that he sent her lewd images and videos and made inappropriate advances towards her. Y

White's gossip comment led to another uncomfortable TV moment when he was asked on Today about it, at which time he apologized for using the word "gossip" to "describe such a sensitive subject in the world today." He also said that he's "grown as a person over the years," and that "every experience in my life, I feel like it's taught me a lesson, and I definitely feel like I'm a much more changed person than I was when I was younger. And I'm proud of who I am today."

White earns an F for flag code

White found himself on the receiving end of public outcry even before his "gossip" comment. In fact, it was just moments after his triumphant gold medal that White seriously fumbled his handling of a celebratory American flag. According to CBS Sports, he "proceeded to step on it and drag it behind him when he left the finish corral." Whoops.

The twittersphere did not hold back, with users accusing him of disrespect, calling him a punk, and literally saying his actions made them cringe. During the same press conference in which he uncomfortably skirted questions about the sexual harassment lawsuit, White also had to field questions about his treatment of the flag.

"I remember being handed the flag, but I was trying to put my gloves on and hold the flag and get the board," White said (via AOL). "So honestly, if there was anything, I definitely didn't mean any disrespect." He also said that he proudly displays the American flag at his house and that he's "very proud to be a part of Team USA and being American and to be representing for everyone back home."

Call it a hunch, but this was probably not how White envisioned the reception of his historic win to play out.

The Quad King goes down

According to USA Today, U.S. Figure skater Nathan Chen was one of the most hyped-up athletes at this year's games. Coming into PyeongChang as an undisputed champion on the national circuit, Chen solidified his reputation as the one to beat with his 2017 U.S. Nationals routine, becoming the first figure skater to land five quads in a single routine.

With that stunning achievement as the backdrop to his Olympic debut, it was horrible to watch what USA Today called "the worst performance of his life" when the 18-year-old phenom "fell [on the triple axel], turned one of his vaunted quads into a double and failed to add a triple toe loop on the end of his first quad," during his short program in the team competition. 

For Chen, that performance was obviously crushing, but the champion took the flop in stride, saying that he was "upset that I sort of let the rest of the team down." He added, "I'm glad I got the opportunity to at least put my program down and learn from it, now all I can do is try to analyze what I did wrong and move on." 

Move on he did, landing a new record of six — yes, six — quads in the individual event finals.   

Katie Couric's Dutch canal controversy

NBC's Olympic coverage co-anchor Katie Couric found herself "on thin ice" as she put it after an odd remark during the Opening Ceremony when she said that skating on frozen canals is "an important mode of transportation" for the Dutch.

Twitter user Jos Duijvestein uploaded the video of her remarks, which as of this writing, has been retweeted more than 23,000 times. The Netherlands' U.S. Embassy even got involved, tweeting a lighthearted invite to Couric to visit the country so she can learn "all the innovative ways the Dutch get around," and to also "break the ice." (Get it?) 

Couric's apology, also via Twitter, was just as lighthearted, containing the aforementioned "thin ice" pun as well as the explanation, "I was trying to salute your historical passion for the sport but it didn't come out that way!"

Oh, Katie. Maybe she should have tried dressing up like Katniss Everdeen?

Chloe Kim's not so secret admirer

KNBR and Barstool Sports personality Patrick Connor found himself combing through the want ads after remarks he made about 17-year-old gold medalist snowboarder Chloe Kim

According to The Sacramento Bee, Connor was chatting with the hosts of the Sirius XM show Dialed-In with Dallas Braden on Feb. 13, 2018, when he described Kim as "fine as hell" and "a hot little piece of a**." He also said he was counting down the day's to Kim's 18th birthday, which is an apparent age of consent reference. Ugh.  

The next day, he was fired from KNBR and apologizing on Twitter, writing, "Yesterday in a weird attempt to make people laugh I failed. My comments about @chloekimsnow were more than inappropriate they were lame & gross. Im truly sorry Chloe. You've repped our country so brilliantly. I apologize to my colleagues & the listeners for being a total idiot."

Seriously, when is the IOC going to just ban hooks?

French ice dancing duo Gabriella Papadakis and Guillaume Cizeron had only just started their short program set to Ed Sheeran's "Shape of You" when the hook on Papadakis' costume came undone. It was the Yura Min incident all over again, only this time, the actual worst-case scenario happened when Papadakis' chest was accidentally exposed.

"It was kind of my worst nightmare happening at the Olympics," Papadakis later said during a press conference (via NBC). "I felt it right away and I prayed. That's about what I could do."

A higher power must have been listening, because the duo still managed to earn a score of 81.93, putting the pair in second place and still in medal contention going into the free skate. When the skaters returned to the ice for their long program, Papadakis and Cizeron rallied to clinch the silver medal with a performance that garnered "the highest ever free dance score." In the words of one commentator, their comeback skate  "redefined sublime."

As for Papadakis' costume on that second night? Not a hook in sight.

There's no 'je' in 'équipe'

French skier Mathieu Faivre left PyeongChang slightly ahead of schedule when he was "expelled" from the games after shading his teammates, according to Yahoo Sports. "He made remarks after the race that were not in the spirit of the team and will not be retained for the team event," said David Chastan, the director for French men's skiing. So, what Faivre actually say?

"If you only knew what I think about the group collective," Faivre replied to a reporter's question about his teammates landing in "four of the top seven spots" in the men's giant slalom. "I'm here to race for myself only. Don't expect miracles..." Faivre, who won team gold at the 2017 world championship, was reportedly miffed about his seventh place finish, calling it a "slap in the face." Sacre bléu!

He later took to Facebook to offer his "mea-culpa," writing, in part, "No one reacts in the same way to failure and I have to admit, coming from the south, I may tend to have hot blood. So words have crossed my mind. I did not want to disrespect anyone, I was extremely proud to represent my country and I thank all those who made this possible."

Ah yes, the hot-blooded nature of French southerners. We know it all too well.

A bumbled second chance at a first impression

North Korean speed skater Jong Kwang Bom definitely made a name for himself at the 2018 Olympics — just not in a good way. During the admittedly accident-prone 500 meter short track event, the 17-year-old went down hard just a few strides into the race, which is not entirely out of the ordinary.

What is strange, however, according to USA Today Sports, is that Jong appeared to attempt to grab the razor-sharp skate of his Japanese competitor, Ryosuke Sakazume, which could have caused serious injury to both athletes. Amazingly, officials granted a restart, but Jong didn't fare much better, failing to make it out of the first turn before falling again, crashing into Team USA's Thomas Hong, then a side barrier. The disappointment on Jong's face was heartbreaking, and was only compounded by the dreadful thought of what repercussions he could face by the oppressive regime for which he competes.   

His competitors were gracious: Sakazume chalked up the perceived skate grab as "a reflex," and Hong took part of the blame for Jong's second fall, saying he was "just too close." Jong did not speak to reporters afterwards, instead turning his head and walking away. While his attitude is understandable, it wasn't very sportsmanlike.

Oh well, better luck in Beijing, Jong!

If you ain't first, you're last

Apparently Canadian ice hockey player Jocelyne Larocque sides with Ricky Bobby's dad on this one, because following the Canucks hard-fought loss to Team USA, she refused to wear her silver medal. After allowing an Olympic official to put it around her neck at the medal ceremony, Larocque then immediately removed it and spent the remainder of the ceremony brooding over her team's second place finish.

When later asked shy she wouldn't wear the silver, Larocque didn't have much to say: "Just hard ... We were going for gold." Twitter, of course, went after her, with users labeling Larocque everything from "classless" to "shameful," but what they probably didn't know is that Larocque's second place diss didn't go without reprimand.

According to The Globe and Mail, shortly before her truncated remarks to the press, an official from the International Ice Hockey Federation supposedly took Larocque aside and informed her of the "legal reasons" she had to wear the medal as Larocque "nodded and stared at the floor." 

The next day, Larocque issued a long statement of apology, citing her disappointment and how her "emotions" got the better of her. She also said that she is "proud to be counted among the Canadian athletes who have won medals at these games" and that she "takes seriously being a role model to young girls and representing our country." 

Thrown under the bus

If you thought Jocelyne Larocque's unsportsmanlike loss was bad, wait until you get a load of how the South Korean women's speed skating team reacted when one of its own, Noh Seon-yeong, failed to keep the pace in the quarter-final team pursuit, eventually resulting in an eight place finish for the team in the final.  

"We were skating well, but the last skater couldn't keep up and we had a disappointing score," teammate Kim Bo-Reum said of Seon-yeong in a press conference after the race. "It wasn't that we didn't think this would happen with Seon-yeong," added Park Ji Woo, another teammate, who was referencing the fact that Seon-yeong was a last minute addition to the team. Seon-yeong, who'd previously expressed her hope to win gold in honor of her brother, Jin-kyu, who died of cancer in 2016, did not speak to the press, but was visibly distraught after the quarter-final race.

A petition to have Bo-Reum and Ji Woo removed from the team received more than 500,000 signatures, with petitioners citing their apparent poor sportsmanship and bullying, reported Reuters. Ultimately, both Bo-Reum and Ji Woo apologized, but the uncharacteristic display of team disunity left the Olympic community shocked and disappointed. Well, everyone except the French, who probably thought, "Nous comprenons complètement."

Luge wrecks are no joke

Since luge is one of the most dangerous sports at the Winter Olympics, it is not inconceivable to think there will be more than a few gnarly accidents during competition at its highest level. But it's still terrifying when a competitor crashes, perhaps no more so in 2018 than when Team USA's Emily Sweeney lost control and was tossed from her sled.

When it became apparent that Sweeney would not be able to regain control, the previously enthusiastic crowd — and even the announcers — fell silent, leaving only Sweeney's painful moaning to be heard as she slowed to a stop on the track. Fortunately, she was able to walk away from the wreck, even waving off the medics as they rushed to her aid.

Speaking with NBC moments later, Sweeney said she was on her way to get an X-ray on her back, but she wanted to have the last word on what happened. She then graciously thanked everyone for their support, and said, "It's a bummer for sure, and I know I'm better than that, but here we are — it happens," as she clearly choked back tears.

It certainly was a crushing disappointment, and we sincerely hope Sweeney didn't suffer any long-term bodily harm.

An Olympian in name only

In one of the most perplexing performances of the 2018 Olympics, if not of all time, freestyle skier Elizabeth Swaney, of Team Hungary, underwhelmed the world with her conservative and arguably inadequate-for-Olympic-competition halfpipe run. Through a somewhat complicated quota system, which you can read about here, the American-born Swaney ended up on the Hungarian squad thanks to her family's roots in the European country.

This perceived low bar upon which she gained entry to the Games was made evident as she criss-crossed the halfpipe, grabbing no air and performing the most basic tricks. In fact, her biggest move was a 180-degree spin. During her run, the announcers barely knew what to say, and when she finished (without falling, to her credit), the crowd's tepid applause basically said it all.

But Swaney wasn't done creating uncomfortable Olympic moments. Away from the mountain cluster, she was interviewed by Savannah Guthrie and Hoda Kotb on Today , where the co-anchors took great pains to ask her about her dismal display without actually saying, "You know you're not good enough to be here, right?"

Swaney, in her oddly confident way — It's worth noting here that in the past Swaney has also unsuccessfully run for governor of California and attempted to make Venezuela's Olympic team as a competitor in Skeleton —  pointed out that she did her best and hopes to work her way up to more complicated tricks.

Honestly? We're here for whatever Swaney has in store for us next. This woman is a mystery wrapped in an enigma and we couldn't love it more.

Team Japan really turfed it in curling...we think

You really didn't have to know a single thing about curling (which let's be honest, most of us don't) to know that from the second Japan's Yusuke Morozumi released the big stone-thingy (rock), it was going way too fast. The other guys on the team, didn't even try to slow it down with their Swiffers or whatever (brushes), and just helplessly looked on as it banged into the other two stone-thingies inside the bullseye-thing (house), bouncing all three of them outside the furthest ring.

According to SB Nation, this attempt to "keep the house guarded," resulted in Japan going "from a commanding scoring position, to none at all in an instant." Again, we have basically no clue what that means, but it sure was fun to cover our mouths and go "Ohhh!" when the stone-thingies banged into each other.

The bad boy is back

Apparently Bode Miller was missing his reputation as the "bad boy of U.S. skiing," since he revived his naughty persona via his commentary during the women's giant slalom event at the 2018 Olympics on February 14. The date, obviously Valentine's Day, is especially important here, since Miller decided to suggest that Austria's Anna Veith hadn't been performing well recently due to past injuries, as well as — wait for it — the fact that she's now married.

"And it's historically very challenging to race on the World Cup with a family or after being married," Miller joked, according to The Washington Post. "Not to blame the spouses, but I just want to toss that out there, that it could be her husband's fault." What a class act, huh?

It only took hours for Miller to backtrack on the air, saying it was "an ill-advised attempt at a joke." He added, "I was an athlete that competed after marriage, and I know how beneficial it is. I know the support team you need."  

Miller also headed over to Twitter, which you can imagine was already ablaze with indignation over his remarks, to smooth things over. "I had the love and support of my wife while I was racing and I know it can be a huge asset. #happyvalentineday," he tweeted.

We're guessing someone got an extra charm on her Pandora bracelet this year. Probably not a little pair of skis, though.