RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:
Did you watch the Olympics this weekend? We sure did. It was exciting. First couple of days of competition in South Korea got off to a great start. The U.S. made history in the sport of luge. But it is that brutal cold wind that is getting everyone's attention. Here's NPR's Tom Goldman.
TOM GOLDMAN, BYLINE: We've been hearing the German national anthem a lot. Germany leads the gold medal count through the weekend. But this has been the dominant sound of the Pyeongchang Olympics in its first few days.
(SOUNDBITE OF WIND BLOWING)
GOLDMAN: The wind in Pyeongchang and surrounding mountains wreaked havoc on alpine skiing events. On consecutive days, two highly anticipated races were postponed until later in the week, the men's downhill and women's giant slalom. The latter was going to be U.S. alpine star Mikaela Shiffrin's Pyeongchang debut. She has roared into these games with 10 World Cup wins this season. Olympics prognosticators have her winning multiple medals. In a statement, she spoke for all alpine-loving fans and her competitors when she called Monday's postponement a bummer.
It is tough on the athletes who get ready then unready with the delay, but they're used to it on the World Cup circuit. And, says historian David Wallechinsky, the Olympics are used to it, too.
DAVID WALLECHINSKY: Prior to these games, we've had 12 instances of wind-postponed events, the worst being in the 1988 Calgary Games, where six different events were delayed because of wind - alpine skiing, luge and bobsled.
GOLDMAN: Wallechinsky says there's no panic yet because the postponements are happening early in the games. And Wallechinsky figures South Korean organizers aren't sweating the weather, thanks in part to a presentation he gave to them a couple of years ago.
WALLECHINSKY: I projected on a screen a chart that showed all the weather delays in the history of the Winter Olympics. They came up to me afterwards, thanked me. I felt like I was a psychotherapist.
GOLDMAN: Windy, frigid weather didn't force any cancellations in the luge, but the cold had a definite impact on Sunday's final night of the men's competition.
CHRIS MAZDZER: When the ice is that hard, when it's basically marble, that's when it comes down to experience.
GOLDMAN: American luger Chris Mazdzer has had plenty of experience training on marble-hard ice in Lake Placid, N.Y., and it paid off.
(SOUNDBITE OF CROWD CHEERING)
GOLDMAN: Mazdzer took off on the last four runs with the U.S. cheering section hoping for history. No man from the United States had ever won an Olympic medal in singles luge. Forty-seven-point-6-7-7 seconds after he left the start, Mazdzer made that history.
(SOUNDBITE OF CROWD CHEERING)
MAZDZER: For me to be that person that finally breaks through is - it's special for me, but I - it's just a way that I can say thanks to everyone that's put me into this position.
GOLDMAN: The race was particularly dramatic because what appeared to be a bronze medal-winning race for Mazdzer turned to a stunning silver at the very end. Race leader and two-time defending Olympic gold medalist Felix Loch of Germany succumbed to that rock-hard ice and lost control just enough to drop from first place to fifth on his final run. For Loch, a cold reality on a cold night. Tom Goldman, NPR News, Pyeongchang.
(SOUNDBITE OF GRANDBROTHERS' "HONEY") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.