Pyeongchang, South Korea, is closer to Pyongyang — the North Korean capital city with a similar-sounding name — than New York City is to Boston. This close proximity has caused quite a bit of worry, especially stateside, as Pyeongchang prepares to host the 2018 Winter Olympics beginning in February.
Political tensions have been on the rise around the globe concerning North Korea’s leader, Kim Jong Un, and his arsenal of ballistic and nuclear weapons. The two Koreas are technically still at war after a conflict in the 1950s ended only with a truce, and United States President Donald Trump seems to consistently be in a battle of words with the secretive Kim.
As recently as December, U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley warned that American athletes may not even attend the 2018 Games due to threats from North Korea.
This rising global tension is certainly not lost on athletes who will soon head to the region to compete for the gold.
Shoplifting, suspensions, Apple Watches — oh, my!
There’s no talking about the craziness that was 2017 in sports without touching on a few scandals and controversies.
Most of the year’s biggest stories began on the gridiron. The NFL had plenty of extra eyes on it this season as players took knees during the national anthem to rebuke social injustices around the country and scathing statements about the league (and the NBA’s Stephen Curry) from President Donald Trump. Colin Kaepernick, who began the protest back in 2016, remained without a job in the NFL.
Hockey veteran Brian Gionta has some unfinished business at the Winter Olympics.
The 38 year old, whose career in the NHL spanned from 2001 to 2017, is eager to return to the world stage and have a shot at winning an Olympic medal with Team USA.
“Every kid, as a hockey player, dreams of playing in the NHL,” he told AOL.com. “The other thing you dream of is playing in the Olympics.”
“I don’t care what kid you are, you watch the Summer or Winter Games, you sit down for those two or three weeks and you watch it nonstop.”
Stanley Cup champion Brian Gionta is back on track to play in the Olympics in South Korea this winter — but many of his NHL comrades are forbidden from joining him thanks to a new and highly controversial league rule.
“As a player, you want that opportunity to represent your country on a stage like the Olympics,” the right winger told AOL.com. “It’s the biggest thing you can do.”
The NHL announced in April that it would not allow its active players to compete in the 2018 Winter Olympics, spurring backlash from athletes and fans alike. The decision came after complaints from team owners who said that stopping the NHL season every four years to allow players to participate in the Games was not worth it.
Less than six minutes into the NBA season and his debut with a new team, Boston Celtics forward Gordon Hayward landed awkwardly on his ankle, suffering a traumatic injury that shook the sporting world. Though he remains the Celtics’ highest-paid player this season, he hasn’t stepped foot on a basketball court since.
At the time, Hayward’s injury was the most gruesome one fans had witnessed all year — but somehow, things only got worse from there.
“There’s always next year.”
Sports fans are used to this mantra. After each championship your team doesn’t win, you’re able to find comfort in the everlasting hope of “next year.”
For some teams and athletes, the dream of “next year” finally came in 2017.
The past 12 months of sports have been filled with plenty of new names and faces, but some familiar friends made their returns, as well.
On Wednesday, Google released its Year in Search, which reveals the trends and terms that were most often sent through the search engine throughout 2017. Several athletes made the list — but some of the names may surprise you.
The annual Army-Navy football game is a tradition like no other, putting one of the most iconic and storied rivalries in college sports on full display each fall.
The game itself dates back to 1890 when Navy won the first meeting between the two rosters 24-0 at West Point. Since then, both teams have seen streaks of success, but Navy has largely dominated the rivalry as of late, winning every game from 2002 to 2015 and having won a total of 60 matchups to Army’s 50. The teams have tied seven times.
Growing up is hard, and having Olympic aspirations can make it even harder — but balancing school, sports and a social life was no problem for figure skater Nathan Chen.
“[My mom] loved to keep us all super busy,” the Olympic hopeful said of his childhood alongside his four siblings in Utah and California. “I did gymnastics, I played hockey, I played piano … I did a whole bunch of different things outside of skating. It was awesome to be able to have almost a normal kid’s life.”
Chen, who turned 18 in May, attended public school up until ninth grade and managed to balance his studies with his many hobbies, which also included guitar and ballet. When he and his family moved closer to Los Angeles, however, the time came for the budding athlete to make a choice.
Snowboarder Kelly Clark knows a thing or two about how world events can effect the Olympic Games.
Clark’s very first Olympic appearance was in Salt Lake City, Utah, in 2002, just months after the attacks on 9/11. Emotions were high heading into the Games — and surveillance was even higher.
“The security five months after 9/11 was pretty tight,” she told AOL.com during an interview at a Team Kellogg’s event.