As the Winter Olympics came to a close on Sunday, hundreds of athletes began the long process of returning to non-Olympics lives. Some took home medals. Some took home stories. But the parents that attended the games to cheer on their children took home both their kids and a stolen spotlight. A ton of attention was heaped on parents – and particularly on expressive fathers – during the competition in Pyeongchang. Why? Well, there’s the curiosity factor. People want to know what it’s like to raise an olympian. But parents also make the best stand-ins for eager fans. They cheer the loudest. They get the most excited. They are the best of all possible mascots.
And parents put in some really solid performances at the Pyeongchang Olympics, yelling, crying, hugging, supporting, and even critiquing as though on cue – and generating a fair amount of new coverage along the way. Was there something self-conscious and media savvy about some of the parents getting screen time on NBC? Yeah, a bit, but most of the emotion seemed genuine and deeply felt. All that internet virality was, at the end of the day, earned.
With that in mind, we took a close look at the performances put in by the most talked about dads in Pyeongchang. These five fathers stole the internet’s cold heart with hot tears and even hotter takes. But someone has to get the gold. There always has to be a winner.
Father of… Lizzy Yarnold
Strengths: Expressive emotions. Mustache.
Weaknesses: Old news. Hat choices.
Clive Yarnold is no stranger to the Olympics spotlight; he was a minor viral star at the 2014 Sochi Olympics because of his fantastic mustache, which inspired a now-dormant parody account. At the 2018 edition of the games, it was more of the same for the dad of British skeleton racer Lizzy Yarnold. As his daughter became the first British athlete to defend a Winter Olympics title, Clive was caught on camera having a minor freakout in the stands when he realizes she’s going to win. Sometimes, being an Olympics dad star only requires two things: memorable facial hair, and an unbridled excitement to see your daughter win.
That’s her dad. pic.twitter.com/2bxjVAuTxY
Nick Zaccardi (@nzaccardi) December 16, 2017
Father of… Maame Biney
Strengths: Heart-warming origin story. Signs that rhyme.
Weaknesses: Not letting his daughter get a cell phone.
While the dads that get coverage are usually those whose kids achieve some level of success at the Winter Olympics, Kweku Biney was an inspiration despite that. His daughter, speed-skater Maame Biney, may not have found the podium in her event, but that was partially expected, Due to her young age (18) and the stacked women’s field. No matter. Just by qualifying, she became the first African-American woman to compete for the United States in speed skating at the Olympics. She credits Kweku, a single dad, for helping her reach these dizzying heights: from early practices as a child through being her main support system in PyeongChang. And so, despite the potentially disappointing results at the Games, cameras caught Kweku cheering her on as she moved on to the 500m quarterfinals. He also went full dad-joke with his “Kick Some Hiney, Biney!” sign. Can’t complain there.
– Patrick Quaife (@pquaife) February 13, 2018
Father of… Chloe Kim
Strengths: Had an inspiring backstory. Was shockingly telegenic.
Weaknesses: Uninspired sign writing. Overexposure.
The fan favorite Olympic dad this year, Jong-Jin Kim watched his daughter, 17-year-old Chloe Kim, shock the world by taking home the gold in women’s halfpipe. For his part, Jong-Jin, stood at the bottom of the hill with a sign reading simply: “Go Chloe!” It was a subtle move, but broadcasts provided context. The man spent countless hours driving his daughter to her training events and supporting her and pushing her. Jong-Jin’s story was mined for inspiration and there was plenty there: Immigrant dad creates real opportunity for hard working and talented daughter. There’s a reason the father-daughter duo was featured in a Super Bowl ad – they are charming as hell.
Father of… Mischa Gasser
Strengths: Unwavering dedication. Calves made of granite (probably).
Weaknesses: Bad usage of vacation days. Too many hashtags on Instagram.
How far would you go to see your child compete in the Winter Olympics? Would you fly halfway across the world? Good for you. Guido Huwiler has you beat: He biked 10,000 miles to watch his son compete. The father of Swiss skier Mischa Gasser completed his bonkers trip – accompanied by his wife – from his home country to PyeongChang in just over a year; he left Switzerland on February 2, 2017. Along the way, the pair biked through 20 different countries, but two specific ones made them have to cheat a bit and fly: they could not get approval to ride through China, and, of course , North Korea was a no go. Either way, Guido made it just in time to see Mischa reach the finals of Aerials skiing.
Father of… Red Gerard
Strengths: An eye for the NBC cameras. Drinking stamina.
Weaknesses: Hangovers. High bar tabs.
Last, but certainly not least, is Conrad Gerard, father to America’s other 17-year-old snowboarding prodigy, Red. Really, the entire Gerard clan deserves a spot on this list: as told by Red, they were shotgunning beers at 8:30 AM on the day of his event. Why? “I’m kind of nervous,” Conrad said plainly. Surely, some of South Korea’s finest cold ones kept him calm, and NBC showed the Gerards celebrating Red’s gold medal run with even more beers. While Conrad was not the only patriarch to make headlines for nervous beers, the fact that the entire Gerard family was there to share in the joy that comes with a gold medal was clearly visible in their extended turn-up.