Chip Scoggins
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– Take that, Norway.

You might be running laps around everyone else in the medal count, but you can't have all the Olympic fun.

Minnesota stole some of your spotlight on Wednesday. You betcha.

In the morning, Lindsey Vonn became the oldest woman (33) to win an Olympic Alpine medal by taking bronze in the downhill.

(Sorry, Colorado, she might live there now, but she was born in Minnesota so we're still claiming her as one of ours.)

In the afternoon, a U.S. men's curling team stocked with northern Minnesotans rose from its deathbed to complete a stunning run to the semifinals.

And in the evening, the piece de resistance. Afton's Jessie Diggins delivered a stirring display of competitive guts and heart to win gold with Kikkan Randall in the women's team sprint and become the first American women to medal in cross-country skiing in Olympics history.

That's our Olympic version of Minnesota Nice.

Team USA sure needed a pick-me-up. These have been a tough Olympic Games for the Americans in terms of winning medals. Their collective haul has been rather light, which has received a fair amount of attention and criticism through 1½ weeks of competition.

Norway has doubled the Americans in total medals (33 to 16) and in gold medals (13 to 6), which feels a lot like 38-7 in the NFC Championship Game.

As of Wednesday night, Team USA stands fourth in the medal count, well behind Norway, Germany and Canada, which is enough to get one's dauber down.

The medal count would really look meager if not for snowboarders, who have won five medals, including four gold. Traditionalists might scoff at the proliferation of extreme sports in the Olympics, but let's not thumb our nose at something we're good at.

Team USA isn't exactly stockpiling medals like filling a pantry in anticipation of a blizzard.

The speedskaters have won two medals, which is two more than they brought home from Sochi four years ago. Cross-country skiing has one medal. Figure skating has won two bronze, and the women literally flopped in the short program. They fell all over the ice Wednesday.

Minnesota's Olympians provided a welcomed burst of excitement in a span of a few hours. Their performances elicited different emotions.

Vonn desperately wanted gold but took bronze in her final Olympics with an injury file a mile long. Her moment felt like a heartfelt career tribute before one final bow.

Diggins' performance was the most dramatic. She came to the Olympics expecting to medal in something. She waited until her fifth event and then produced the race of her life, collapsing at the finish in sheer exhaustion after pouring everything she had left into her final lap.

The curlers staying alive in the tournament is the most surprising. John Shuster's squad started 2-4 in round-robin play and seemed destined for another Olympic disappointment. They looked down and out only a few days ago.

Then they defeated Canada for the first time ever in the Olympics, which gave them hope. Then they won again. And then again.

Remarkably, they're in the semifinals now, one victory from the podium. They face three-time defending gold medalists Canada again Thursday in the semifinals.

"It's big brother, little brother," said Team USA's Tyler George of Duluth.

Little brother already has won more games in these Games than the past two Olympic appearances combined. On Sunday, they looked cooked. By Wednesday, they were discussing medals.

Even Mr. T — yes, that Mr. T — has gotten swept up in the excitement and is tweeting at the American curlers.

"Curling is cool, I Pity The Fool who don't like Curling!" he tweeted.

Exactly.

"It's a little surreal right now, just coming off where we were to where we are now," George said. "It feels like two different tournaments. One's a dream and one's a reality. Fortunately for us the winning streak is the reality, but we're trying not to get too excited."

Ah, heck, why not? Enjoy this. Revel in it. As the entire American contingent will attest, winning in the Olympics is tough.

A splash of Minnesota brightened everyone's mood on Wednesday. Even Mr. T's.

Chip Scoggins chip.scoggins@startribune.com