Winter Olympics sport-by-sport preview

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Alpine skiing

Where: Rosa Khutor Alpine Center

When: Feb. 9 (men’s downhill), 10 (women’s super combined), 12 (women’s downhill), 14 (men’s super combined), 15 (women’s super-G), 16 (men’s super-G), 18 (women’s giant slalom), 19 (men’s giant slalom), 21 (women’s slalom), 22 (men’s slalom).

World view: Norway’s Aksel Lund Svindal, who already has a gold medal in his trophy case, is favored to become the first man to win both the downhill and Super G since Austria’s Hermann Maier did it in 1998. Austria’s Marcel Hirscher figures to duplicate the slalom sweep pulled off by countryman Benjamin Raich in 2006. With Lindsey Vonn out, Germany’s Marie Hoefl-Riesch, who took the slalom and combined last time, should win the downhill while Liechtenstein’s Tina Weirather could collect three medals in the speed events and giant slalom.


US outlook: With Vonn absent and Bode Miller coming off a lost season, the Americans won’t come close to the eight medals they won in Vancouver, but they should be good for a minimum of three. Ted Ligety could win gold in both the giant slalom and combined, and teenager Mikaela Shiffrin is in line to become the first US woman to win the slalom since Barbara Cochran in 1972. The variables are Miller, who has been in medal form of late, and Julia Mancuso, who won a couple of silvers last time but hasn’t been in podium form this season.


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Where: Laura Cross-Country Ski and Biathlon Center

When: Feb. 8 (men’s 10k sprint), 9 (women’s 7.5 k sprint), 10 (men’s 12.5k pursuit), 11 (women’s 10k pursuit), 13 (men’s 20k individual), 14 (women’s 15k individual), 16 (men’s 15k mass start), 17 (women’s 12.5k mass start), 19 (mixed relay), 21 (women’s 4 x 6k relay), 22 (men’s 4 x 7.5k relay)

World view: With Ole Einar Bjoerndalen (a.k.a. Old Man Winter) going for his seventh gold in his sixth Games at 40, the Norwegians figure to haul in a dozen medals, with Emile Hegle Svendsen winning the individual and pursuit events, while France’s Martin Fourcade claims the sprint and mass start. On the women’s side, Finland’s Kaisa Makarainen takes the sprint and pursuit.

US outlook: No Yank ever has made an Olympic podium in this stop-and-I’ll-shoot-sport, but Tim Burke’s silver at last year’s World Championships got everyone’s attention. Burke will need the race of his life to do it, but a medal is possible. Lowell Bailey and Susan Dunklee are capable of top 10 finishes, too. This could be the year that the US biathletes emerge from the woods at the Games.



Where: Sanki Sliding Center

When: Feb. 16-17 (men’s two-man), 18-19 (women), 22-23 (men’s four-man).

World view: The Germans had their four-man hegemony interrupted by the Americans in Vancouver after four straight victories, and this time the US could do it in the two-man, where the Teutons have won three in a row. The Swiss, who haven’t won the two-man in two decades, will challenge with Beat Hefti while the Latvians will make the Germans and Yanks sweat in the four-man. Canada’s Kaillie Humphries, who won the last two world titles, is favored to retain the crown that she won in Vancouver, but her star-spangled neighbors will be more than a speed bump.

US outlook: Steve Holcomb ended 62 ungilded years with his four-man triumph last time, and now he’s favored to put a stop to a 78-year drought in the two-man. While he may not thwart the Germans again in the four-man, Holcomb has the sled and the pushers to make the podium, as he has at the last four global championships. Though the women won’t be favored to overtake the Canadians, both Jamie Greubel and Elana Meyers have medal-quality stuff.

Cross-country skiing

Where: Laura Cross-Country Ski and Biathlon Center


When: Feb. 8 (women’s skiathlon), 9 (men’s skiathlon), 11 (men’s and women’s sprint), 13 (women’s 10k classical), 14 (men’s 15k classical), 15 (women’s 4 x 5k relay), 16 (men’s 4 x 7.5k relay), 20 (men’s and women’s team sprint), 22 (women’s 30k mass start), 23 (men’s 50k mass start)

World view: They don’t call it Nordic skiing for nothing. The Norwegians conceded their Swedish neighbors a trio of golds in 2010 but they’re likely to grab at least seven this time and could gather up 16 medals in all with Petter Northug and Marit Bjoergen leading the way. The Swedes, Swiss, Russians, and Kazakhs tussle for the remainder of the medals.

US outlook: No Yank has won a flatland medal since Bill Koch came up silver in 1976, but the drought should end in Sochi. Kikkan Randall is the world’s best women’s sprinter, and she and Jessica Diggins are reigning world champs in the team sprint. One way or another, there’ll be an American flag flapping. The US males could make some noise as well with sprinters Andy Newell and Simi Hamilton, and Noah Hoffman.


Where: Ice Cube Curling Center

When: Feb. 10-17 (round robin), 18 (tiebreakers), 19 (semifinals), 20 (women’s bronze and gold medal matches), 21 (men’s bronze and gold medal matches).

World view: The Canadian men and Swedish women each will be going for their third straight titles, but they won’t be the only rock-chuckers in the golden mix. Sweden, which hasn’t made the men’s podium since the 1924 Games, took away the Canucks’ global crown on their Victoria ice last year while the world champion Scottish women, competing as Great Britain, hope to duplicate the UK’s last crown in 2002.

US outlook: After both the men’s and women’s rinks hit rock-bottom in Vancouver, there’s nowhere to go but up. The women have done just that, with Erika Brown’s quartet of former Olympians just missing a medal at last year’s World Championships. If they earn one at the Games, they’ll make history. The men, who barely qualified for Sochi, have been out of the planetary conversation for years. If John Shuster, who won a bronze with Pete Fenson’s 2006 bunch, can skip his guys into the top six, it’ll be an achievement.

Figure skating

Where: Iceberg Skating Palace

When: Feb. 6 (men’s and pairs team short program), 8 (team short dance, women’s short program, and pairs free skate), 9 (men’s and women’s team free skate and free dance), 11 (pairs short program), 12 (pairs free skate), 13 (men’s short program), 14 (men’s free skate), 16 (short dance), 17 (free dance), 19 (women’s short program), 20 (women’s free skate).

World view: The Russians figure to win the pairs with Tatiana Volosozhar and Maxim Trankov but the rest of the world has passed them by elsewhere. Patrick Chan, the three-time world champ, is favored to become the first Canadian man to win gold, while South Korea’s Kim Yu Na is bidding to be the first women’s champion to repeat since Katarina Witt in 1988. This time the Yanks are a quickstep ahead of everyone in the dance.

US outlook: Though the Americans could miss both the men’s and women’s podiums for the first time since 1936, they’re still favored for a medal in the new team event and a gold in ice dancing, where world champs Meryl Davis and Charlie White should produce a breakthrough victory. Gracie Gold has the best chance to get the women back on the medal stand but four-time national men’s champion Jeremy Abbott, who was ninth in 2010, doesn’t have enough game to hang with the skywalkers.

Freestyle skiing

Where: Rosa Khutor Extreme Park

When: Feb. 6 and 8 (women’s moguls), 10 (men’s moguls), 11 (women’s slopestyle), 13 (men’s slopestyle), 14 (women’s aerials), 17 (men’s aerials), 18 (men’s halfpipe), 20 (men’s ski cross and women’s halfpipe), 21 (women’s ski cross).

World view: The North Americans, Chinese, and Australians own this bump-and-soar sport, which now offers 10 events with the addition of halfpipe and slopestyle, helping the Yanks. The Canadians could pick up half of the golds with victories in men’s moguls and halfpipe, women’s slopestyle, and both ski crosses. Figure the US for the men’s slopestyle and women’s moguls and halfpipe, with the Chinese grabbing the aerials.

US outlook: After winning four medals in Vancouver, the Americans could be good for at least seven in Sochi, five of them in the new events. Devin Logan and Maddie Bowman are in line to go 1-2 in the women’s halfpipe and Aaron Blunck should make the men’s podium, while Nick Goepper is favored in men’s slopestyle and Maggie Voisin is a podium possibility on the women’s side. Defending champion Hannah Kearney should repeat in the women’s moguls while Patrick Deneen could grab bronze.

Ice hockey

Where: Bolshoy Ice Dome and Shayba Arena

When: Men — Feb. 12-16 (preliminaries), 19 (quarterfinals), 21 (semifinals), 22 (bronze medal game), 23 (gold medal game); US games: 13, Slovakia; 15, Russia; 16, Slovenia. Women — Feb. 8-13 (preliminaries), 15 (quarterfinals), 17 (semifinals), 20 (bronze and gold medal games); US games: 8, Finland; 10, Switzerland; 12, Canada.

World view: No men’s champion has repeated since the Unified Team (a.k.a. Soviet Union minus the Baltics) in 1992, and Canada, which hasn’t won a world medal since Vancouver, will be playing on hostile ice this time. Four countries — Czech Republic, Finland, Russia, and Sweden — have won the last four global titles. The hosts, who haven’t won the gold medal since Albertville, are under extreme pressure after finishing sixth in Vancouver. Missing the podium for a third straight time is unthinkable, but possible. The Canadian women, who are gunning for a fourth consecutive crown, will be underdogs to the Americans, with the Finns and Russians both in the mix.

US outlook: The men, who were an overtime goal away from gold in 2010, will bring an experienced team built for big ice and could make the podium at an overseas Games for the first time since 1972 and win back-to-back medals for the first time since 1960 if their defense and goaltending hold up again. The women, who haven’t won gold since the inaugural 1998 tournament, have claimed five of the last seven world titles, most recently in Ottawa, and handled their northern neighbors in their last four tuneups.

Long-track speedskating

Where: Adler Arena

When: Feb. 8 (men’s 5,000), 9 (women’s 3,000), 10 (men’s 500), 11 (women’s 500), 12 (men’s 1,000), 13 (women’s 1,000), 15 (men’s 1,500), 16 (women’s 1,500), 18 (men’s 10,000), 19 (women’s 5,000), 21-22 (men’s and women’s team pursuit).

World view: Not much has changed since the last quadrennium, so gilded reprises are likely: South Korea’s Mo Tae Bum in the men’s 500 meters, Shani Davis in the 1,000, Sven Kramer in the 5,000, South Korea’s Lee Sang Hwa in the women’s 500, Ireen Wust of the Netherlands in the 1,500, and Martina Sablikova of the Czech Republic in the 3,000 and 5,000. The Dutch, as usual, will top the table with more than a dozen. Hans Brinker’s homeland still rules the oval.

US outlook: Should be seven for the Yanks, thanks to a renaissance in the women’s sprints. Davis will be favored to become the first man to win the same event (the 1,000) three times in a row and could grab the 1,500 as well, with the US also making the pursuit podium. Figure Heather Richardson and Brittany Bowe for 1-2 in the 1,000 with the former also making the stand in the 500 and the latter in the 1,500.


Where: Sanki Sliding Center

When: Feb. 8-9 (men), 10-11 (women), 12 (men’s doubles), 13 (team relay).

World view: It’ll be the German intramural championships as the Teutonic sliders run the table, including the new team event. Felix Loch and David Moeller figure to go 1-2 in the men’s race, as do Natalie Geisenberger and defending champion Tatjana Huefner in the women’s (it would be the German women’s fifth gold in a row). After their countrymen lost the last two doubles titles to their Austrian neighbors, the Toby Twins (Wendl and Arlt) and Toni Eggert and Sascha Benecken grab gold and silver. For his farewell to Olympus at 40, Italy’s Armin Zoeggeler collects his sixth medal.

US outlook: Not since 2002 have the Americans made the medal stand, but it could happen this time in the team event, where they have a trio of top-10 sliders in their lineup. Otherwise, unless conditions come up slushy and slow, they won’t crack the Berlin Wall. Chris Mazdzer and former world titlist Erin Hamlin have the best chances.

Nordic combined

Where: Russki Gorki Jumping Center

When: Feb. 12 (individual normal hill and 10k), 18 (individual large hill and 10k), 20 (team large hill and 4 x 5k relay).

World view: The Germans, French, Austrians, and Norwegians figure to crowd everyone else off the podium, which is what they did before the Americans staked their historic claim in Vancouver. France’s Jason Lamy-Chappuis looks to become the first normal-hill champion to repeat since 1980, while Austria chases its third straight team title.

US outlook: After 86 empty-handed years, a gold and three silvers in Vancouver were a treasure chest for the Yanks. While it’s unlikely that Billy Demong can replicate his 2010 victory, the Americans still could make the team podium with him, six-time Olympian Todd Lodwick, and brothers Bryan and Taylor Fletcher.

Short-track speedskating

Where: Iceberg Skating Palace

When: Feb. 10 (men’s 1,500, women’s 500 and 3,000 relay), 13 (women’s 500, men’s 1,000 and 5,000 relay), 15 (women’s 1,500 and men’s 1,000), 18 (women’s 1,000 and 3,000 relay, and men’s 500), 21 (men’s 500, women’s 1,000 and 5,000 relay).

World view: The Korean men may well be knocked off the top step this time, with Canada’s Charles Hamelin favored to win the 1,000 and 1,500 meters and Russia’s Victor An (who went triple gold for South Korea as Ahn Hyun Soo in 2006) likely in the 500. And the Chinese women, who collected all four golds in Vancouver, may have to settle for lesser metal now that sprint goddess Wang Meng broke her ankle in a practice collision. The Koreans should be good for three and could go 1-2 in the 1,000 and 1,500.

US outlook: The retirement of Apolo Anton Ohno, who won eight medals at three Games, and Katherine Reutter, who picked up a couple in Vancouver, left the Yanks without stars, and the fallout from the coaching controversy spilled over to this season. The women’s relay, which took bronze in 2010, didn’t qualify. Still, there’s a good chance for gold in the men’s relay, and returning medalist J.R. Celski could make the podium again.


Where: Sanki Sliding Center

When: Feb. 13 (women), 14 (men and women), 15 (men).

World view: The Canadians have won the last two men’s titles, but this time it’ll be the Latvians with Martins Dukurs and big brother Tomass collecting gold and bronze around Russian homeboy Alexander Tretiakov. While Great Britain could do the same on the women’s side with Lizzy Yarnold and world champion Shelley Rudman, Noelle Pikus-Pace is a formidable former colonial rival.

US outlook: Pikus-Pace has a terrific chance to be the first American women’s champion since Tristan Gale won the inaugural crown in 2002, and at the very least, she’ll win a medal. If Matt Antoine can put together the best runs of his career, he can collect the first men’s medal since Jimmy Shea won gold in Salt Lake City.

Ski jumping

Where: Russki Gorki Jumping Center

When: Feb. 8-9 (men’s individual normal hill), 11 (women’s individual normal hill), 14-15 (men’s individual large hill), 17 (men’s team large hill).

World view: Simon Ammann, who made his Olympic debut at 16 and is the only man to win four individual jumping golds, will try for six after he carries the Swiss flag at the Opening Ceremonies. The Norwegians and Poles, though, won’t just watch him soar, and the Austrians should win their third straight team crown. The Americans, who pushed to have the sport added to the women’s program, will be favored to win the debut event.

US outlook: Sarah Hendrickson, the reigning women’s global champ, already has defied the odds by making the team five months after she tore up her right knee, so her winning gold isn’t a fantasy. If Hendrickson doesn’t, former global titlist Lindsey Van could. No chance for the US men, who haven’t won a medal since 1924, but Anders Johnson could crack the top 30.


Where: Rosa Khutor Extreme Park

When: Feb. 6 (men’s and women’s slopestyle preliminaries), 8 (men’s slopestyle), 9 (women’s slopestyle), 11 (men’s halfpipe), 12 (women’s halfpipe), 16 (women’s snowboard cross), 17 (men’s snowboard cross), 19 (men’s and women’s parallel giant slalom), 22 (men’s and women’s parallel slalom).

World view: Nine countries, most notably Canada and France, made the medal stand in the six events at Vancouver, and the number will increase now that parallel slalom and slopestyle have been added for Sochi, with the Norwegians and Czechs also making statements.

US outlook: Nobody does the rinse-and-spin cycle better than the Yanks, and they’re bringing back former champs Shaun White, Kelly Clark, and Hannah Teter as well as runner-up Lindsey Jacobellis. White will be gunning for a third straight halfpipe crown while Jamie Anderson could win the slopestyle. Half a dozen medals wouldn’t be a pipe dream.

John Powers can be reached at