JOHN POWERS I ON OLYMPICS
JONATHAN NACKSTRAND/AFP/Getty Images/File 2017
A sport-by-sport look at the US prospects for the XXIIIrd Winter Games, which begin in Pyeongchang a year from this week, with 2014 and projected 2018 medals in parentheses:
Alpine skiing (5/2): If the Americans can stay out of the operating room they could match their Sochi haul. Mikaela Shiffrin will be favored to repeat her slalom victory and also should medal in the giant slalom. Ted Ligety, who won the men’s GS, will need to revert to form after his season-ending back surgery. Lindsey Vonn, who won a World Cup downhill last month soon after she came back from shattering an arm, is a threat in both speed races, while world medalist Travis Ganong could make the downhill podium.
Biathlon (0/0): The breakthrough medal that the Yanks first thought would come in 1988 was deferred again in 2014 when world medalist Tim Burke came down with a sinus infection. Odds are that the United States won’t be close to the podium in Korea, but they’ve emerged from the global woods. Burke and Lowell Bailey have the stuff to be in the top 10 and Vermont native Susan Dunklee could manage it in three events.
Bobsled (4/4): Ever since the 46-year drought ended in Salt Lake the American pilots and pushers have made the podium at Olympus. That streak figures to continue in Pyeongchang with the same faces still in the chase. Steve Holcomb, who’d be the first US male to medal at three successive Games, has a good shot in both the two-man and four-man. Elana Meyers Taylor also will be gunning for an unprecedented third straight podium on the women’s side and Jamie Greubel Poser again could join her there.
Cross-country (0/1): It has been four decades and counting since Bill Koch’s historic silver in Innsbruck, but the United States has a strong chance finally to make the medal stand. Jessie Diggins is a top-level sprinter and Sadie Bjornsen and Liz Stephen both could make the podium on an inspired day, as could men’s sprinter Simi Hamilton. The Yanks may not be challenging the Norwegians, but they’re finally coming in numbers.
Curling (0/0): After two lost quadrennia, things are looking up for the star-spangled skips and sweepers. The men, who were ninth in Sochi, just missed the world podium last year under John Shuster’s direction. The women, who bottomed out last time, were sixth. If either wins a medal it’ll be the first in a dozen years.
Figure skating (2/3): After the men and women both missed the podium for the first time since Hitler was watching, America’s new generation figures to change things. Nathan Chen, the 17-year-old who landed a record five quadruple jumps when he won last month’s nationals, should earn a medal if he stays healthy, and it could be gold. Karen Chen, the 17-year-old who knocked off three-time champ Ashley Wagner, has the goods to hang with the Russians and Japanese. Maia and Alex Shibutani, the “Shib Sibs,” should collect an ice dancing medal. And the team, which earned bronze last time, could upgrade to silver.
Freestyle skiing (7/7): After rolling a seven on Sochi’s slop last time, the freestylers remain the best shot for a motherlode at the Games. Except for retired Hannah Kearney, all of the medalists are back — David Wise and Maddie Bowman in halfpipe plus Josh Christensen, Gus Kenworthy, Nick Goepper, and Devin Logan in slopestyle. With Annalisa Drew and Aaron Blunck, the pipe keeps pumping out contenders, while Ashley Caldwell could medal in aerials and Colby Stevenson and McRae Williams both could make the podium in slopestyle.
Ice hockey (1/1): Dreams of a double gold four years ago ended up with a solo silver when the men sleepwalked through their bronze-medal meeting with Finland after losing to the Canadian champs and the women squandered a late two-goal lead in the title match and went down to the Canucks in overtime. The women, who’ve won seven of the last nine world titles, will be chasing their first gold since 1998. The men’s chances depend entirely upon whether or not the NHL decides to participate again, which is far from certain. If so, the Yanks have a strong chance at making the podium for the third time in five Games. If not, they’ll have to piece together a squad from minor leaguers, European clubbers, and college kids and hope for some Korean kismet.
Long-track speedskating (0/4): After their 2014 disaster, when nobody was anywhere near the medal stand, the Americans will be out for a reset and redemption. A fistful of medals seem probable. Heather Richardson-Bergsma, now married to a Dutch gold medalist, could win the 1,000 meters and get silver in the 1,500. Joey Mantia has a strong shot in the men’s 1,500 and could make the podium in the mass start. If even one flag goes up it’ll be an improvement over last time.
Luge (1/2): The federation had better encase Erin Hamlin in bubble wrap. The former world titlist was the only Yank to make the podium last time and she’ll have the best chance next year after collecting silver at the recent world championships in Austria. Summer Britcher, who was fourth, could join her on a good day. The team relay, which featured Hamlin, Tucker West, and the double of Matt Mortensen and Jayson Terdiman, was second to the Germans and should medal as well. But the men, who had forgettable outings at the global event, need to slide straighter and swifter next season to be in the chase.
Nordic combined (0/0): The historic haul that the United States pulled off in Vancouver in 2010 — a gold and three silvers — has vaporized. No individual made the top 10 four years ago and the team was eighth. Bryan Fletcher, who was fifth at the 2015 world championships, has a fighting chance this time, but he won’t have much company.
Short-track speedskating (1/0): Apolo Anton Ohno isn’t coming through that door again and Katherine Reutter, out of injury-induced retirement at 28, isn’t yet back in medal form. The Americans, who managed only a men’s relay silver four years ago, no longer are in the same class as the Koreans, Chinese, and Canadians. Their best chances ride with J.R. Celski and John-Henry Krueger.
Skeleton (2/0): The double gold from Salt Lake seems an eon ago. The Americans were delighted with a silver and a bronze last time, but with Noelle Pikus-Pace retired and Matt Antoine having trouble on overseas tracks this season, prospects this time are modest. A medal of any color in Sochi would be most welcome.
Ski jumping (0/0): Calvin Coolidge was president when the Americans last won a mid-air medal and that’s unlikely to change in the Trump era. Their top men were 35th in Sochi and Sarah Hendrickson, who was a golden contender, didn’t recover from her knee injury in time to challenge. Hendrickson, who was sixth at the last world championships, still is the top hope for the podium, while the men likely won’t crack the top 30.
Snowboarding (5/6): The park and pipe bunch keeps coming up with new faces who can turn the world on its ear. Chase Josey and Chloe Kim both are capable of gold in the halfpipe and defending champ Jamie Anderson, Ryan Stassel, and Kyle Mack are medal-worthy in slopestyle, as are Lindsey Jacobellis and Nick Baumgartner in snowboardcross.
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