Winter Olympics sport-by-sport preview

LENZERHEIDE, SWITZERLAND - JANUARY 28: Mikaela Shiffrin of USA competes during the Audi FIS Alpine Ski World Cup Women's Slalom on January 28, 2018 in Lenzerheide, Switzerland. (Photo by Alain Grosclaude/Agence Zoom/Getty Images)
Alain Grosclaude/Getty Images
American Mikaela Shiffrin is favored to repeat as slalom champion.

Alpine skiing

Where: Yongpyong Alpine Centre (technical) and Jeongseon Alpine Centre (speed).

When: Feb. 10 (men’s downhill), 11 (women’s giant slalom), 12 (men’s combined), 13 (women’s slalom), 14 (men’s super-G), 16 (women’s super-G), 17 (men’s giant slalom), 20 (women’s downhill), 21 (men’s slalom), 22 (women’s combined), 23 (team event).

World view: The Norwegians may not have Alp-sized mountains but their men have become more than a match for the Austrians and Swiss. They could medal in all five events with super-G favorite Kjetil Jansrud, Aksel Lund Svindal, and Henrik Kristoffersen grabbing two apiece. Austria’s Marcel Hirscher, the World Cup overall leader, should sweep the slaloms and Switzerland’s Beat Feuz is the man in the downhill. There’s more balance on the women’s side, where eight countries made the podium at last year’s world championships. The Swiss could win both the super-G (Lara Gut) and combined (Wendy Holdener), with the Americans taking the slalom (Mikaela Shiffrin), the Italians the downhill (Sofia Goggia), and the Germans the giant slalom (Viktoria Rebensburg).


US outlook: The Americans collected five medals in Sochi and they could manage it again with Lindsey Vonn and Ted Ligety returning to form. Shiffrin, who’s favored to repeat as slalom champion, also should make the podium in the giant slalom and downhill, where her showdown with Vonn, the 2010 titlist, could be a Games highlight. Ligety, who won the giant slalom last time, still is a medal contender.


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Where: Alpensia Biathlon Centre.

When: Feb. 10 (women’s sprint), 11 (men’s sprint), 12 (men’s and women’s pursuit), 14 (women’s individual), 15 (men’s individual), 17 (women’s mass start), 18 (men’s mass start), 20 (mixed relay), 22 (women’s relay), 23 (men’s relay).

World view: The Germans, who produced only a couple of medals in 2014, could carry off seven golds this time, with Laura Dahlmeier taking four. The Norwegians, who topped the table in Sochi, will be led by Johannes Thingnes Boe, who could make the podium in every event. But the man to watch is France’s Martin Fourcade, the six-time World Cup overall victor who’ll be favored in three events.

US outlook: The Americans never have won an Olympic medal in this wintry run-and-gun activity but that could change this time. Lowell Bailey’s gold medal in the 20-kilometer event at last year’s world championships was a breakthrough, as was Susan Dunklee’s silver in the mass start. If they can replicate those performances in PyeongChang, it’ll be an historic double.



Where: Olympic Sliding Centre.

When: Feb. 18 (men’s two-man first two runs), 19 (men’s two-man final two runs), 20 (women’s first two runs), 21 (women’s final two runs), 23 (men’s four-man first two runs), 24 (men’s four-man last two runs).

World view: If the Russians hadn’t doped their Sochi victors, the Germans likely would have claimed both men’s titles last time. They’ll be favored again with four-time world champion Francesco Friedrich in the two-man and Johannes Lochner in the four-man, where they could pull off an unprecedented sweep. The Canadians could grab a couple of medals in the two-man behind World Cup leader Justin Kripps, and countrywoman Kaillie Humphries will be going after a third consecutive women’s crown.

US outlook: The American women haven’t won since the inaugural Olympic race in 2002, but they have the reigning world titlist in Elana Meyers Taylor, who’ll push Humphries all the way down the hill. She and Jamie Greubel Poser both made the award stand in Sochi and should again. With last year’s death of former champion Steve Holcomb, who medaled in both races in 2014, the men lost their best chance for a medal. Codie Bascue has the best shot but he’ll need four flawless runs.

Cross-country skiing

Where: Alpensia Cross-Country Skiing Centre.


When: Feb. 10 (women’s skiathlon), 11 (men’s skiathlon), 13 (men’s and women’s sprint), 15 (women’s 10k freestyle), 16 (men’s 15k freestyle), 17 (women’s relay), 18 (men’s relay), 21 (men’s and women’s team sprint), 24 (men’s 50k mass start, women’s 30k mass start).

World view: Norway and Sweden won 22 of 36 medals in Sochi and not much has changed since. The Norwegians took all six women’s events at last year’s world championships behind superstar Marit Bjoergen, who could collect three individual golds at Olympus. The men, led by Johannes Hoesflot Klaebo, could make the podium in every race. With top man Sergei Ustiugov banned the Russians are significantly weaker, which helps the Norwegians and Canada’s Alex Harvey, the outlier who’ll be favored in the 50-kilometer grinder.

US outlook: Not since 1976 have the Americans made the medal stand at the Games, and the women never have. That drought should end in Korea, where world medalists Jessica Diggins, Sadie Bjornsen, and Kikkan Randall all have excellent chances in the sprints. That trio, plus Sophie Caldwell and Ida Sargent, all have made World Cup podiums this season and one or more of them figure to do it at Olympus. Though the US males aren’t quite at the same level, Simi Hamilton and Erik Bjornsen have an outside chance in the team sprint.


Where: Gangneung Curling Centre.

When: Feb. 7-11 (mixed round-robin), 12-13 (mixed medal round), 13-21 (men’s and women’s round-robin), 22 (men’s semifinals, men’s bronze medal match), 23 (women’s semifinals, men’s gold medal match), 24 (women’s bronze medal match, women’s gold medal match).

World view: The Canadians, who pulled off an unprecedented double last time and are reigning men’s and women’s global champions, are primed for a rock-throwing reprise. The men will be shooting for their fourth consecutive victory, with the Swedes and Swiss in the way. The women, who deposed the Swedes in Sochi for their first crown since 1998, will be favored to repeat, with Sweden and Great Britain (i.e. Scotland) in pursuit.

US outlook: After terrible outings in Vancouver and Sochi, the Americans are positioned for a rebound in PyeongChang. The men, who were ninth last time, won the world bronze two years ago with John Shuster’s rink and he’ll be skipping for redemption after 2014. The women, who were 10th with Erika Brown, now rank fifth with Olympic rookie Nina Roth. If either were to collect a medal it’d be the first since 2006.

Figure skating

Where: Gangneung Ice Arena.

When: Feb. 8 (team pairs and men’s short programs), 10 (team pairs final, women’s short program and short dance), 11 (team men’s, women’s and dance finals), 13 (pairs short program), 14 (pairs free skate), 15 (men’s short program), 16 (men’s free skate), 17 (dance short program), 19 (dance free dance), 20 (women’s short program), 22 (women’s free skate), 24 (exhibition gala).

World view: The Russians, who won their first women’s crown in Sochi, could go 1-2 this time with world victor Evgenia Medvedeva and European titlist Alina Zagitova. They’ll also retain their team laurels, should make the pairs podium, and have a chance in the dance. If defending champ Yuzuru Hanyu’s injured ankle holds up the Japanese can put two men on the stand. Chinese world champs Sui Wenjing and Han Cong will duel Germany’s Aliona Savchenko and Bruno Massot in the pairs, while Canadian former titlists Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir will match steps with French couple Gabriella Papadakis and Guillaume Cizeron.

US outlook: After being shut out of the men’s and women’s medals in 2014 for the first time since 1936, the Yanks have a good chance at gold with teenage leaper Nathan Chen, the Grand Prix champ. If Mirai Nagasu and rookie Bradie Tennell can keep their skates beneath them they’ll be in the chase, but a medal seems unlikely. The US, which has made three straight dance podiums, should keep the string going with either world medalists Maia and Alex Shibutani or new domestic titlists Madison Hubbell and Zach Donahue. No shot in the pairs, where the Americans haven’t won anything in three decades.

Teenager Nathan Chen gives the US a good chance at gold in men’s figure skating.
Teenager Nathan Chen gives the US a good chance at gold in men’s figure skating.

Freestyle skiing

Where: Bokwang Phoenix Park.

When: Feb. 11 (women’s moguls), 12 (men’s moguls), 16 (women’s aerials and slopestyle), 17 (men’s slopestyle), 18 (men’s aerials), 19 (women’s halfpipe), 20 (men’s ski cross), 21 (men’s halfpipe), 22 (women’s ski cross).

World view: While the Americans dominate this midair sport their foreign rivals have become adept at stepping up in events where the US is thinner. The French could scoop up a half-dozen medals, the Canadians and Australians a trio apiece, the Japanese and Chinese each a couple, and the Swedes could double up in ski cross.

US outlook: The Yanks rolled a seven in Sochi and they’re poised to do at least as well again. They’ll be favored to win both aerials with world champs Ashley Caldwell and Jon Lillis, place 1-2 in men’s slopestyle with McRae Williams and Gus Kenworthy, and possibly sweep men’s halfpipe behind Aaron Blunck. Defending halfpipe champion Maddie Bowman is back as is slopestyle medalist Devin Logan, who’ll be doubling up in halfpipe. Brita Sigourney (halfpipe) and Jaelin Kauf (moguls) will contend as well.

Ice hockey

Where: Gangneung Hockey Centre and Kwandong Hockey Centre.

When: Men: Feb. 14-18 (prelims), 21 (quarterfinals), 23 (semifinals), 24 (bronze-medal match), 25 (gold-medal match). US prelim schedule: Feb. 14 Slovenia; 16 Slovakia; 17 Russia. Women: Feb. 10-15 (prelims), 17 (quarterfinals), 19 (semifinals), 21 (bronze-medal match), 22 (gold-medal match). US prelim schedule: Feb. 11 Finland; 13 Russia; 15 Canada.

World view: The NHLers may be absent for the first time since 1994 but the contenders won’t be any different than they usually are. The Canadians, who were the first men’s champions to repeat in 22 years in 2014, will be gunning for their fourth title in five Games. Sweden, runner-up last time, now is world champion. Finland, which has missed the podium only once since 1992, is chasing its fourth consecutive medal. Russia, which hasn’t won one since 2002 and was humiliated on its home ice last time, will be strongly motivated to win its first gold in 26 years. The Canadian women may be a habitual second to their US rivals at the world championships but they’ve won gold at the last four Olympics. The Finns likely will join them on the stand.

US outlook: The US males have been on-again, off-again at Olympus for two decades. Last time after being blanked by Canada they no-showed in the bronze match, where Finland hammered them by five goals. While this group figures to be competitive, a medal may be a stretch. The American women had the gold won in Sochi with four minutes to play and they’ve claimed seven of the last eight world crowns. Getting the job done at the Games has been the challenge ever since 1998, when they were upset victors.


Where: Olympic Sliding Centre.

When: Feb. 10 (men’s first two runs), 11 (men’s final two runs), 12 (women’s first two runs), 13 (women’s second two runs), 14 (men’s doubles), 15 (team relay).

World view: The Germans claimed all four golds last time and they’re the favorites to do it again with the same crew. Felix Loch will be sliding for a third consecutive title and Natalie Geisenberger and the double of Tobias Wendl and Tobias Arlt are favored to repeat, as is the relay. If Deutschland doesn’t come away with a half-dozen medals it’ll be a shortfall. Figure the Austrians for a couple as well.

US outlook: Erin Hamlin’s bronze four years ago was a breakthrough for the American women, who’d been crowded off the podium by the Germans for decades. They have an excellent chance at returning to the medal stand with Summer Britcher, who was third on the World Cup circuit, and with Hamlin, the global silver medalist. The men never have medaled in the single and won’t be close this time, although Matt Mortensen and Jayson Terdiman have an outside chance in the double.

Nordic combined

Where: Alpensia Ski Jumping Centre and Cross-Country Centre.

When: Feb. 14 (individual normal hill and 10k), 20 (individual large hill and 10k), 22 (team large hill and relay).

World view: The Norwegians topped the table last time but the Germans nudged them aside at last year’s world championships, winning all three events and sweeping the normal hill medals. That’s the way to bet in PyeongChang with Johannes Rydzek positioned to reprise his global double. The Japanese should make a podium as well.

US outlook: The Americans, who hit the motherlode in 2010 with a gold and three silvers, reverted back to the pack in Sochi. Hopes are duly modest this time around. Bryan Fletcher should place in the top 15, and he and brother Taylor could crack the top 10 in the team event.

Short-track speedskating

Where: Gangneung Ice Arena

When: Feb. 10 (men’s 1,500), 13 (women’s 500), 17 (men’s 1,000 and women’s 1,500), 20 (women’s relay), 22 (men’s 500 and relay and women’s 1,000).

World view: With Viktor Ahn, the Korean import who produced three gold medals in Sochi, kept out of these Games as a suspected doper, the Russians have been relegated to the background. The home team will have to fight to regain its primacy, though. The Chinese, who topped the table in 2014, still are the Koreans’ top rivals. The Dutch, who won their first short-track medal in Sochi, could claim a sprint gold with world champ Sjinkie Knegt plus the relay. Great Britain’s Elise Christie was the best woman on the planet last year and the Canadians should be good for five medals overall.

US outlook: When Apolo Anton Ohno retired before the last Games the Americans’ best shot for gold departed with him. While the coaching nightmare that bedeviled the team before Sochi has been cleared up, the US has struggled to break into the medals at the global level. J.R. Celski, at 27, is still the team’s top performer. He sparked his mates to a relay silver last time and could do it again. Minimal prospects for the women, who didn’t qualify the relay after winning bronze in 2010.

J.R. Celski could again spark the US to a short-track relay medal. FILE/Rick Bowmer/ASSOCIATED PRESS
J.R. Celski could again spark the US to a short-track relay medal.


Where: Alpensia Sliding Centre.

When: Feb. 14 (women’s first two runs), 15 (women’s final two runs), 16 (men’s first two runs), 17 (men’s final two runs).

World view: No Asian ever has won an Olympic skeleton medal but that should change in PyeongChang with South Korea’s Yun Sung Bin, who owned the World Cup men’s season and will be favored on his home track ahead of Latvia’s Tomass Dukurs. Though German women never have won gold they figure to end the British domination with Jacqueline Loelling and Tina Hermann likely to go 1-2.

US outlook: The Americans picked up a couple of medals in 2014 but they’re likely to come up empty this time. Matt Antoine, who earned the men’s silver, didn’t come close to a Cup podium this winter. And Katie Uhlaender finished 12th on the women’s circuit.

Ski jumping

Where: Alpensia Ski Jumping Centre.

When: Feb. 10 (men’s individual normal hill); 12 (women’s individual normal hill), 17 (men’s individual large hill), 19 (men’s team large hill).

World view: Poland’s Kamil Stoch is back to defend the twin titles he won in Sochi but he’ll get stiff challenges from Austria’s Stefan Kraft, who took both events at last year’s world championships, and Germany’s Andreas Wellinger, who was runner-up in each. The Poles will be favored in the team event, though. German world champ Carina Vogt is the one to beat on the women’s side but Norway’s Maren Lundby and the Japanese will be in her way.

US outlook: The Americans haven’t won an Olympic medal since 1924 and customarily don’t come close. That pattern will continue in 2018. Kevin Bickner is top-20 level at best and former world titlist Sarah Hendrickson hasn’t been the same since she tore up a knee before (and since) the last Games.


Where: Bokwang Phoenix Park.

When: Feb. 10 (men’s slopestyle), 11 (women’s slopestyle), 12 (women’s halfpipe), 13 (men’s halfpipe), 14 (men’s snowboardcross), 15 (women’s snowboardcross), 22 (women’s big air), 23 (men’s big air and men’s and women’s parallel giant slalom).

World view: The sport may be identified with star-spangled daredevils but it now belongs to the world. Nine countries won the 10 Olympic events at last year’s world championships, everyone from the Austrians to the Australians. Most notable is returnee Vic Wild, the American transplant who went double gold for Russia last time.

US outlook: The US won five medals four years ago, three of them gold, and that’s a reasonable expectation again. Chloe Kim, who’s favored in women’s halfpipe, is the team’s energetic new face. She’s joined by Lindsey Jacobellis, the four-time Olympian and five-time world titlist in snowboardcross, defending slopestyle champion Jamie Anderson, double global medalist Chris Corning (big air and slopestyle), and World Cup slopestyle leader Redmond Gerard. And, of course, Shaun White, who’ll be chasing his third halfpipe gold at his fourth Games.

American Chloe Kim is favored in the women’s halfpipe. Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images
American Chloe Kim is favored in the women’s halfpipe.


Where: Gangneung Oval.

When: Feb. 10 (women’s 3,000), 11 (men’s 5,000), 12 (women’s 1,500), 13 (men’s 1,500), 14 (women’s 1,000), 15 (men’s 10,000), 16 (women’s 5,000), 18 (women’s 500), 19 (men’s 500), 21 (men’s and women’s team pursuit), 23 (men’s 1,000), 24 (men’s and women’s mass start).

World view: The Dutch hit a sea-level jackpot in Sochi, winning 23 medals and eight of 12 golds, five of them on the men’s side, and collected eight titles at last year’s world single distance championships. While a repeat may be too much to ask, the Oranje still are the gilded standard at Olympus, led by Sven Kramer, who’ll be pursuing a record third straight title in the men’s 5,000 meters. They’ll get a formidable pushback in the sprints from Norway’s Havard Holmefjord Lorentzen (men) and Japan’s Nao Kodaira (women), and from American rival Heather (Richardson) Bergsma, whose husband, Torrit, won the 10,000 gold last time.

US outlook: After their worst-ever (zero medals) showing in 2014 the country that produced Eric Heiden and Bonnie Blair is desperate to get back on the podium. The best chance rides with Bergsma, who was No. 1 on the planet in the 1,000 and 1,500 last year and also is a contender in the new mass start event. Top gun on the men’s side is Joey Mantia, who’ll be favored in the mass start and could also make the stand in the 1,500.

John Powers can be reached at