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Winter Olympics Preview

All eyes on PyeongChang as the world's best gather to compete this February

It all comes down to 16 days in February. Athletes from around the world train their entire lives for the chance at one shining moment of personal - and national - glory. From the major sports to the obscure ones, the world will tune in to see their nation’s best compete for gold medals and the coveted overall medal count. 

This winter, South Korea plays host to the 2018 Winter Olympics. The South’s proximity to a rogue North Korean state - and Kim Jong-Un’s propensity for sabre rattling - will certainly be on everyone’s mind. And while the IOC (International Olympic Committee) always seems to find itself mired in some sort of controversy, every Olympic gathering has a strong undertone of worldwide unity. But let’s leave the geopolitical issues of Asia for another piece. This is a story about the Olympics!

One of the biggest stories to come out so far is the banning of Russian athletes from competing in the games for Russia. They can still compete, but it has to be under a neutral flag. The controversy came about after the IOC found evidence of multiple Russian athletes doping. Maybe they shouldn’t have been Putin those drugs in their bodies (I’ll see myself out). 

In the 2014 Games, the United States won the overall medal count (28) while Norway won the gold medal count (11). In 2018, the U.S. is poised to do some damage on the podium. 

SNOWBOARDING: Snowboarding in the Olympics made its debut at the 1998 Games in Nagano, and since, has become a household sport. Halfpipe, slalom, boardercross and slopestyle are the disciplines, and you’ll recognize a lot of the names. The addition of slopestyle has shown the world more of what snowboarding is about - halfpipe is awesome, but it’s a discipline that not a lot of riders can master. While his prominence in the snowboard industry has fallen off, Shaun White remains one of the marquee names the IOC is marketing. When White is on, he’s unbeatable in the halfpipe. Look for him to bury his performance at the 2014 Sochi Games and reclaim the crown. 

Slopestyle combines jumps and rails, where riders are judged on technicality of tricks. American and GNU Team Rider Jamie Anderson will probably nab gold. If you’ve ever seen Jamie ride, she is … really good at snowboarding. Other names to watch out for: Marcus Kleveland, Stale Sandbech, Mark McMorris, Chas Gouldemond. 

SKIING: One of the oldest events in the Winter Games, skiing has progressed to a point where the IOC thought it prudent to add slopestyle and halfpipe in as well. While you’ve probably seen Lindsey Vonn in every Olympic ad so far, don’t count out 22-year-old Mikaela Shiffrin. Shiffrin is the youngest slalom champion in Olympic history, nabbing gold in Sochi at just 18. Although suffering a knee injury last year, it’s never safe to count out American Ted Ligety. 

In slopestyle and halfpipe, Gus Kenworthy is a dual threat - he won silver at slopestyle’s inception in 2014. Rochester natives Jon and Chris Lillis have turned heads the last few years in aerials, so expect them to take some podiums. Other names to watch: Maddie Bowman, Ashley Caldwell, Julie Mancuso, Andrew Weibrecht.

ICE HOCKEY: Much to the dismay of hockey fans everywhere, NHL players will not be going to South Korea this year. And that’s especially disappointing for this Sabre fan, since Jack Eichel most certainly would have been on that team. A silver lining, however, is that Team USA may finally be able to crack the code that is Team Canada. While household NHL names won’t be competing, there are plenty of up-and-coming youngsters you’ll want to watch. Olympic hockey rosters will be revealed during the 2nd intermission of the NHL’s Winter Classic. 

OTHER SPORTS TO WATCH: FIGURE SKATING! The amount of talent these skaters possess is borderline unbelievable. Full stride skating, then jumping/spinning 4 times before landing on their feet? Good figure skaters are awesome to watch - not to mention, the outfits are always on point. Couples skating might even be more impressive. South Korean Yuna Kim took silver in Sochi behind Russian Adelina Sotnikova, but could be a favorite for gold this year. 

SKELETON/BOBSLIEGH: Props to these athletes for the infinite courage they show ripping down an icy chute at Mach 10. Bobsleigh, consisting of four people in a sleigh all shifting their weight in unison, might be an Olympic favorite (major Cool Runnings nostalgia). And if the bobsleigh athletes are courageous, those competing in Skeleton are 10x more so. With nothing but a helmet, speed suit and sled, they push 80 mph - going headfirst. 

BIATHLON: The Biathlon, which takes its origins from hunters in Scandinavia, combines skiing and marksmanship. Cruising around on cross-country skis and shooting targets seem difficult enough separate, but combining them into one while racing other athletes seems kind of difficult. Oh, and the longest track is 20 kilometers. Tune in February 9-25!