Let’s face it: Almost everyone prefers the Summer Olympics to the Winter Games. Basketball, swimming and beach volleyball are much easier sells to viewers than the likes of biathlon, skeleton and luge. The Winter Olympics also have way more time-based events, where athletes don’t directly face off against their competitors, and instead you are just staring at a running clock in the bottom-right corner of your screen, trying to calculate hundredths of a second. The Winter Olympics make you do math!
But what if you were the one crazy person out there who ranks every single Olympic event biennially and write tens of thousands of words about them? Wouldn’t this hypothetical lunatic prefer the 102 winter events to the massively bloated now-339 summer events?
Yes. Yes, I would.
1. Snowboarding - Men’s Halfpipe
The biggest showdown in Pyeongchang will feature the greatest snowboarder ever versus a 5-foot-3 teenager from Japan.
Shaun White failed in his attempt at a three-peat in Sochi when, in his final run, his board connected with the lip of the halfpipe, nearly causing him to fall. For much of the intervening four years it seemed like White’s top gear might be slipping, but the man formerly known as the Flying Tomato threw down a perfect 100 score last month to seemingly re-establish himself as the favorite.
Ayumu Hirano responded to White’s 100 with an historically great run, landing back-to back 1440s to win the X Games. At just 19, Hirano is already a veteran snowboarder; he won X Games silver when he was 14 and Olympic silver at 15.
The rest of the field is loaded: Defending Olympic champ Iouri “I-Pod” Podladtchikov of Switzerland is back, despite just suffering a fall so gruesome ESPN wouldn’t replay it.
Australia’s Scotty James, who is at least a foot taller than Hirano, is ranked first in the world.
Despite being shut out in Sochi, American men have still claimed the majority (eight of 15) of Olympic halfpipe medals.
2. Alpine Skiing - Women’s Slalom
If all goes as planned, Mikaela Shiffrin will be the biggest star of these Olympics. NBC is already positioning her as the winter version of Simone Biles.
There may have never been a bigger favorite in women’s Olympic skiing than Shiffrin is in this race. Shiffrin was 15 years old the last time someone other than her won a major slalom race,.
3. Snowboarding - Women’s Snowboard Cross
If you are looking for an athlete to root for these next 16 days, consider Lindsey Jacobellis. The American created one of the most indelible images in Olympics history when she cost herself a gold medal by showboating close to the finish line in 2006. Lindsey returned to chase gold in 2010 and 2014 but she failed to reach the finals. At 32 years old, this may be the final shot for the five-time World champion and 10-time X Games winner.
Also returning is Eva Samkova of the Czech Republic. Samkova won gold in Sochi wearing a mustache she drew above her upper lip.
4. Short Track Speed Skating- Men’s 5,000m Relay
Russia won relay gold in Sochi but they can’t even cobble together enough people for a team due to doping suspensions.
The U.S. won silver but only J.R. Celski returns from that team. (Fellow silver medalist Eddy Alvarez quit short track and is now a shortstop in the Chicago White Sox system.) The new look American squad set the world record in November and are hoping to win their first ever relay gold.
South Korea is still the favorite behind their top trio of Hwang Dae-heon, Seo Yi-ra, and Lim Hyo-jun, but Canada is actually ranked number one this year, led by Charles Hamelin, who is trying to medal for a fourth straight Olympics.
5. Snowboarding - Women’s Halfpipe
The U.S. is sending a ludicrous amount of halfpipe talent to Pyeongchang. The best of the bunch is Chloe Kim, 17, who already has three X Games titles and a perfect 100 score on her resume. Another 17-year-old American, Maddie Mastro, just won bronze at the X Games. At 34, Kelly Clark is literally twice Mastro’s and Kim’s ages, and they were not yet two years old when Clark won gold in Salt Lake City. Arielle Gold was also a 17-year-old Olympian, technically’ she was injured in a Sochi training run at the Olympics and was unable to compete.
An American sweep is possible, but China has an excellent chance to win its first halfpipe medal ever. Cai Xuetong has won silver and bronze at the X Games and Liu Jiayu has won several events recently.
6. Figure Skating - Men’s
Yuzuru Hanyu is attempting to become the first men’s skater to win back-to-back golds since Dick Button accomplished the feat in 1948 and 1952. Nathan Chen, an 18-year-old from Salt Lake City, stands in his way. Chen is the first skater in the history of the sport to land five quadruple jumps in one program, but he will be trying to win his first ever major competition.
There is tons of intrigue beyond the Big Two. Spain’s Javier Fernandez has won everywhere but the Olympics, where he narrowly finished fourth in Sochi. Shoma Uno barely lost to his compatriot Hanyu at last year’s worlds and he just turned 20 years old. Adam Rippon will become, along with freestyle skier Gus Kenworthy, one of the first two openly gay American athletes to compete at a Winter Olympics.
7. Alpine Skiing - Women’s Downhill
Lindsey Vonn’s World Cup win in Italy last month marked the 15th straight calendar year she has won a World Cup race. The American, who finished sixth in the 2002 Salt Lake City Olympics as a teenager, would be competing in her fifth Games, if not for the knee injury that knocked her out of Sochi. Vonn is probably a co-favorite here with Italy’s Sofia Goggia, but Mikaela Shiffrin, who basically just started attempting the downhill for fun, has a win and two third-place finishes this season.
8. Figure Skating - Women’s
When the possibility of a complete ban of Russia from these Olympics was being discussed, many Russian officials essentially said that these Games would have an asterisk without Russian athletes.
Here’s the truth from an American perspective: hardly anyone would care. No Russians would mean more medals for the other contending countries. It would have zero negative impact on NBC’s ratings. They might actually go up because a Russian ban is the only way the U.S. would have a chance at a medal in one of the crown jewels of every Winter Olympics, women’s figure skating.
That being said, it’s a good thing Russia isn’t banned because the battle for gold between 18-year-old Evgenia Medvedeva and her 15-year-old training partner Alina Zagitova is going to be, as the kids are saying, lit. Can I get away with saying lit, I’m 34? No? Okay.
Some fans were hoping for a Simone Biles-esque coronation for Medvedeva, but Zagitova just threw those plans out the window at last month’s European Championships by handing Medvedeva her first loss since 2015.
Medvedeva is still going to be hard to beat in Pyeongchang. Last year alone, she posted the highest score of all time in January, broke her own record in March, then absolutely obliterated it in April.
The race for third is wide open: Italy’s Carolina Kostner won bronze in Sochi...Maria Sotskova could complete the sweep for Russia (or “Olympic Athletes from Russia,” as the IOC is calling them)...Japan’s Satoko Miyahara is 19 and three years removed from a silver at worlds...the Canadian duo of Kaetlyn Osmond and Gabrielle Daleman went silver-bronze at the last worlds.
To date, Christine Haigler’s seventh place finish in 1964 is the worst result for the top American finisher in Olympic history. That record is in some danger with arguably the weakest trio of American skaters in recent memory. The immediate goal for Karen Chen, Mirai Nagasu and Bradie Tennell is just to make the final group of six skaters.
T9. Hockey - Men’s
The NHL trying to claim that sending players to the Olympics had no discernible impact on the sport is ludicrous.
From an American perspective, the most relevant hockey moment this decade was the Zach Parise/Sidney Crosby gold medal game at the 2010 Olympics. Of course, with the most exciting crop of young stars in years, it is classic Bettman to keep everyone home.
The American team would have been loaded with young studs like Auston Matthews, Jack Eichel, Johnny Gaudreau, Brock Boeser, and Charlie McAvoy. If you are reaching diminishing returns by the end of that list, don’t worry, Gary Bettman swears the Olympics wouldn’t have impacted your awareness of them.
Besides, why would you want the casual American sports fan to find out what Connor McDavid looks like? McDavid, by the way, has zero national TV games remaining this season.
T9. Hockey - Women’s
Since 1990, there have been 23 (five Olympics, 18 World Championships) major women’s hockey tournaments. In 22 of those 23 the final has been between the United States and Canada. The outlier was the 2006 Olympics when the Americans lost their semifinal 3-2 to Sweden, in the biggest, and essentially only upset in the sport’s history.
The American women have dominated at worlds, winning seven of the last eight golds, while Canada has owned the Olympics, winning the past four tournaments, after the Americans won the inaugural gold in 1998.
Right now, the smart money is on Canada, which defeated the U.S. in five out of six Olympic tune-up matches.
11. Curling - Men’s
Canada heads to South Korea looking for a fourth straight Olympic gold.
The Canadian men just steamrolled through last year’s worlds, winning all 13 matches; no one even came within one point of them. Canada defeated Sweden three times en route to victory last year but Niklas Edin is the skip of the top team in the world and his Swedish side will be hungry for revenge. But John Shuster’s American side has legitimate medal hopes, as do Switzerland and Team GB which won silver in Sochi.
12. Alpine Skiing- Men’s Downhill
Germany’s Thomas Dressen enters the Olympic downhill race with momentum on his side, having won the most prestigious race on the World Cup circuit, the downhill at Kitzbühl. The victory was the first downhill win for a German man in 13 years and winning at Kitzbühl was especially poignant for Dressen, whose father was killed in a ski lift accident at a nearby Austrian resort in 2005.
13. Freestyle Skiing - Women’s Slopestyle
Devin Logan won slopestyle silver for the U.S. in Sochi, but this is no longer her best event, she has a better chance in halfpipe.
Fellow American Maggie Voisin just won X Games gold and may be the favorite. Voisin is making her Olympics debut because she was injured after being selected to the Sochi team at the age of 15.
At 19, Voisin is basically old for this event. France’s Tess Ledeux won the 2017 World Championships; she was born in November 2001. World No. 1 Jennie-Lee Burmansson of Sweden was born in July 2002. These young contenders really make me think that my sister, who was born in May 2001, and isn’t even in the Olympics this year, is totally wasting her life away.
14. Alpine Skiing - Women’s Giant Slalom
This is looking like a three-woman race among Mikaela Shiffrin, 2010 Olympic champion Viktoria Rebensburg of Germany, and Tessa Worley of France, who has been an elite GS skier for almost a decade but missed the 2014 Olympics due to an ACL tear. At last year’s worlds, Rebensburg did not complete her first run and Worley beat Shiffrin for gold by 0.34 seconds.
15. Cross-Country Skiing - Women’s Individual Sprint
No American woman has ever won a cross-country skiing medal. That is likely to change on Tuesday (Feb. 13) when an all-star crew of American sprinters have a realistic shot at the podium. At last year’s World Championships,107 skiers competed, and three of the six who made the finals were American. Jessica Diggins took silver, Kikkan Randall earned bronze and Sophie Caldwell finished sixth.
Randall and snowboarder Kelly Clark will become the first American women to compete in five Winter Olympics.
16. Speed Skating - Women’s 500m
Erin Jackson has the coolest story in all of speed skating. Jackson took up the sport last year and with only about four months of experience claimed the third and final American spot for this event at Olympic trials. She’s the first African-American female to make an Olympic long-track speed skating team.
If you had been speed skating your entire life and lost to Jackson at Olympic trials, LEGALLY you have to retire from the sport.
17. Alpine Skiing - Men’s Super G
At 35, Aksel Lund Svindal is almost certainly in his final Olympics. Svindal, arguably Norway’s greatest skier ever, was shut out in Sochi after claiming three medals in Vancouver.
Here’s one of my favorite stats : After finishing 21st in his first ever Olympic downhill, Svindal has finished 1-2-3-4-5-6-7-8 in his last eight Olympic races (excluding DNF’s).
18. Snowboarding - Men’s Snowboard Cross
France’s Pierre Vaultier is the favorite here. He won gold in Sochi on a torn ACL.
Alex “Chumpy” Pullin of Australia is No. 2 in the world, but has flamed out in both previous Olympic appearances.
The four-man American squad includes Jonathan Cheever, a licensed plumber from Saugus, Mass., making his Olympic debut at age 32.
19. Short Track Speed Skating - Men’s 500m
Since its Olympic debut in 1992, short track speed skating has been dominated by four nations, with South Korea, China, Canada, and the U.S. winning almost 90 percent of the available medals. Hungary has never won a gold medal at the Winter Olympics, but that might change in Pyeongchang as Sándor Liu Shaolin is ranked No. 1 in the world at 1,000 and is a former world champion at 500. His younger brother Liu Shaoang is also a medal threat at every distance.
20. Bobsled - Women’s
The true story of the Jamaican bobsled team portrayed in Cool Runnings took place in 1988. Thirty years later, Jamaica will have its first women’s bobsled team. Jazmine Fenlator-Victorian will pilot the sled, after switching nationalities. Jazmine competed with Lolo Jones for the U.S. in 2014, finishing in an underwhelming 11th place. Lolo, meanwhile continued her tortured Olympic history last month when she failed to make the American bobsled team, which only qualified two sleds instead of the expected three.
After earning bronze in 2010 and silver in 2014, Elana Meyers Taylor (USA) will continue her quest to finally topple Kaillie Humphries (CAN), who has won the past two golds.
21. Alpine Skiing - Men’s Slalom
Marcel Hirscher has been the top-ranked skier in the world for seven consecutive seasons. He is almost certainly on the men’s alpine skiing Mount Rushmore. But the largest prize has eluded Hirscher, as he has never won Olympic gold, finishing 5-4-2-4 in his four Olympic races.
The Austrian has been unstoppable in the slalom this season, having already won a career-best six races. Hirscher’s toughest competition will come from Henrik Kristoffersen of Norway. The pair has finished 1-2 at 11 different World Cup races the past two seasons.
22. Speed Skating - Women’s 5,000m
Claudia Pechstein will celebrate her 46th birthday during these Olympics. The German skater won her first medal in 1992, and then earned two more in each of the next four Olympics. Three of Pechstein’s Olympic medals are older than one of her main rivals, Esmee Visser of the Netherlands.
After missing 2010 due to a controversial doping suspension, Pechstein narrowly missed the podium in 2014 with fourth- and fifth-place finishes.
If 2010 and 2014 gold medal winner Martina Sáblíková of the Czech Republic is not yet recovered from her back injury, Pechstein could enter this race as the favorite.
23. Freestyle Skiing - Women’s Halfpipe
The United States gets four spots in this event and the American team is so deep they were able to leave off World No. 6 Carly Margulies. Brita Sigourney is ranked first in the world but teammate Maddie Bowman, the only Olympic gold medalist in this young event’s history, just beat Sigourney to win the X Games.
The top non-Americans are 2016 X Games Europe winner Cassie Sharpe of Canada and Olympic silver medalist Marie Martinod of France.
24. Curling - Women’s
If last year’s World Championships were an Olympic prelude, then the rest of the world should watch out. Rachel Homan’s Canadian squad went 13-0 en route to victory, putting up blowout 7-3 and 8-3 wins in the playoff round.
Outside of Canada, many teams may be fighting for silver and bronze. Eve Muirhead returns to skip Team GB after taking bronze in Sochi...Anna Hasselborg leads a young Swedish team that performed well at last year’s worlds...Nina Roth’s U.S. squad is also in the hunt for a medal.
25. Alpine Skiing - Women’s Super G
The Super G, the one event Mikaela Shiffrin has never won, is wide open: Reigning World champ Nicole Schmidhofer could become the fourth different Austrian woman in four Olympics to win Super G gold...Switzerland’s Lara Gut is ranked No. 1 in the world in the discipline this year...Tina Weirather of Liechtenstein was first in the Super G last year and is looking to make up for a tortured Olympics history. After making the 2006 Olympics at age 16, Weirather missed 2010 with an ACL tear and was injured at the 2014 Olympics in a training run.
Fun fact: Liechtenstein is the only nation to have won a medal in the Winter Olympics but not the Summer. There are over 100 nations that have Summer medals, but not Winter.
26. Short Track Speed Skating - Men’s 1,000m
With the defending gold medalist Victor Ahn out of the Olympics as part of the Russian doping scandal, the top non-Korean skater is probably China’s Wu Dajing, who won silver in Sochi.
The top American in short track is J.R. Celski, entering his third Olympics. Celski has three medals, but none are gold.
27. Cross-Country Skiing - Women’s 10km Freestyle
Sweden’s Charlotte Kalla has owned this distance for years. Kalla is a former world champ at 10 kilometers, in addition to earning gold and silver medals at the past two Olympics.
Norway’s Marit Bjørgen is the current world champion at 10km and won medals at the distance in 2006 and 2010, before finishing fifth in 2014.
The surprise contender here is Minnesotan Jessica Diggins, who will have several chances to win the first U.S. gold in the sport. Diggins won a shock gold medal in the team sprint at 2013 worlds and followed it up two years later with an individual silver, then a bronze in this year’s Tour de Ski.
28. Alpine Skiing - Men’s Giant Slalom
Ted Ligety is a big-game skier. A 21 year-old Ligety burst onto the scene with a stunning gold medal in the 2006 Olympics in the Super Combined. While many people assumed he might be a one-hit wonder, Ligety slowly built himself into a Giant Slalom star, winning every major race from 2011 until last year, when he followed up an ACL tear with back surgery. At 33, Ligety has not won a race on the World Cup circuit since 2015, but he just returned to the podium in his last pre-Olympics race, so it would be crazy to count him out in Pyeongchang.
29. Biathlon - Men’s Individual
No American has ever won an Olympic biathlon medal. It is the only winter sport in which the U.S. has never earned a medal (the three medal-less summer sports are handball, table tennis, and badminton). Lowell Bailey and Tim Burke are both optimistic they can end the American drought.
Bailey, now 36, achieved one of the most stunning results in the history of the sport last year when he rode a perfect shooting day to a gold medal win at the World Championships. Bailey’s feat was not just historic for an American—he became the oldest person to ever win an individual biathlon gold medal.
Tim Burke, who was actually ranked first in the world for a hot minute in 2009, has had stronger results than Bailey this season, finishing as high as fourth at a World Cup race. Like Bailey, Burke is in his fourth Olympics, but Burke has never finished better than 18th in an individual Olympic event.
30. Short Track Speed Skating - Women’s 1,000m
Shim Suk-hee is one of the best speed skaters in the world but she enters these Games amid one of the worst distractions imaginable. Shim had to leave training last month for multiple days after she was beaten by a coach, who has since been suspended. If Shim is ready to go, the 21-year-old is a medal contender in every race, particularly in this one where she owns the world record.
31. Freestyle Skiing - Men’s Halfpipe
This team is so stacked that the group the United States left at home could show up under a different flag and sweep the podium. The best three in the world right now are Americans: Top-ranked Alex Ferreira, Olympic champion David Wise, and X Games winner Aaron Blunck. That trio just swept the X Games. Rounding out the quartet is Torin Yater-Wallace who once won an X Games medal when he was 15.
32. Bobsled - Two-Man
Steven Holcomb, the most accomplished bobsledder in U.S. history, was found dead in a Lake Placid room in May. The American team has spent the past nine months coming to grips with the loss of their leader, arguably the most famous man in the sport.
In an odd note, Holcomb is likely to posthumously upgrade his pair of Sochi bronzes to silvers, as the gold medal winning Russians have been stripped of their medals in both two- and four-man bobsled.
Holcomb’s gold medal-winning sledmates Steven Langton and Chris Fogt are among the American bobsledders looking to win a medal in Holcomb’s honor.
33. Alpine Skiing - Women’s Combined
If Mikaela Shiffrin enters the combined, she will be the favorite. If she doesn’t, look out for Wendy Holdener, who is the defending champion from worlds. The Swiss skier won this event the only time it was contested this World Cup season.
All three medalists from Sochi, Maria Hofl-Riesch, Nicole Hosp, and Julia Mancuso, have retired.
34. Cross-Country Skiing - Women’s Team Sprint
The top three contenders are Sweden, the U.S., and Norway, all of which have multiple sprinters in the top 10 this season. Sweden will likely trot out Hanna Falk and top-ranked Stina Nilsson. Norway has Heidi Weng and Maiken Caspersen Falla, who won gold in Sochi.
The Americans have tough choices in picking two women to run this race. Sadie Bjornsen and Jessica Diggins ran this at the last World Championships and won bronze. But Sophie Caldwell, who crashed in the sprint final in Sochi, costing herself a medal, has been more consistent than either and has likely forced her way into the relay.
35. Speed Skating - Men’s Mass Start
Here are my five favorite names in these Olympics:
5. Benedikt Doll (Germany) Biathlon
4. Wiley Maple (U.S.) Alpine Skiing
3. Wolfgang Kindl (Austria) Luge
2. Bart Swings (Belgium) Speed Skating
1. Dave “One Vowel” Greszczyszyn (Canada) Skeleton
36. Curling - Mixed Doubles
Mixed doubles curling is making its Olympics debut. This version is played with only two players per side instead of four, one man and one woman, with no substitutions. Some rule adjustments are also made to shorten the length of each game. Each team throws five stones per end, rather than six, and games last eight ends instead of traditional curling’s 10.
Every other country selected a mixed doubles team independent from their 4-person squads, but the U.S. has brother-sister duo Matt and Becca Hamilton working overtime in both tournaments.
The gold medal may come down to Canada and Switzerland. Canada has the luxury of sending out a pair of gold medalists, Kaitlyn Lawes who won gold in Sochi and John Morris, aka Johnny Mo, who won gold at home in 2010. Switzerland counters with Jenny Perret and Martin Rios, who won last year’s World Championship, albeit against a different Canadian side.
37. Skeleton - Men’s
Martins Dukurs of Latvia is the greatest skeleton athlete of all time. But, in 2010 he went to the Vancouver Olympics and lost to Canada’s Jon Montgomery on his hometown track. In 2014 Dukurs lost to Russia’s Aleksandr Tretyakov in Sochi. As fate would have it, Dukurs will play yet another road game, as he will need to defeat the white-hot Yun Sung-bin in his native South Korea.
American Matthew Antoine won bronze in Sochi, but he has had an awful 2017-18 season and does not figure to contend this time around.
Adam Edelman of Israel is set to become the first Orthodox Jew to compete at the Winter Olympics. It’s a good thing the skeleton competition is on Thursday and Friday mornings, because Edelman doesn’t roll (down the hill) on Shabbos.
38. Freestyle Skiing - Men’s Moguls
Mikaël Kingsbury (CAN) might be the biggest gold medal favorite in any individual Olympic event. Until a loss two weeks ago, Kingsbury was unbeaten on the World Cup circuit since January 2017. At 25, the Canadian is in his seventh straight year of being No. 1 in the world.
Kingsbury, who won silver in Sochi, also no longer has to contend with now-retired countryman Alexandre Bilodeau, who won gold in both 2010 and 2014.
You might be able to get a good look at Kingsbury early, as this competition actually starts Thursday (Which is Friday morning in South Korea).
39. Figure Skating - Pairs
Aljona Savchenko is competing in her fifth Olympics, with her third partner, for her second country, looking for her first gold medal, skating under the German flag with her French partner. Savchenko and Bruno Massot, who was just granted German citizenship in November after narrowly passing the German proficiency test in his final try, have won many minor competitions together, but have won only silver and bronze at worlds and Euros, respectively. Their toughest competition is the reigning pairs World champion, Han Cong and Sui Wenjing of China.
Canada’s Meagan Duhamel and Eric Radford are the favorites for bronze. The U.S. has not won a pairs medal since 1988 and only qualified one duo, Alexa Scimeca Knierim and Chris Knierim, a husband-wife team that is not expected to contend.
40. Alpine Skiing - Men’s Combined
This is probably the final combined race in Olympic history; the sport is moving towards replacing combined with a parallel event, ie. two skiers going down the hill at the same time. Currently, combined is only contested twice per season on the World Cup circuit, compared to slalom, which is raced a dozen times. This makes the event hard to predict and leads to some stunning Olympic results; the little-heralded Sandro Viletta of Switzerland won gold in his only race in Sochi.
Marcel Hirscher, the slalom and giant slalom favorite, might be the man to beat here, even though he has never contested the event in the Olympics before. Hirscher won the combined at the 2015 worlds and finished second by 0.01 seconds in 2017.
41. Short Track Speed Skating - Men’s 1,500m
South Korea has been the historic powerhouse in short track but the Korean men shockingly went home empty-handed in Sochi, while their female counterparts won at least one medal in every race. This is a new-look South Korea squad, not a single racer returns from Sochi. The best of the bunch might be 18 year-old Hwang Dae-heon who has dominated the circuit this season and owns the WR in the 1,000.
Watch out for Sjinkie Knegt of the Netherlands, he is the 1,500 world record holder and won three golds at last year’s worlds.
42. Biathlon - Women’s Mass Start
Susan Dunklee of Vermont took silver in the mass start at last year’s World Championships, becoming the first American woman to ever win a major biathlon medal. Dunklee could become the first American, man or woman, to win an Olympic biathlon medal if she repeats that feat in Pyeongchang.
Unfortunately, Dunklee, a Dartmouth grad whose hobbies include unicycling and beekeeping, may have peaked last year, as her ranking has slipped to 39 on the current World Cup circuit.
43. Luge - Men’s Singles
Since 1992, only three men have won the men’s luge. Georg Hackl took gold at all three Winter Olympics in the 1990s. Hackl’s quest for a fourpeat was denied by Italy’s Armin Zöeggler in Salt Lake City. After winning his hometown Olympics in 2006, the Zöeggler era was ended by Felix Loch in 2010. Loch fended off Zöeggler one final time in 2014 and enters 2018 as the prohibitive favorite. Some might even say he’s a Loch.
So, is King Felix’s era coming to an end? It’s unlikely, but his toughest competition appears to be the reigning world champion, Austria’s Wolfgang Kindl, plus the Russian duo of Semen Pavlichenko and 21-year-old Roman Repilov.
The U.S. has never won a medal in men’s singles and that will likely continue. The best of the bunch is probably Tucker West, who made the Sochi Olympics as a teenager and won a World Cup event in 2016.
44. Snowboarding - Women’s Slopestyle
If there is going to be a Team USA sweep, it will probably be in this event.
Jamie Anderson won the first ever slopestyle gold in Sochi, cementing herself as the greatest ever in the discipline. Anderson recently re-established herself as the favorite in South Korea by winning X Games gold, her fifth...Julia Marino topped Anderson to win the X Games last year...Hailey Langland is just 17 years old and won a slopestyle X Games medal at 15.
45. Freestyle Skiing- Women’s Ski Cross
Five biggest individual gold medal favorites of the Olympics:
5. Maren Lundby (Norway) Ski Jumping- Women’s Normal Hill
4. Felix Loch (Germany) Luge- Men’s Singles
3. Sandra Näslund (Sweden) Freestyle Skiing- Women’s Ski Cross
2. Mikael Kingsbury (Canada) Freestyle Skiing- Men’s Moguls
1. Anna Gasser (Austria) Snowboarding- Women’s Big Air
46. Alpine Skiing - Mixed Event
This is the first time the mixed event has been contested at an Olympics. It features a 16 team knockout-style bracket, where each team selects two men and two women who take turns racing against each other in parallel fashion, going down the mountain at the same time. If after all four races, the score is tied 2-2, the tiebreaker is the combined fastest time of each team’s top male and female skier.
This event is rarely raced on the top circuit, so it is tough to predict. Austria might be the favorite, though France was the world champion. The U.S. team, likely without Lindsey Vonn and Mikaela Shiffrin, will struggle to compete.
47. Speed Skating- Women’s 3,000m
This will be an extremely rare Olympic event which features three returning gold medalists: 2002 champ Claudia Pechstein, 2006 and 2014 winner Ireen Wüst, and Martina Sablikova, who won won this race in 2010.
48. Cross-Country Skiing - Women’s Relay
The Norwegians are so deep they could throw out two different teams and be favored for gold and silver. Their top three skiers, Marit Bjørgen, Heidi Weng, and Ingvild Flugstad Østberg are arguably the three best in the world.
Crazy things do happen in Olympic relays and Norway somehow finished a disastrous fifth place in Sochi, but don’t expect a repeat; Norway won last year’s worlds relay by a ludicrous one-minute margin.
The teams from Sweden and Finland, which finished 1-2 at the last Olympics, will also be in the hunt. A likely American quartet of Jessica Diggins, Sophie Caldwell, Kikkan Randall, and Sadie Bjornsen will be legitimate medal contenders.
49. Biathlon - Men’s Relay
Russia is the defending Olympic and world champion in the relay, but their team was just thrown for a loop after star Anton Shipulin, a lawyer whose nickname is “The Champion of Everything”, was banned from the Olympics as part of Russia’s ongoing doping scandal...Norway can throw out a team of four studs, led by the Bø brothers, but they haven’t won a major relay in five years...The American men, who haven’t finished better than eighth here since 1972, don’t have the depth behind Lowell Bailey and Tim Burke to compete.
50. Luge - Women’s Singles
German women have absolutely owned this event, winning 12 of the 15 available medals at the past five Olympics, and another sweep looks likely. Natalie Geisenberger, who won gold in Sochi, is the favorite again after locking up her sixth consecutive World Cup title. Fellow German Tatjana Hüfner has won medals of every color at the last three Olympics and is the reigning world champion. The weakest link in the hopes for a German sweep is Dajana Eitberger who is third in the world this year but has had limited international experience.
If someone will break up the German troika it will probably be a North American. The only non-Germans to win a World Cup race this season are Americans Emily Sweeney and Summer Britcher. Erin Hamlin became the first ever American to win a singles luge medal in Sochi. Canada’s Alex Gough and Kimberley McRae finished 4-5 in Sochi and both finished top-five at the last World Championships.
51. Short Track Speed Skating - Women’s 1,500m
Four years ago, Elise Christie might have had the worst Olympics of anyone in Sochi, other than the guy responsible for switching out all those Russian athletes’ urine samples. (Allegedly.)
Christie (GBR) was somehow DQ’d from all three Olympic races she entered. Then she had to deal with cyberbullying and a brutal concussion. She bounced back in a big way and is now the reigning world champion or world record holder in all three individual events.
52. Figure Skating - Ice Dancing
It’s is setting up to be one of the most epic battles in Pyeongchang: the upstart French team of Gabriella Papadakis and Guillaume Cizeron versus Canadian icons Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir.
Virtue/Moir won hometown gold in 2010 when Papadakis was only 14 years old. They followed up with a double-silver in Sochi, then sat out the 2015 and 2016 seasons. In their absence, Papadakis/Cizeron won two world titles.
When they finally faced off in a major competition, at last year’s worlds, Virtue/Moir eked out a narrow victory over Papadakis/Cizeron. The French team returned the favor by defeating Virtue/Moir at the Grand Prix in December, posting the highest score in history, which they just broke again at last month’s European Championships.
The race for bronze features three American teams, the best of the bunch being the ShibSibs, Maia and Alex Shibutani.
53. Snowboarding - Men’s Big Air
The same group of snowboarders compete in both big air and slopestyle. Marcus Kleveland of Norway (which happens to be the Cleveland of Europe) is a medal contender in both. Kleveland, just 18 years old, is the first person to land an 1800 quad cork in competition.
Another 18-year-old, American Chris Corning, is also a medal contender in both events. If he wins gold he has a great chance of earning a Wikipedia page, which he currently does not have.
54. Speed Skating - Men’s 5,000m
The race for gold here is between Sven Kramer of the Netherlands and Ted-Jan Bloemen, who was born in the Netherlands, but skates for Canada. They have the two fastest 5k times in history, but Bloemen’s was set in December and Kramer’s was set in 2007.
No man from New Zealand has ever won a Winter Olympic medal, but Peter Michael has an outside chance here.
55. Biathlon - Women’s Individual
Darya Domracheva is the best biathlete in the world, but she hasn’t always been the best in her own house. Domracheva is married to Ole Einar Bjørndalen, the Michael Jordan of the biathlon. (I assume in Norway they would say that Jordan is the Bjørndalen of basketball. Unless Norwegians are LeBron people; I hear they prefer VORP to PER in Oslo.)
Domracheva won three of the four available individual golds in Sochi, but somehow the Belarusian heads to Pyeongchang four years later with even more momentum and a real chance at household bragging rights. Bjørndalen, 44, narrowly missed making what would have been his seventh Olympic team.
56. Freestyle Skiing - Women’s Moguls
Australia’s Britteny Cox was the youngest athlete at the 2010 Vancouver Olympics, then finished fifth in 2014. She enters her third Olympics at the ripe old age of 23 as a favorite...Jaelin Kauf of Wyoming is the top-ranked mogul skier on the circuit this season and may be Cox’s toughest competition...Canada’s Justine Dufour-Lapointe is the defending Olympic champion from Sochi where she beat her sister Chloe, who won silver.
57. Luge - Doubles
This is a two-sled race between a pair of German duos. Toni Eggert and Sascha Benecken are the reigning world champions and totally dominated the World Cup circuit this season. Eggert is a soldier in the German army who lists his hobby on the luge federation’s website as “girl-friend.”
Eggert/Benecken’s stiffest competition are “the Two Tobis,” Tobias Wendl and Tobias Arlt. Wendl/Arlt won gold in Sochi but have been beaten consistently in the past year by their fellow Germans.
58. Ski Jumping - Men’s Large Hill
As someone who is afraid of heights, ski jumping is literally the last Olympic sport, winter or summer, that I would be willing to do. I would sooner enter the Olympic boxing tournament, even though I’m fat and would probably have to fight as a heavyweight against some dude a foot taller than me. If you offered me a million dollars to ski jump once, I would flat out decline. I would think about it for 10 million.
59. Ski Jumping - Men’s Normal Hill
You know who loves ski jumping? Noriaki Kasai. He debuted on the circuit in 1988 and will compete in his eighth Olympics this year at the age of 45. Twenty years after winning his first Olympic medal in a team event in Lillehammer, Kasai claimed his first individual medal, winning silver in 2014.
The man who beat Kasai is Poland’s Kamil Stoch, who won both individual ski jumping events in Sochi and looks like the favorite to repeat here.
60. Speed Skating - Women’s Mass Start
Kim Bo-reum will be one of the biggest stars of these Games if she manages to win the mass start, the first time it is being contested in an Olympics, in front of her home crowd.
Speaking of South Korea, internet law dictates that 10,000 words into any article, you are allowed to plug your favorite obscure television show, if it happens to also take place in the host country of the current Olympics. Anyway, the best television show produced in the post-Breaking Bad era is a South Korean strategy game-show called The Genius, with incredibly original editing and an amazing, definitely unlicensed soundtrack. The whole first season is on YouTube with subtitles. Money back guarantee if you don’t like it.
61. Biathlon - Men’s Pursuit
In the pursuit event, you are given a head start based on how well you finished the previous day’s sprint. So, if you win gold in the sprint by 20 seconds, you also have a 20 second lead to begin the pursuit race. It sounds like too much of an advantage; should Usain Bolt get a head start in the 200 because he won the 100? Ultimately, it does not assure a second automatic gold medal in what is approximately a half-hour race, only one sprint winner has also won the pursuit. The largest deficit anyone has ever come back from to win is 72 seconds.
France’s Martin Fourcade, a favorite here, won the pursuit in 2014, despite beginning in sixth, 12 seconds behind the leader.
62. Figure Skating - Team Event
This event, which starts before the opening ceremonies, makes no sense. Why do we need to see virtually all of the elite skaters do their exact programs just days before they compete for (real) gold? Why are some pairs skaters forced to compete four times in one week? Shouldn’t this event be after the individual competitions? Usain Bolt doesn’t start off with the 4x100.
Anyway, Canada and Russia will fight for gold. The U.S. is the favorite for bronze.
63. Cross-Country Skiing - Men’s Team Sprint
The only American to ever win a cross-country medal was Bill Koch (silver) in 1976. While the American women are almost certain to break that streak in Pyeongchang, possibly many times over, there is no real medal contender among the American men.
For what it’s worth, this is probably their best chance—the expected team of Erik Bjornsen and Simi Hamilton finished sixth in the team sprint in Sochi.
64. Short Track Speed Skating - Women’s 3,000m Relay
The American women did not even qualify a team for this relay...South Korea has won five of the last six Olympic relays and are the favorites again...Watch out for China, the only other country to win gold and the defending world champs.
65. Biathlon - Men’s Mass Start
There have been 15 biathlon races on the World Cup circuit this season. Two men have combined to win 14 of them.
Norway’s Johannes Thingnes Bø (eight wins) was only 20 years old at the last Olympics, where he failed to medal in five races. Since Sochi, Bø has become a star, winning medals in nine of his 18 World Championship races.
Martin Fourcade (six wins) has been ranked first in the world for six years running, though Bø has a shot of ending the streak this season. Fourcade was one of the biggest winners in Sochi, taking home two golds and a bronze. The Frenchman won a ridiculous 10 medals out of a possible 12 at the World Championship events in 2016 and 2017.
Fourcade vs. Bø will be one of the biggest storylines in Pyeongchang and they may face off as many as six different times.
66. Luge - Team Relay
This is only the second Olympics that the team relay has been contested. Germany won gold in 2014 and will do so again in 2018. Russia won silver, which was vacated due to doping violations, then reinstated last week.
In a decision that can only be classified as criminally insane, the Russians who were banned for life from the Olympics for doping violations were still allowed to compete on the World Cup circuit, accruing points that allow other Russians to make the Olympics. (Many of these athletes were unbanned last week. At least for now.)
Second and third place here are wide open—the U.S. has a shot but so do Canada/Italy/Latvia/Austria.
67. Freestyle Skiing - Men’s Ski Cross
Jean-Frédéric Chapuis looks to defend his gold medal from Sochi, where he led a French sweep...Brady Leman of Canada crashed in that Olympic final and finished 4th...There are no American ski-crossers at these Olympics.
68. Speed Skating - Men’s 10,000m
Sven Kramer from the Netherlands hopes to finally remove the only blemish from his resume by winning gold in the 10,000. Kramer famously was DQ’d in Vancouver for accidentally skating in the wrong lane, costing himself a gold, then narrowly lost to countryman Jorrit Bergsma in 2014. Bergsma is in Kramer’s way again here, as is world record holder Canada’s Ted-Jan Bloemen.
69. Cross-Country Skiing - Men’s Relay
Sweden has won this event at the past two Olympics and will return the core of their relay squad. However, Sweden does not have any elite racers at the moment, unlike their neighbors to the west, the Norwegians, who can fill their squad with four top-10 skiers.
70. Biathlon - Women’s Relay
Germany has been dominant in the relay recently, winning the most recent World Championships and seven of the past eight World Cup races. Led by Laura Dahlmeier, they are the only nation that is so deep they need to leave a world-class biathlete off the four-woman squad.
France has a chance to win their first relay since 1992; they failed to complete this event in 2014 when their first skier collapsed.
The U.S. finished sixth in Sochi, but matching that seems like a tall order; only two American women, Susan Dunklee and Clare Egan, are competitive on the top circuit.
71. Snowboarding - Men’s Slopestyle
Canadian Mark McMorris won bronze in the inaugural Olympic slopestyle event in Sochi. McMorris will look to better his podium standing this time around, but he is also just lucky to be alive, after a horrific snowboarding accident last March almost killed him.
Watch out for 18-year-old American Red Gerard, who has a snowboard park in the backyard of his family’s Colorado home.
72. Bobsled - Four-Man
There will be no repeat gold medalists in this event because all four Russians who won four-man gold in Sochi were independently banned from the Olympics for doping. That team’s pilot, Alexandr Zubkov, fell into a sweet new job. He is now the head of Russia’s Bobsled and Skeleton federation.
73. Speed Skating - Men’s 1,500m
With Russian world record-holder Denis Yuskov banned, American Joey Mantia has a real chance at a medal. Mantia will be facing off against a tough trio of Dutch skaters, including Koen Verweij, who lost this event in Sochi by three thousandths of a second.
74. Freestyle Skiing - Men’s Aerials
Men’s aerials are generally a battle between China and Belarus, winners of the last three Olympic golds.
Russia’s Maxim Burov is on a hot streak and is looking to break up the party, but Anton Kushnir of Belarus is defending his gold medal and might be the favorite.
China’s duo of world champion Qi Guangpu and Olympic bronze medalist Jia Zongyang could both medal.
Mac Bohonnon of Connecticut finished 5th in Sochi. New Yorker Jonathon Lillis was the surprise world champion last year.
75. Skeleton - Women’s
One of the strangest byproducts of the Russian doping scandal was the black hole it left in the Sochi record books. The third, fifth- and sixth-place women from the 2014 skeleton competition were all Russians whose results were stricken. The seventh-place finisher was sitting in fourth, technically, one stray doping revelation away from a bronze medal. But, just last week those results were reinstated, at least for now, though the athletes are still banned from competing in South Korea.
The top contenders this time are German police officers Tina Hermann and Jacqueline Lolling, plus Canada’s Elisabeth Vathje and Janine Flock of Austria.
76. Cross-Country Skiing - Men’s 15km Freestyle
Martin Johnsrud Sundby is the greatest cross-country skier to never win a major individual race. Sundby has won two medals in eight Olympic events, none gold. Similarly, at the World Championships, Sundby has won three silvers and a bronze in individual events.
He has a chance to finally break through in Pyeongchang, but at 33, he is no longer the best in the world. After dominating the 2015-16 and 2016-17 seasons, Sundby has been supplanted at number one by countryman Johannes Høsflot Klæbo who has taken the sport by storm at the age of 21.
77. Snowboarding - Women’s Big Air
The smart money is on Austria’s Anna Gasser in the inaugural Olympic big air event. Gasser just won the X Games to add to her worlds title, she also wins virtually every event on the World Cup circuit.
Big Air and Slopestyle feature the exact same athletes. The U.S. is stronger in slopestyle, but their foursome here has several contenders. Julia Marino is an X Games silver medalist, Hailey Langland has an X Games gold, and Jamie Anderson has an Olympic gold in slopestyle.
78. Freestyle Skiing - Women’s Aerials
The top 17 aerialists hail from just five countries (China/Belarus/U.S./Australia/Russia).
Australia’s Lydia Lassila is in her fifth Olympics; she won gold in her third, then gave birth to a son, won bronze her fourth time out, then had another son.
China’s Xu Mengtao is ranked first in the world and she is looking to upgrade from Sochi silver to Pyeongchang gold.
American Ashley Caldwell finished 10th in both Vancouver and Sochi, but is the current world champion.
79. Short Track Speed Skating - Women’s 500m
I say this as respectfully as possible: Canada’s Marianne St-Gelais is better at winning silver medals than any other athlete in history. Between the Olympics and World Championships, St-Gelais has won one gold and an impossible 14 silvers. To make matters worse, she has to go home every night and see the trophy case with the three Olympic golds her fiancé Charles Hamelin has won. (I’m just assuming in Canada people have started living in sin by this point.)
80. Biathlon - Men’s Sprint
Like many biathlon races nowadays, this figures to be a two-man show between Martin Fourcade and Johannes Thingnes Bø. The race for third in biathlon is more competitive.
The only person to win a World Cup race this year outside the big two is Bø’s older brother Tarjei Bø.
81. Speed Skating - Men’s 1,000m
In 1994, Johann Olav Koss and Bonnie Blair each won multiple speed skating gold medals. At the end of the year, some 10 months later, Sports Illustrated named them Sportsman and Sportswoman of the Year. I bring this up only to ask the question, what could a speed skater possibly do, in 2018, to win that award, that granted, seemed much more important 24 years ago?
Well, Joey Mantia is the best American hope in this and maybe two other events. Mantia would have to win all three golds, and maybe if he does that, and I say this in the hackiest way possible, cures cancer and marries a Kardashian, he will get consideration for Sportsperson of the Year.
82. Cross-Country Skiing - Men’s Individual Sprint
The favorite here has to be Johannes Høsflot Klæbo, who will also set a record for having his name copy-pasted by sportswriters at these Olympics.
The Norwegian’s main sprinting rival will be Federico Pellegrino of Italy, not to be confused with star Italian swimmer Federica Pellegrini. Klæbo is number-one in the world, both overall and in sprinting, but Pellegrino is the defending world champ and just pipped Klæbo in a tight race last month in Germany.
83. Snowboarding - Men’s Parallel Giant Slalom
Vic Wild, who won both parallel snowboarding events in Sochi, is one of the more controversial names on the list of Russians banned from Pyeongchang. Also missing from these Olympics is the Parallel Slalom event, which has been replaced by Big Air.
This might be the most wide open event of these entire Games; the first eight events this season were won by eight different snowboarders. The favorite is probably Nevin Galmarini of Switzerland, he won silver in Sochi and is ranked first in the world.
This also might be the oldest group of athletes in any snowboarding event ever.
Roland Fischnaller, a 37-year-old Italian, is peaking entering his fifth Olympics; he has not come close to a medal in his first four tries...Andreas Prommegger, also 37, is in his fourth Olympics. The Austrian has a bizarre Olympic history: in this event’s bracket-style competition, he lost as the 1 seed facing a 16 in Vancouver, then beat the 1 seed as a 16 in Sochi...The elder statesman of the group, Canada’s Jasey-Jay Anderson, won gold in 2010, retired, and is somehow back eight years later at age 42.
84. Freestyle Skiing - Men’s Slopestyle
The U.S. swept this podium in Sochi. Gold medalist Joss Christensen did not make the roster, but Gus Kenworthy (silver) and Nick Goepper (bronze) return. The Americans have had a rough slopestyle season with no one ranked higher than McRae Williams’s ninth.
Other top contenders include Canada’s Evan McEachran, Norway’s X Games champ Oystein Braaten, and Switzerland’s Andri Ragettli, who hit the first quad cork 1800 on skis.
85. Ski Jumping - Women’s Normal Hill
There are five serious contenders in women’s ski jumping, which is being contested for only the second time.
Germany’s Carina Vogt is the defending world and Olympic champion, but she has slipped out of the top five this season...Katharina Althaus, also from Germany, is just 21 years old and has risen to No. 2 in the world this season...The Japanese pair of Yuki Ito and Sara Takanashi are threats; they both won medals at last year’s worlds and have switched off medaling at almost every event this season...The favorite, though, is Norway’s Maren Lundby. Ranked No. 1 in the world, Lundby has finished first or second at every event this season.
86. Speed Skating - Women’s 1,000m
In the women’s 500, Japan’s Nao Kodaira is a bet-your-life-savings favorite. In the 1,000, she’s just more of a bet-some-of-the-kids-college-fund-money-because-they’ll-never-find-out kind of favorite.
Americans Brittany Bowe and Heather Bergsma are both very much in the mix for silver and bronze. No American woman has won a speed skating medal since 2002.
87. Cross-Country Skiing - Women’s 30km Mass Start Classical
Marit Bjørgen led a Norwegian sweep in Sochi and followed up with gold during another 1-2-3 finish for Norway at last year’s worlds.
The bronze medal winner last year, Heidi Weng, is now the top-ranked CC skier in the world. If Weng wins gold, people all over the world may start copying her sleeping schedule. She literally sleeps half the day; 10 hours each night plus a 2-hour nap during the afternoon.
88. Nordic Combined - Men’s Normal Hill
Germans won the first 18 World Cup events last season but this year has been all about Japan’s Akito Watabe. Watabe will have to fend off a quartet of Germans with Olympic medals, including the defending champion in this event, Eric Frenzel.
89. Biathlon - Mixed Relay
This is only the second Olympic mixed relay and the race is rarely contested at the World Cup level, so it is especially difficult to predict. France, led by Martin Fourcade is probably the favorite. Norway, which won the inaugural Olympic relay, is loaded on the men’s side but doesn’t have any elite women. Ukraine has the opposite problem, a plethora of solid women, but not much going on with the fellas. Germany, the defending world champion, probably has the best balance of both.
90. Speed Skating - Men’s 500m
The Dutch swept this race in Sochi, en route to winning an absurd 23 of the 36 available speed skating medals. If you were a lunatic like me who entered a Winter Olympics pool in 2014, whoever picked the Netherlands automatically won. It was like claiming Albert Pujols off the fantasy baseball waiver wire in April 2001, only much dorkier.
91. Ski Jumping - Men’s Team
Germany and Austria have won every team gold this century, but Norway enters this event as a massive favorite. The Norwegians, who have never won team gold, have won virtually every team event since last March...Poland, led by the world’s best jumper, Kamil Stoch, is the defending world champion...The U.S. has not won a ski jumping medal since 1924, which was the very first competition in Olympic history. That streak will continue here, though Kevin Bickner, a 21-year-old from Chicago, appears to have a bright future.
92. Cross-Country Skiing - Women’s 15km Skiathlon
Marit Bjørgen has a chance to cement herself as the greatest Winter Olympian of all-time. After winning triple gold in both 2010 and 2014, she has 10 career medals, six of them gold. If she wins one more medal, she becomes the first woman to 11. Bjørgen needs three medals to tie, or four to beat fellow Norwegian Ole Einar Bjørndalen’s record of 13. Three golds for Bjørgen would make her the first Winter Olympian, man or woman, with nine gold medals.
93. Nordic Combined - Men’s Team Relay
The future of Nordic Combined in America seemed bright after the U.S. claimed 4 of the 6 available golds and silvers at the 2010 Olympics, which was especially stunning since they were the first four Nordic Combined medals in the nation’s history. But that fortnight of success seems like a statistical anomaly as no individual American placed better than 20th in Sochi, and the U.S. barely qualified for the team competition in Pyeongchang.
94. Biathlon - Women’s Pursuit
Germany’s Laura Dahlmeier entered six events at last year’s World Championships in Austria. She came up exactly four seconds short of sweeping all six, settling for five golds and a silver. Dahlmeier was only 20 years old at the last Olympics and had no top-10 finishes, but if she is fully recovered from the illnesses that have plagued her season so far, she will be a favorite in every individual race she enters.
95. Speed Skating- Women’s 1,500m
At the 2016 Summer Olympics, 86 nations (or National Olympic Committees), won medals. At the 2014 Winter Olympics, only 26 claimed a medal. In Summer Olympic history, medals have been won under 150 different flags. In Winter Olympic history, only 45 NOCs have medals (and seven of those no longer exist, due to the Soviet breakup and the German reunification).
Chinese Taipei (Taiwan) has never won a Winter Olympic medal. In this event, Yu-Ting Huang has a very slight chance of changing that statistic. But in the Winter Olympics, which are geared towards the same 15-20 nations, her two percent medal chance is probably the only shot a nation will have in Pyeongchang at winning their first winter medal.
I’m not sure how to make the Winter Games more inclusive using only snow and ice sports. There are only 15 luge/skeleton/bobsled tracks in the world. Many countries have zero ski slopes or a usable ice skating rink. It’s probably super expensive to build a ski jumping hill.
Here’s my proposal, which I guarantee you are going to hate:
Let’s move some of the indoor Summer sports to the Winter Olympics.
Tennis gets lost in the shuffle in the summer? Play an indoor tournament in February, the sport’s slowest in-season month.
Taekwondo is literally the least popular Summer Olympic sport. But, if it was on CNBC, while on NBC the 14th best men’s figure skater is botching a jump he shouldn’t be attempting, I guarantee you are switching the channel to check out some taekwondo.
Some sports can’t be moved—indoor rowing sounds complicated, but you could easily evenly distribute the medal events (currently 102 in winter, 306 last summer, going up to an absurd 339 in 2020) without losing a single ratings point for the Summer Olympics.
96. Cross-Country Skiing - Men’s 30km Skiathlon
Russia’s Sergey Ustiugov won this event at last year’s World Championships, which he absolutely dominated, earning medals in all five events he entered. But Ustiugov got banned last-minute by the IOC, opening up the field.
Watch out for Alex Harvey of Canada, probably the only non-Euro with a real chance at a medal in the men’s cross-country events.
Harvey has a serious Olympic pedigree; his father Pierre Harvey competed in both the winter (as a cross-country skier) and summer games (as a cyclist).
97. Nordic Combined - Men’s Large Hill
Nordic Combined is now the last men-only Olympic sport. There is support for adding a women’s Nordic Combined in 2022, but there is not even a World Cup circuit yet.
The best American man here is Bryan Fletcher, a childhood leukemia survivor who finished 22nd and 26th in Sochi.
98. Biathlon - Women’s Sprint
Slovakia’s Anastasiya Kuzmina is the queen of the sprint. In 2014, Kuzmina became the first woman to ever successfully defend an individual biathlon Olympic gold and, as the top-ranked sprinter in the world again this year, she has a legitimate chance at the threepeat.
99. Cross-Country Skiing - Men’s 50km Mass Start Classical
If you love two-hour cross country ski races, pull up a chair. When I did the summer version of these rankings in 2016, I offered $10 to the first person who would watch the entire men’s 20-kilometer race walk and tweet at me when the race was finished. One guy live tweeted the entire race at me, but then someone else swooped in out of nowhere and claimed the prize the second the event ended. I’m not even sure he watched the race. Anyway, 50 cents to the winner this time. That’s a penny per kilometer. I just had to pay for my daughter’s Bat Mitzvah, so I’m feeling less generous.
100. Snowboarding - Women’s Parallel Giant Slalom
Ester Ledecka is a massive favorite in this event, but she will really make history as the first person to ever compete in alpine skiing and snowboarding in the same Olympics. Ledecka, of the Czech Republic, is unlikely to win a skiing medal, but she has a legitimate shot at a top-10 placement.
This is the rare Winter Olympic event in which the United States did not qualify an athlete.
101. Speed Skating - Women’s Team Pursuit
It’s time to play Let’s Remember Some Winter Olympians:
Tommy Moe. Picabo Street. Midori Ito. Jonny Moseley. Herman ‘The Herminator’ Maier. Sarah Hughes. Emily Hughes. That Canadian Curling Lady Who Bill Simmons Was Obsessed With. Joey Cheek. Tommy Salo. Torah Bright. Oksana Baiul. Jere Lehtinen. Hannah Teter. Alberto Tomba. Elvis Stojko. Dan Jansen.
Who are some Winter Olympians that you remember?
102. Speed Skating - Men’s Team Pursuit
This event answers the question no one has ever asked: Which country’s third fastest speed skater is the best?
Team Pursuit is a three-person race, but if your top two skaters are the fastest in history and lap the field and your third best skater finishes one-thousandth of a second behind the other team’s three skaters, you lose. There is no other equivalent for this concept in sports. It’s like arguing that in a 3-on-3 basketball game, Stephen Curry, Kevin Durant and my infant son should lose to a team of three eight-year-olds because Curry’s team has the worst player. Great analogy, Akiva.
Also, many top skaters skip the pursuit. Michael Phelps and Usain Bolt never skip relays, but Shani Davis and Jorrit Bergsma have bailed on the pursuit. Guess they also think the team pursuit is trash.