Pyeong a Chang of Sixpence: Winter Olympics Preview, Part 2

Quibbl Sports brings an analytical lens, an international scope, and a penchant for getting way too into things to the only 2018 Winter Olympics preview you will ever need. Catch up on Part 1 if you need to; today we’ll cover the remaining events. Bookmakers’ odds discussed this preview can be found at OddsShark and Bwin.

By Gavin Byrnes

In Part 1, we covered the best sport (biathlon) and also a bunch of other ones. Now [injects IV of Powerade into veins] let’s get to the triad of events in which competitors launch themselves at breakneck speed down an ice slide, plus much more!

Bobsled

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Medal Events: 3. Two-Person (men’s and women’s); Four-Man (men’s).

What’s Going On: Of the many Winter Olympic sports that involve hurtling down an ice chute and praying you don’t slam into a wall, bobsled (or bobsleigh, if you rule as a person in ways I cannot hope to achieve) is marginally the safest, as you’re in a pretty hardy sled thing that seems to offer more protection than the luge or skeleton. This is the one where they have to run to get the sled up to speed and then jump into it — unsurprisingly but disappointingly, the teams are usually well-practiced enough that one guy (or gal) doesn’t slip and fall trying to jump into the sled.

Which Countries Are Good: Germany, Canada, and the United States are definitely the three best. Austria’s pretty good,  and Latvia won gold in the four-man in Sochi).

Who Is… Not Exactly Wintry: Nigeria! For the first time, Nigeria will compete in the Winter Olympics, as they qualified a team in the two-woman bobsled and the skeleton.

Since I Know You’re Going to Ask: Jamaica qualified in the two-woman bobsled, marking the first time they have entered a female bobsledding team, captained by Jazmine Fenlator-Victorian (who competed with the United States in 2014). The men did not qualify, though they do have a skeleton competitor.

Figure Skating

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Medal Events: 5. Individual (men’s and “ladies’”); Pairs, Ice Dancing, Team Event (mixed).

What’s Going On: Come on, you don’t need me to explain figure skating. Just watch six seconds of Olympics coverage.

Which Countries Are Good: The United Heckin’ States of America! Let’s GOOOOOO! Oh, and this is the one where China and Japan are good too. Oh, and Tessa Virtue and… what’s his name? From Canada?  [Editor’s Note: Scott Moir, you rube.]

Who Is… Not Exactly Wintry? There’s gonna be a Malaysian guy! His name is Julian Yee.

A Note on Gender Politics: Please note that my lack of interest in figure skating has nothing to do with the fact that it is one of the few sports that gives a significant amount of attention to female competitors. I love watching women’s biathlon, women’s curling, women’s luge, women’s short track speed skating (hell yes), and women competing in most other sports. I just cannot stand the way figure skating is presented to the American public as the main thing we should care about in the Olympics, and I resent the amount of time given over to human interest pieces on figure skaters when they could be showing, you know, ACTUAL EVENTS.

Freestyle Skiing

freestyle
Medal Events: 10. Aerials, Halfpipe, Moguls, Ski Cross, Slopestyle (men’s and women’s).

What’s Going On: These events are sort of X Games with a lower-case x. There’s jumping, increased danger, and Ski Cross in fact used to be in the Winter X Games.

What Countries Are Good: Canada and the United States won 16 of the 30 available medals in Sochi. Also, for some reason, Belarus is really dope at Aerials — they won both men’s and women’s in 2014, and have qualified three athletes in each for Pyeongchang.

Who Is… Not Exactly Wintry? There’s a Mexican fella competing in Slopestyle, which I’m just now hearing is NOT an event in which you have to own and operate a barber shop on the hill.

Knees. Dear God, Your Knees: I seriously have trouble watching moguls. Like, genuine concern for how these humans manage to live their lives.

Ice Hockey

Ice hockey stick and puck 20170120
Medal Events: 2. Men’s, Women’s.

What’s Going On: Well, it’s hockey. The weird thing about it this year is that the NHL and IOC couldn’t agree on whatever bureaucratic agreements were required to involve NHL players in the Olympics, so they are not going to be there. Uh, check out the USA roster. It’s a bunch of randos! It’s pretty wacky!

Which Countries Are Good: Well, as you can guess, Canada and the USA have a wee bit of a disadvantage from the whole NHL shenanigans. The betting favorites at the moment are actually the Olympic Athletes from Russia, whose KHL professional league offers a decent talent pool. Sweden is also pretty good. On the women’s side, nobody is touching the USA or Canada.

Who Is… Not Exactly Wintry? Eight women’s teams will participate in the Olympic hockey tournament: the 7 best in the world, and the host team, made up of players representing both South Korea (23rd in qualifying rankings) and North Korea (25th in qualifying rankings). South and North Korea playing together is a nice story that will hopefully have some impact on international politics… but they’re going to get slaughtered.

Goodnight, Sweet Prince: Ironically, perhaps the most notable name missing from these non-NHL rosters is a newly non-NHL name: this will be the first Czech team since 1994 without Jaromir Jagr.

Luge

luge
Medal Events: 4. Singles (men’s and women’s); Doubles (men’s); Relay (mixed).

What’s Going On: This is another “go down an ice chute and don’t crash into the dang wall” event. The relay in particular owns: the woman starts, her finishing pops open a gate that signals the man to start his run, and his finishing pops open a gate for the doubles team. I will never see my dream Olympic events of ski jump biathlon or shot put water polo, but luge relay is a pretty rad idea.

Which Countries Are Good: Germany. Also, Germany. To add to that, Germany has been known to make a solid run in the competition.

Who Is… Not Exactly Wintry? You know, there’s something to be said for staking out your claim and really reinforcing it. For Shiva Keshavan, competing in his sixth and final Winter Olympics (he qualified for his first at 16, the youngest Olympic luger ever), that’s “the best Asian guy at luge.” Keshavan has medaled in men’s singles luge in 9 out of the last 10 Asia Cups, including 4 golds. He is one of two athletes representing India this year.

Set Your Calendars: The luge relay event will take place next Thursday, February 15th at 21:30 South Korea time (7:30 am ET/4:30 PT). I’m — oh boy, I’m gonna be in Vegas that day. What happens in Vegas… is watching the luge relay.

Nordic Combined

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Medal Events: 3. Individual Large Hill / 10km, Individual Normal Hill / 10km, Team Large Hill / 4×5 km Relay (all men’s).

What’s Going On: Nordic Combined, well, combines ski jumping and cross country skiing, although not at the same time for some unknown reason. One of the last Olympic sports to be men-only, it will introduce a women’s event at the 2022 games.

Which Countries Are Good: Norway and Germany won 7 of the 9 medals at the 2014 Sochi Games, with the other two going to athletes from Japan and Austria. The country with the best odds in the team competition after Norway and Germany is France… at 20 to 1.

Who Is… Not Exactly Wintry? Host nation South Korea qualified one competitor as the hosts; that man, Park Je-Un, does not have his own English-language Wikipedia page. I did manage to find and auto-translate his Polish-language Wikipedia page, which suggests that he placed 67th in the 2016-17 World Cup season. I also learned that Google’s translation of whatever “Nordic Combined” is in Polish enters English as “Norwegian Combination,” which is just beautiful. Anyway, Park Je-Un isn’t going to win, but if he does, that’s going in the real encyclopedia.

Feeding Frenzel: German Eric Frenzel has been the highest-ranked Nordic Combined skier in the World Cup rankings for five straight seasons. He also won gold in the Individual Long Hill in Sochi.

Skeleton

Kimberley Bos (NED)

Medal Events: 2. Men’s, Women’s.

What’s Going On: AAAAAAAAAAA WHY. This is the last (alphabetically) and, for my money, most dangerous of the three “hurl yourself down a slope of ice and don’t smash your face” events. They’re going headfirst! What!

Which Countries Are Good: Medalists in Sochi included athletes from Russia, Great Britain, Latvia, and the United States. Germany and Canada qualified the most people. So… huh! So far the highest-ranked skeletoners (?) in the World Cup Standings are, for men, hometown hero Yun Sung-bin and, for women, German Jacqueline Lölling, who hopes to be laughing all the way to the podium, AM I RIGHT.

Who Is… Not Exactly Wintry? Big year for Ghana! Not only is Ghanaian-born American speed skater Maame Biney going to capture the hearts of American viewers, the country itself is making its Winter Olympic debut in the name of skeletor (again, I’m spitballing ideas for names here) Akwasi Frimpong. Frimpong, who lives and trains in the Netherlands, was the subject of a 2010 documentary film called Rabbit Theory, which you all need to go watch right now because that name rules.

Hey, I Know That Guy: Great Britain has a skeletite (no, that one is bad) named Jerry Rice. Okay, I’m scraping the bottom of the barrel here. Let’s wrap this up and go watch Rabbit Theory.

Snowboarding

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Medal Events: 10. Halfpipe, Parallel Giant Slalom, Big Air, Slopestyle, Snowboard Cross (men’s and women’s).

What’s Going On: Snowboarding, the bad boy of winter sports, has finally gotten its due from the stodgy old IOC in the last few years. I’m particularly excited for the debut of the Big Air event, which is what it sounds like, with snowboarders going as high as they can, doing Rad Tricks, and hopefully landing without falling down. Also, snowboard cross might just be my third favorite event after biathlon and short-track speed skating… again, because it’s pretty hilarious when they crash into each other.

Which Countries Are Good: The United States, Russia, and Switzerland won seven of the ten gold medals awarded in Sochi, and with over one fourth of the qualifying athletes between the three of them, they should be strong again in 2018.

Who Is… Not Exactly Wintry? Brazil’s got a woman in snowboard cross. And she’s 41! Isabel Clark Ribeiro also has a really Zen quote on her International Ski Federation bio: “The question that I hear most is why someone from Brazil, from Rio de Janeiro, got involved with this cold sport. And the answer is, when you really like something, there’s nothing cold about it.” Think on that while you’re watching Rabbit Theory.

He’s Still Around! Shaun White, at the senseless age of 31, is competing in his fourth Winter Olympics, despite an injury in training that left him with 62 stitches in his face.

In conclusion, the Winter Olympics has a cornucopia of great events on offer, whether you like boring Americans being fawned over by boring Americans (fiiiiine, watch figure skating) or Cool International People Crashing into Each Other and Skidding Everywhere — short track speed skating! Snowboard cross! Yeaaaaaaa—[Powerade begins gushing from my every pore]—aaaahhhhh!

Oh, and watch biathlon. But you knew that already.

Questions? Comments? Dare we say… QUIBBLS? Get at us in the box below!

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