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Six months out: PyeongChang Olympic daily events to watch

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Six months out, a daily look at key PyeongChang Olympic events set in the Eastern time zone. Some of the listed events will actually take place on the following day in South Korea, given the 14-hour time difference.

Wednesday, Feb. 7 — Day -2

Curling: Olympic competition begins with the debut of mixed doubles. The opening games will take place on Thursday morning in South Korea, which is of course Wednesday evening in the U.S. Mixed doubles will include one man and one woman per team, with seven nations plus host South Korea in the field. The U.S. won the 2016 World bronze medal.

Thursday, Feb. 8 — Day -1

Figure Skating: The team event, which debuted in Sochi, returns and kicks off with the men’s and pairs short programs. This could mark the Olympic debut of U.S. champion Nathan Chen, the 17-year-old who landed a record seven quadruple jumps at nationals in January.

Friday, Feb. 9 — Opening Ceremony

The first Winter Games in South Korea will officially open at the Olympic Stadium in the mountain cluster of venues at Alpensia Sports Park. The Opening and Closing Ceremonies were initially slated outdoors, at the ski jumping venue, but the move indoors was announced in 2012.

The favorite to be the final torch bearer has to be Yuna Kim, the beloved 2010 Olympic figure skating champion who retired after taking silver in Sochi. Kim is a PyeongChang 2018 ambassador and spoke on the bid’s behalf at the 2011 session where IOC members voted PyeongChang as the host over Munich and Annecy, France.

Saturday, Feb. 10 — Day 1

Alpine Skiing: Men’s downhill. One of the Winter Olympics’ marquee events helps kick off medal competition on the opening weekend. The top U.S. downhiller at the moment is Travis Ganong, the 2015 World Championships silver medalist, though six-time Olympic medalist Bode Miller has not ruled out a return.

Figure Skating: The team event continues with the short dance, women’s short program and pairs free skate. The U.S. has current world bronze medalists in ice dancers Maia and Alex Shibutani as well as 2016 World silver medalist Ashley Wagner.

Snowboarding: The first snowboard medals will be handed out in men’s slopestyle. There will be a new champion. Sage Kotsenburg retired at age 23.

Sunday, Feb. 11 — Day 2

Alpine Skiing: Women’s giant slalom. Mikaela Shiffrin is best at slalom, but she improved in giant slalom since finishing fifth in Sochi. She is the world silver medalist. Lindsey Vonn may make her PyeongChang debut here, too.

Figure Skating: The team event finishes with the men’s and women’s free skates and free dance. The medals should come down to Russia, Canada and the U.S., who made up the Sochi podium. Canada is the only nation currently with medal contenders in all four figure skating disciplines.

Luge: In the men’s event, German Felix Loch could become the second luger to win three straight gold medals. The U.S. has two men in Chris Mazdzer and Tucker West who have won World Cup races since Sochi. The U.S. has never earned an Olympic men’s singles medal.

Snowboarding: Women’s slopestyle. American Jamie Anderson took gold in Sochi and earned silver behind three different riders at the last three X Games. The newest X Games champion is another American, Julia Marino.

Monday, Feb. 12 — Day 3

Ski Jumping: Women’s competition. The event debuted in Sochi with American Sarah Hendrickson as the first jumper. Hendrickson underwent another right knee surgery in 2015 but has returned to her place as the top U.S. medal hope in the sport.

Snowboarding: Women’s halfpipe. The U.S. still has the talent to sweep the medals with 2002 Olympic champion Kelly Clark, 2006 Olympic champion Hannah Teter and the last two X Games winners, Chloe Kim and Elena Hight, all trying to make the team of four riders.

Speed Skating: Women’s 1500m. If current form holds, this is where the U.S. wins its first Olympic women’s speed skating medal since the 2002 Winter Games. Heather Bergsma is the world-record holder and world champion. Of course, Bergsma also entered Sochi as a medal favorite and came home with nothing as part of a desultory U.S. speed skating performance. She has since married Dutch Olympic 10,000m champion Jorrit Bergsma and moved to the Netherlands.

Tuesday, Feb. 13 — Day 4

Alpine Skiing: Women’s slalom. Mikaela Shiffrin became the youngest Olympic slalom champion in Sochi at age 18 and has continued to dominate with more world titles, making her one of the biggest favorites for gold one year out from the Games.

Curling: Mixed doubles medal matches. The first curling medals awarded in PyeongChang will also be the first Olympic medals ever in mixed doubles.

Luge: Women’s singles runs 3 and 4. Erin Hamlin became the first U.S. Olympic singles medalist with her bronze in Sochi. She followed that up with silver at the world championships in January, plus gold in the sprint (not an Olympic event). Hamlin, who plans to retire after the PyeongChang Winter Games, could be the top rival to the dominant Germans.

Snowboarding: Men’s halfpipe. Eyes will be on Shaun White, the 2006 and 2010 Olympic champion who finished fourth in Sochi, as he tries to regain his title at age 31. Sochi Olympic gold and silver medalists Iouri Podladtchikov and Ayumu Hirano could again be his top rivals.

Wednesday, Feb. 14 — Day 5

Figure Skating: Pairs free skate. A Soviet or Russian pair prevailed at 13 of the last 14 Olympics, but Canadian and Chinese pairs dominated the last three world championships. Sochi gold medalists Tatyana Volosozhar and Maksim Trankov are taking a break due to Volosozhar’s recent childbirth.

Speed Skating: Women’s 1000m. Heather Bergsma is the gold-medal favorite here as world champion. Countrywoman Brittany Bowe is the world-record holder, but she missed most of last season due to a concussion sustained last summer.

Thursday, Feb. 15 — Day 6

Figure Skating: Men’s short program. Three men who have combined to win every Olympic and world title since 2011 should be part of this field — Canadian Patrick Chan, Japan’s Yuzuru Hanyu and Spain’s Javier Fernandez. American Nathan Chen, 17, outscored all of them in the Grand Prix Final free skate in December but was not at his best at worlds.

Snowboarding: Women’s snowboard cross. Lindsey Jacobellis is one of the greatest winter sports athletes of all time without an Olympic gold medal — winning all nine of her combined X Games and world championships starts since 2007. She memorably gave up 2006 Olympic gold with a trick move on the last jump and crashed out of the 2010 and 2014 Olympic semifinals.

Friday, Feb. 16 — Day 7

Alpine Skiing: Women’s super-G. This could be the event where Lindsey Vonn and Mikaela Shiffrin both go for medals. Vonn took super-G bronze at the 2010 Olympics and 2015 World Championships. Shiffrin is getting familiar with the speed discipline, taking fourth in a World Cup race last season.

Figure Skating: Men’s free skate. Hanyu could bid to become the first man to repeat as Olympic champion since American Dick Button in 1952, but he has been beaten by Chan, Chen and the Spaniard Fernandez the last two seasons. Spain has won two Winter Olympic medals, both in Alpine skiing.

Freestyle Skiing: Women’s aerials. The U.S. last took Olympic aerials gold in 1998 but has two threats this year with reigning world champion Ashley Caldwell and 2015 World Cup season champion Kiley McKinnon.

Saturday, Feb. 17 — Day 8

Alpine Skiing: Men’s giant slalom. American Ted Ligety — Mr. GS — is the reigning Olympic and world champion but has been slowed by surgeries the past two years. This could instead be an opportunity for Austrian Marcel Hirscher — the world’s best Alpine skier six years running — to take his first Olympic title.

Freestyle Skiing: Men’s slopestyle. In Sochi, the U.S. notched its third-ever Winter Olympic podium sweep by dominating this event in its Olympic debut. Medalists Joss ChristensenGus Kenworthy and Nick Goepper are all still competing.

South Korean Special: It could be a big day for the host nation. Olympic gold is possible in its national pastime with two short track speed skating finals (women’s 1500m, men’s 1000m) and in men’s skeleton, where Yun Sung-Bin is ranked No. 2 in the world.

Sunday, Feb. 18 — Day 9

Figure Skating: Short dance. Americans Meryl Davis and Charlie White will not be defending their title. In their absence, U.S. couples Madison Chock and Evan Bates and Maia and Alex Shibutani are both medal contenders.

Speed Skating: Women’s 500m. Lee Sang-Hwa is one of South Korea’s biggest Olympic stars, having won this title at the last two Winter Games, but the Lego collector didn’t win a World Cup race last season while dealing with a reported leg injury.

Monday, Feb. 19 — Day 10

Figure Skating: Free dance. The U.S. should earn at least one ice dance medal for a fourth straight Olympics, but the favorites at this point are 2010 Olympic champions Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir of Canada and two-time world champions Gabriella Papadakis and Guillaume Cizeron of France.

Freestyle Skiing: Women’s halfpipe. Maddie Bowman took the first Olympic gold in this event in Sochi, then had knee surgeries in back-to-back years and is now looking up at France’s Marie Martinod, who took silver in Sochi but won the X Games in Jannuary. Martinod, 33, took a five-year break from the sport, including having a daughter, before coming back for Sochi.

Tuesday, Feb. 20 — Day 11

Alpine Skiing: Women’s downhill. This is Lindsey Vonn‘s baby and could be the last Olympic race of her career. She won it at the 2010 Olympics but wasn’t able to defend her title in Sochi due to knee injuries. Last season, Vonn won a world bronze medal and was second in a World Cup race at the Olympic venue, coming back from knee and arm injuries in separate crashes.

Figure Skating: Women’s short program. The prize event of the Winter Games. The U.S. could have medal contenders in Karen ChenAshley Wagner and Gracie Gold, who each have top-five finishes at worlds in the last two years.

Wednesday, Feb. 21 — Day 12

Bobsled: Women’s runs 3 and 4. Training partners Kaillie Humphries of Canada and Elana Meyers Taylor have called their rivalry a “battle royale.” The tattooed Humphries came from behind to nip Meyers Taylor for the Sochi Olympic crown, but Meyers Taylor is the world champion and another American, Jamie Greubel Poser, won the World Cup season title.

Freestyle Skiing: Men’s ski halfpipe. David Wise could look to repeat as Olympic champion, and then possibly watch his sister, Christy, compete in the Paralympics in March. Torin Yater-Wallace endured a collapsed lung, two broken ribs, a concussion and being placed on life support in separate setbacks the last four years. Then he won the first U.S. Olympic qualifier in February. Gus Kenworthy could make the U.S. team in both halfpipe and slopestyle.

Thursday, Feb. 22 — Day 13

Figure Skating: Women’s free skate. The favorite has to be Russian Yevgenia Medvedeva, who hasn’t lost a competition since November 2015. The U.S. women will look to earn an Olympic medal for the first time since Sasha Cohen‘s silver in 2006.

Hockey: Women’s medal games. The U.S. and Canada have met in four of five Olympic finals thus far, and it would be a shocker if they aren’t playing for gold again. After a heartbreaking overtime loss in Sochi, the U.S. beat Canada in the last three world championship finals.

Snowboarding: Women’s big air final. The first Olympic medals in the new sport of big air will be handed out, and it could be a U.S. sweep. Hailey LanglandJulia Marino and Sochi slopestyle gold medalist Jamie Anderson took three of the top four spots at X Games.

Friday, Feb. 23 — Day 14

Biathlon: Men’s relay. If Norway’s Ole Einar Bjoerndalen qualifies for a seventh Olympics at age 44, this could be the race where he breaks the record for career Winter Olympic gold medals (eight) he shares with countryman Bjorn Daehlie, a retired cross-country skier. Bjoerndalen already broke Daehlie’s total medals record by reaching 13 in Sochi.

Speed Skating: Men’s 1000m. This may be the final Olympic race of Shani Davis‘ decorated career. He won the 1000m in 2006 and 2010 and then finished eighth as part of a disastrous U.S. speed skating showing in Sochi. Davis, a 34-year-old fighting Father Time, captured the 2015 World title but hasn’t won a World Cup 1000m since March 2014.

Saturday, Feb. 24 — Day 15

Bobsled: Four-man runs 3 and 4. Athletes will surely be sliding in memory of the late Steven Holcomb, who in 2010 drove the U.S. to its first four-man gold in 62 years. Holcomb followed that with bronze medals in two- and four-man in Sochi while injured. He was found dead on May 6.

Cross-Country Skiing: Men’s 50km mass start. The marathon of the Winter Olympics takes about two hours to complete. Russia swept the podium in Sochi, but two of those skiers were suspended in December as part of the investigation into widespread alleged Russian doping leading up to and during the last Winter Games.

Sunday, Feb. 25 — Day 16

Hockey: Men’s final. Canada won the last two titles, but with no NHL players in PyeongChang, it might not be the favorite one year from now. Russia should be strong regardless, as it has a local pool of talent in its domestic league, the KHL.

Closing Ceremony: The Olympic flame is extinguished in what should be a festive celebration. The focus turns to the Paralympics, which open March 9, the 2020 Tokyo Olympics and the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics.

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PYEONGCHANG 2018
Storylines | 18 US Stars | 18 Global Stars | Strange Olympic Hopefuls | Key events
Oldest US Olympian? | Youngest US Olympian? | Venue Photo Gallery | North Korea

Salt Lake City forms committee to weigh Olympic bid

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SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — Salt Lake City has formed an exploratory committee to decide if the city will bid to host the Winter Olympics in either 2026 or 2030 — taking a key step toward trying to become a rare two-time host city.

The group made up of elected officials, business leaders and one key member of the organizing committee for the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City said Monday that it plans to make a recommendation to state leaders by Feb. 1.

The announcement comes after the U.S. Olympic Committee board said Friday that it was moving forward with discussions about bringing the Winter Games to America for either 2026 or 2030.

Because Los Angeles was recently awarded the 2028 Summer Games, a bid for 2030 would make more sense, chairman Larry Probst said Friday.

The USOC has until next March to pick a city; those expressing interest include Salt Lake City, Denver and Reno, Nevada.

Innsbruck, Austria, said Sunday it wouldn’t bid for the 2026 Winter Olympics, taking one more city out of the running. The hosting rights are set to be awarded in July 2019.

The same country hasn’t hosted back-to-back Olympics since before World War II, though when the International Olympic Committee scrapped its traditional rules and awarded 2024 (Paris) and 2028 (LA) at the same time, it indicated it was certainly open to new ideas.

Since 2012, Salt Lake City has been letting Olympic officials know the city was ready and willing to host again with a plan based on renovating and upgrading venues that have been in use since the Games ended.

The city had previously estimated it could put on a Winter Olympics for about $2 billion, but the committee will come up with a new cost estimate, said Jeff Robbins, the president and CEO of the Utah Sports Commission.

Robbins is one of three co-chairs on the committee along with Utah Senate President Wayne Niederhauser and Fraser Bullock, a key player in Salt Lake City’s 2002 Olympics.

Robbins said he thinks the city has a great shot at winning a bid based on the relatively low cost and because it has demonstrated it knows how to maintain venues and keep them in use, putting the city in line with Agenda 2020, the blueprint that IOC President Thomas Bach created for future Olympics calling for less spending on new venues and infrastructure.

There’s an eight-lane interstate running from the Salt Lake airport, which was upgraded for the Olympics, to Park City, which is the home of U.S. Ski and Snowboard. Park City is the host for key U.S. training centers for freestyle skiing, speedskating and cross country skiing.

Overall, the area has hosted about 75 World Cup and world-championship events in winter sports since the Olympic cauldron was extinguished more than 15 years ago.

He said an expanded light rail train line grid around Salt Lake City and a $3 billion airport renovation already underway are two examples of how Salt Lake City is even better prepared now to host than in 2002.

But he and other organizers will also have to answer questions about a bidding scandal that marred the 2002 Games and resulted in several International Olympic Committee members losing their positions for taking bribes.

“You can’t control the past,” Robbins said. “The results of what happened I think would certainly speak volumes. While there was some challenges, we hosted arguably one of the best Olympics ever hosted.”

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Simone Biles announces new coach

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When Simone Biles begins her comeback in earnest next month, she’ll be training under a new coach — Laurent Landi — who coached one of her Olympic teammates, according to the Houston Chronicle.

Landi, a 39-year-old former French gymnast, guided Rio uneven bars silver medalist Madison Kocian at the Dallas-area gym WOGA, along with wife Cecile.

“[Landi] was in Dallas, which is not far away, and had recently left WOGA, and I had worked with alongside him and know how he is with athletes,” Biles said, according to the newspaper. “He does a good job not letting pressure get to the athletes. You can see some coaches get stressed but he doesn’t.”

Biles’ previous coach since she was 7, Aimee Boorman, left their Houston-area gym for a gymnastics job in Florida after the Rio Games.

Biles said last week she plans to return to full-time training Nov. 1 and return to competition next summer.

Kocian is now at UCLA and uncertain to return to elite gymnastics.

Two other Final Five members — Aly Raisman and Laurie Hernandez — have said they plan to return to training for a Tokyo 2020 run. But neither has announced a return to the gym like Biles.

The last member — 2012 Olympic all-around champion Gabby Douglas — has not said whether she will come back.

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