16 Olympic sports events to watch in 2016 (before the Rio Games)

Gabby Douglas, Simone Biles
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The coming year will be Rio Olympics-focused, but the Opening Ceremony is still 219 days away.

In the meantime, enjoy these 16 Olympic sports events:

1. U.S. Figure Skating Championships
Jan. 21-24, St. Paul, Minn.

The head-to-head between the last two U.S. women’s champions, Ashley Wagner and Gracie Gold, is the most anticipated competition. Wagner, 24 and a three-time winner, can become the oldest U.S. women’s champion since Maribel Vinson in 1937.

2. Winter X Games
Jan. 28-31, Aspen, Colo.

In snowboard halfpipe, two-time Olympic champion Shaun White is expected to compete, looking to better his fourth-place finish from last year. Chloe Kim, who became the youngest Winter X Games champion last year, could vie for the women’s title with three-time Olympic medalist Kelly Clark.

3. World Luge Championships
Jan. 30-31, Königssee, Germany

U.S. lugers could be in line for a banner championships if the early World Cup season is any indication. Olympians Erin HamlinSummer Britcher and Chris Mazdzer all won World Cup races this fall.

4. World Single Distance Speed Skating Championships
Feb. 11-14, Kolomna, Russia

Americans Brittany Bowe and Heather Richardson have traded World Cup victories and world records this season. Richardson is the reigning World 500m champion, while Bowe defends 1000m and 1500m titles. Shani Davis took the men’s 1000m crown last season but hasn’t won a World Cup race since March 2014.

5. World Bobsled and Skeleton Championships
Feb. 12-21, Igls, Austria

Questions abound for U.S. bobsleds with no men making the podium so far this World Cup season and reigning World champion Elana Meyers Taylor dealing with long-term concussion effects. Likewise, the best U.S. skeleton World Cup finish this season is eighth.

6. U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials
Feb. 13, Los Angeles

The top three finishers in the men’s and women’s 26.2-mile races will make the Olympic team. Meb Keflezighi, a 2004 Olympic silver medalist and Boston and New York City Marathon winner, could become at age 40 the oldest U.S. Olympic runner ever, according to sports-reference.com.

7. Alpine Skiing World Cup Finals
March 16-20, St. Moritz, Switzerland

The last races of the season could decide crystal globes awarded to the top skiers in each discipline and the overall standings. Lindsey Vonn goes into 2016 in second place in the women’s overall, chasing Swiss Lara Gut.

8. World Women’s Hockey Championship
March 28-April 4, Kamloops, B.C.

The U.S. and Canada have met in all 16 previous finals, with Canada holding a 10-6 edge. The U.S. can capture its third straight World title, however, in Kamloops.

9. World Figure Skating Championships
March 30-April 2, Boston

Can U.S. singles skaters, with a home-ice advantage, end podium droughts? The men are in their longest drought in nearly 40 years, since Evan Lysacek took gold in 2009. The women are in their longest drought since World War I, with the last medals coming in 2006 (Kimmie MeissnerSasha Cohen).

10. U.S. Olympic Wrestling Trials
April 8-10, Iowa City

One Olympic spot per weight class is up for grabs at the University of Iowa. Olympic champion Jordan Burroughs ought to be heavily favored, while another London gold medalist, Jake Varner, will have to beat World champion Kyle Snyder to make it to Rio. Also in action should be World champions Adeline Gray and Helen Maroulis.

11. World Men’s Hockey Championship
May 6-22, Russia

The U.S. took bronze behind loaded Canadian and Russian teams in 2015 at a tournament that takes place during the Stanley Cup Playoffs, which alters rosters. The U.S. last won a World title in 1933, not counting Olympic crowns that doubled as World titles.

12. U.S. Olympic Diving Trials
June 18-26, Indianapolis

The top two per individual event and synchronized event winners could make the Rio team, provided the U.S. qualifies for berths at the FINA World Cup in February. David Boudia, who in London became the first U.S. Olympic men’s platform champion in 24 years, will be favored in both individual and synchro platform.

13. U.S. Olympic Men’s Gymnastics Trials; Women’s P&G Championships
June 23-26, St. Louis

The five-man U.S. Olympic gymnastics team will be determined after the trials, with the first- and second-place finishers in the all-around potentially clinching automatic berths. All five 2012 Olympians — Jacob DaltonJonathan HortonDanell LeyvaSam Mikulak and John Orozco — are Rio hopefuls.

14. U.S. Olympic Swimming Trials
June 26-July 3, Omaha, Neb.

The top two finishers in each final make the Olympic team. Michael PhelpsRyan LochteMissy Franklin and Katie Ledecky will have busy schedules, looking to make it to Rio in multiple individual events plus relays.

15. U.S. Olympic Track and Field Trials
July 1-10, Eugene, Ore.

The top three finishers in each final make the Olympic team, provided the athletes have met Olympic qualifying times and marks. Key athletes include Allyson Felix and Justin Gatlin with chances to make the Olympic team in mutliple sprints.

16. U.S. Olympic Women’s Gymnastics Trials
July 8-10, San Jose, Calif.

The trials all-around champion will clinch one of five Olympic team spots. The other four will be chosen shortly after the trials finish on July 10. Three-time World all-around champ Simone Biles and Olympic gold medalists Gabby Douglas and Aly Raisman are favored to make the cut.

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