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PyeongChang Winter Olympics daily schedule highlights

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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. should be there, given it is the current world bronze medalist.

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 last month.

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 at the ski jumping venue, but the move to the open-air stadium 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 silver medalists in ice dancers Maia and Alex Shibutani as well as Ashley Wagner.

Snowboarding: The first snowboard medals will be handed out in men’s slopestyle. Will the Sochi gold medalist be there? Sage Kotsenburg hasn’t competed in one year and said in December that he’s undecided about making a run for PyeongChang.

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. This season, Shiffrin ranks second in the world in giant slalom, winning two of seven World Cup races.

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 has won two of five World Cup races this season. 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 last month, 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 over the next year 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 Canadians Meagan Duhamel and Eric Radford are the two-time reigning world champions. Sochi gold medalists Tatyana Volosozhar and Maksim Trankov are taking a break due to Volosozhar’s pregnancy.

Speed Skating: Women’s 1000m. Heather Bergsma could be the gold-medal favorite here. She has won five of the six World Cup 1000m races this season. Countrywoman Brittany Bowe is the world-record holder, but she is out for the rest of this season due to a concussion sustained in a July training collision.

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.

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 the most recent World Cup race.

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 remember he squandered the lead after the short program at the last two world championships to the Spaniard Fernandez. Spain has won two Winter Olympic medals, both in Alpine skiing.

Freestyle Skiing: Women’s aerials. The last two World Cup season champions were Americans Kiley McKinnon and Ashley Caldwell. The U.S. last took Olympic aerials gold in 1998.

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 the current world silver medalist.

Sunday, Feb. 18 — Day 9

Figure Skating: Short dance. Americans Meryl Davis and Charlie White haven’t competed since taking gold in Sochi but haven’t retired yet, either. In their absence, U.S. couples Madison Chock and Evan Bates and Maia and Alex Shibutani took the last two world silver medals.

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 hasn’t won a World Cup race this 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 reigning 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 last month’s X Games and both World Cups so far this season. Martinod, 32, 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. Vonn won another five downhill races last season and another one this season, 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 Ashley Wagner and Gracie Gold, who were second and fourth at the 2016 World Championships. However, Gold tumbled to sixth at last month’s U.S. Championships and just changed coaches.

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 has won the last four World Cup races.

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 last week. 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 in 14 months. 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 two world championships 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 in 12 starts since.

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 NHL participation undecided, 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.

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

Michael Phelps qualifies for first Olympics at age 15 in 2000

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In the biggest race of his young life, a 15-year-old Michael Phelps turned for the last 50 meters in fourth place of the U.S. Olympic Trials 200m butterfly final on Aug. 12, 2000.

His mom, Debbie, couldn’t watch. She turned away from the Indianapolis Natatorium pool and stared at the scoreboard. Both Debbie and Phelps’ coach, Bob Bowman, mentally prepared their consolation speeches for the rising Towson High School sophomore outside Baltimore.

Then Phelps, fueled by nightly Adam’s Mark chicken sandwich-and-cheesecake room service and amped by pre-race DMX on his CD player, turned it on. He zoomed into second place, becoming the youngest U.S. male swimmer to qualify for an Olympics since 1932.

Phelps had “come out of nowhere in the last six months” to become an Olympic hopeful, NBC Sports swimming commentator Dan Hicks said on the broadcast. True, Phelps chopped five and a half seconds off his personal best that March.

“He doesn’t know what it means to go to the Olympics and how it’s going to change his life,” Tom Malchow, the 1996 Olympic silver medalist who held off Phelps in that trials final, said that night, according to The Associated Press. “He’s going to find out soon.”

Phelps, who did his trademark arm flaps before the trials final, made Bowman look like a prophet. Four years earlier, the coach sat Debbie down for a conversation she would not soon forget.

“Told me what he projected for Michael,” Debbie said, according to the Baltimore Sun‘s front-page story on a local 15-year-old qualifying for the Sydney Games. “He said that in 2004, he would definitely be a factor in the Olympics. He also said that he could be there in 2000, to watch out for him. At the time, he was only 11.”

The trials were bittersweet for the Phelps family. Whitney, one of Phelps’ older sisters, withdrew before the meet with herniated discs in her back that kept her from making an Olympics after competing in the 1994 World Championships at age 14.

After Phelps qualified for the Olympics, one of the first people to embrace him was Whitney on the pool deck.

The next week, Phelps, still with bottom-teeth braces, did his first live TV sitdown on CNN, swiveling in his chair the whole time, according to his autobiography, “Beneath the Surface.”

The next month, Phelps finished fifth in his Olympic debut, clocking a then-personal-best time that would have earned gold or silver at every previous Olympics.

Following the Olympic race, gold medalist Malchow patted Phelps on the back, according to “No Limits,” another Phelps autobiography. What did Malchow say?

“The best is ahead of you.”

MORE: Meet Arnie the Terminator, Katie Ledecky’s top rival

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Arnie the Terminator: Aussie rival to Katie Ledecky an unlikely swim story

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In August 2016, a 15-year-old Australian swimmer named Ariarne Titmus followed the Rio Olympics as she prepared to fly to Maui for the Junior Pan Pacific Championships.

Titmus paid special attention to her best events, the 200m, 400m and 800m freestyles. Katie Ledecky swept them, breaking two of her own world records.

“I remember watching her races thinking, like, this chick is nuts,” Titmus told NBC Sports in Australia early this year. “She’s just doing stuff that no one’s gonna get near.”

Three years later, Titmus stunned Ledecky at the world championships, chasing down the American in the last 50 meters of the 400m freestyle. She became the first woman to beat Ledecky in a distance race in seven years and a bona fide rival one year from the Tokyo Games.

Ledecky at first attributed her late fade to tight and tired legs. Then she spent seven hours the next day in a South Korean emergency room with what she believed was a stomach virus.

“She was sick,” said Dean Boxall, Titmus’ South African-born coach, “and we happened to pounce.”

Titmus’ time — 3:58.76, a personal best by .59 — was slower than Ledecky’s wins at her previous three major international meets — Rio Olympics, 2017 Worlds and 2018 Pan Pacific Championships.

“It wasn’t a good swim by Arnie,” said Boxall, a vocal coach known to shout Ledecky’s name in practices. “And I know it wasn’t a good swim by Katie. Definitely not. But there was things that Arnie did in that race I was pleased with, and there was a lot of things that she did that I was not happy with at all.”

The Olympic postponement to 2021 gives Titmus and Boxall another year to work on those inefficiencies down in Brisbane. Another year to mature, to turn 20 years old before the Games.

“I try not to dwell on that [beating Ledecky] too much,” Titmus, sometimes called “the Terminator” by Australian press, said of the world championships, where she also out-split Ledecky in the 4x200m free relay and took bronze behind the American in the 800m free. “Next year’s the big one at the Olympics.”

Nowhere is swimming closer to a national sport than in Australia, but none of its Olympic champion Dolphins hail from Tasmania, an island 150 miles south of the mainland.

Notable Tasmanian sports persons include cricketer Ricky Ponting, retired NASCAR driver Marcos Ambrose and woodchopping world champion David Foster, but no listed swimmers.

Stephanie Rice, the last Australian female swimmer to win an individual Olympic title in 2008, visited “Tassie,” the state a little bigger than West Virginia, nearly a decade ago. She met a young Titmus, who still remembers what Rice scribbled: “Be the best you can be.”

“I say it’s my favorite quote,” Titmus said. “She wrote it on my shirt, so it has to be my favorite quote.”

Titmus was born a week before the Sydney Olympics — “She loved watching Thorpie,” her mom said — and grew up on 16 acres of country land. The family — parents Steve and Robyn and younger sister Mia — had horses, a trampoline and a swimming club just down the road in Launceston.

They also had an indoor pool (areas of Tasmania approach freezing in the winter). One evening more than 15 years ago, Robyn was chopping vegetables and peered to see her elder daughter, then a toddler without formal swim lessons, doing the breaststroke.

“We didn’t know anybody at the swimming club,” said Steve, a longtime TV journalist. “And we turned up and said, hi, we’re the Titmuses. We’ve got a daughter called Ariarne, and she wants to race. Tuesday nights they had club night, and she jumped in the water, and away she went.”

Titmus wasn’t the fastest at first, but by the time she won a third Australian junior title, she became too big for the Apple Isle.

“[My coach] said, look, you can’t really do anything else down here,” Titmus remembered. “There’s no one for you to train with. There’s no one for you to race. It’s all up in Queensland. And he said, if you really want a shot at this, you should really move.”

The family relocated to Brisbane when she was 14 or 15, following Titmus’ coach.

We packed up the car, got on the boat, sailed to Melbourne,” said Robyn, a former national-level track sprinter. “We even stopped at Albury on the way for a training session because the coach she had at the time was a hard task master.”

Right around that time, she first met Boxall while with the Australian junior national team.

“I originally thought this guy is nuts,” Titmus said. “He gave us this speech about the New Zealanders or something were trying to be better than us. His veins were popping. It was crazy. I was like, I’m never ever going to have a coach like him.”

Boxall became her coach about a year later.

“I’ve got great athletes here that hurt themselves, and they enjoy going through the pain,” he said, “but you want to try and get that little bit extra from someone. You have to actually go there with them a little bit.”

In a sitdown, on-camera interview, Boxall first told how he met Titmus, his first impression of her and a bit about their relationship. He first mentioned Ledecky, umprompted, when asked the fourth question, about Titmus’ progression.

Boxall noted that Titmus swam the 400m freestyle in 4:09.81 at the August 2016 Junior Pan Pacific Championships.

“Ledecky went 3:56:46,” Boxall said, correctly noting Ledecky’s Rio Olympic world record to the hundredth, “so we’re 13 seconds off [at] that stage.”

Titmus raced Ledecky for the first time at the 2017 Worlds and finished fourth in the 400m, closing the gap to six seconds. In 2018, she took second to Ledecky at Pan Pacs, 1.16 seconds behind, becoming the first Australian to break four minutes in the event.

At 2019 Worlds, Boxall needed to be alone during the 400m free final. He left the Australian team box and snuck into a VIP area. As Titmus reeled Ledecky in, Boxall stood up and ran.

“Like a shot of adrenaline,” he said. “I couldn’t contain myself, but I was calmer as I’d ever been as well.

“That’s the first race that Arnie has raced Katie and actually was in the race. … Prior to that, it was just Katie.”

Titmus swam 10 seconds faster than when Boxall first compared her to Ledecky in August 2016.

“She’s 2.4 seconds off [Ledecky’s] world record,” Boxall said. “We know what the benchmark is, and we’re still a long way off.”

Titmus recorded the eighth-fastest 400m freestyle in history. Ledecky owns the top seven times.

“The greatest thing apart from obviously winning, I think, [is] being able to actually race someone who has been on her own for so long,” Titmus said. “I find it so crazy that now I’m in this situation where she’s my main rival.”

Scroll down the list, and you’ll see that the top 27 times in history (aside from the now-banned suit era) are shared by Ledecky (23) and Titmus (four).

“She’s certainly special,” Boxall said of his pupil. “Special enough? We’ll see.”

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