Getty Images

Six months out: PyeongChang Olympic daily events to watch

Leave a comment

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 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 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.

OlympicTalk is on Apple News. Favorite us!

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

Naomi Osaka, Coco Gauff set Australian Open duel

Naomi Osaka, Coco Gauff
Getty Images
Leave a comment

MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) — Plenty was going badly for Coco Gauff in the second round of the Australian Open.

The double-faults kept coming Wednesday, nine in all. The deficits, too: First, she dropped the opening set against 74th-ranked Sorana Cirstea.

Then, after forcing a third, Gauff fell behind by a break, ceding 14 of 16 points with a series of mistakes. Later, after getting even at 3-all, Gauff was a mere two points from a loss.

None of that mattered. As she keeps showing, over and over, Gauff is not a typical 15-year-old. Not a typical tennis player, either.

And by getting past Cirstea 4-6, 6-3, 7-5 in a little more than two hours thanks to a more aggressive approach in the late going, she now has set up yet another Grand Slam showdown against Naomi Osaka.

AUSTRALIAN OPEN DRAWS: Men | Women

“I kind of felt the momentum changing,” Gauff said about turning things around against Cirstea. “I knew I had to keep pressing.”

Less than five months after their memorable meeting at the U.S. Open — Osaka won that one in straight sets, then consoled a crying Gauff on court and encouraged her to address the spectators — the two will face each other again. Like that time, Osaka is the major’s reigning champion and Gauff is making her debut at the tournament.

“I think I’ll be less nervous this time,” said Gauff, who eliminated seven-time Grand Slam champion Venus Williams in the first round Monday. “I think I’m more confident this time around.”

As for what sticks with her about the post-match comforting Osaka offered in New York, Gauff said: “If I had a child or something, that’s something I would want my child to see. It just shows what being a competitor really is. You might hate the person on the court, but off the court you love them — not really, like, ‘hate,’ but you want to win. Sometimes when we’re on the court, we say things we don’t mean because we have that mentality. When it’s all said and done, we still look at each other with respect.”

Other winners included Serena Williams — 6-2, 6-3 against Tamara Zidansek in a match that finished with the Rod Laver Arena retractable roof closed because of rain — No. 1 Ash Barty, 2018 Australian Open champion Caroline Wozniacki and two-time major champion Petra Kvitova, the runner-up to Osaka in Australia a year ago.

Defending men’s champion Novak Djokovic required all of 95 minutes to breeze past Japanese wild-card entry Tatsuma Ito 6-1, 6-4, 6-2, while Roger Federer swept Filip Krajinovic 6-1, 6-4, 6-1.

Gauff was not at her very best on a windy afternoon against Cirstea but managed to figure her way out of trouble repeatedly. Gauff demonstrated plenty of grit, yes, and also enthusiasm, pumping herself up by shaking a fist and yelling, “Come on!” after most of her successful points down the stretch.

All the while, Gauff was supported by a Melbourne Arena crowd that chanted, “Let’s go, Coco! Let’s go!”

Her father, Corey, was animated in the stands, too, except when he was squeezing his eyes shut at critical moments.

There were several of those for his precocious daughter, who was ranked only 313th last year when she became the youngest player in history to qualify for Wimbledon, then wound up beating Williams there en route to the fourth round.

It is a measure of her came-so-soon stardom that Gauff was playing at Melbourne Park’s third-largest stadium Wednesday, even though this was a matchup between a pair of players ranked outside the top 60 and with one career Grand Slam quarterfinal between them, more than a decade ago (Cirstea made it that far at the 2009 French Open).

Indeed, every Grand Slam singles match — “every” being a relative term, of course, because this was No. 9 — of the 67th-ranked Gauff’s nascent career has been placed on a show court.

This was the first main draw match at a major for Gauff in which she held a better ranking than her opponent.

Didn’t seem that way at the outset: Gauff dropped the first set. After forcing things to a third, she trailed 3-0. After making it 3-3, Gauff needed to get through one more gut-check: Twice, she was two points from departing.

But the American teenager broke in the next-to-last game, then held to win.

How did Gauff get through this test?

“Just my will to win,” she said. “My parents, they always told me I can come back, no matter what the score is.”

Osaka worked through some frustrations Wednesday by grabbing her racket with both hands and chucking it to the ground, tossing away a tennis ball and kicking the racket along the court, to boot.

Then she plopped herself down on her sideline seat and draped a towel over her head. Soon, she was gathering herself and defeating Zheng Saisai 6-2, 6-4.

“I mean, my racket just magically flew out of my hand. I couldn’t control it,” Osaka said with a mischievous smile. “I think that’s how I dealt with my frustration. It was a bit childish. I just want to play one match without throwing my racket or kicking it. That’s all I want.”

Perhaps because her news conference took place while Gauff and Cirstea were still playing, Osaka deflected a question seeking some sort of lookahead to the third round, saying simply she would go watch the end of that match.

MORE: Another top U.S. tennis player cools on Olympics

OlympicTalk is on Apple News. Favorite us!

John Isner leaning toward skipping Olympics again

Getty Images
Leave a comment

John Isner, the highest-ranked U.S. male singles tennis player, is considering skipping the Olympics for a second straight time.

“I haven’t put a ton of thought into it, but as of right now, I think I’m leaning towards not playing,” the 19th-ranked player said at the Australian Open on Tuesday. “It’s about scheduling. I know the Olympics, it’s a fantastic honor. There’s no doubt about that. … Right now, at this stage in my career, it’s not a huge priority for me. So that’s probably the main reason I won’t be going. I certainly love playing in the summer in America, and I’m going to focus on that.”

The Tokyo Games take place the same week as a lower-level ATP Tour event in Atlanta that Isner, a former University of Georgia star, has won five times.

Other notable male players already said they will pass on Tokyo, including Sam Querrey, the top American in Olympic qualifying standings.

Austrian Dominic Thiem, a two-time French Open finalist, is prioritizing an ATP event in Kitzbühel the week of the Olympics. The U.S. doubles team of Bob and Mike Bryan are not planning to play the Olympics in their final season before retirement, their manager said in November.

“The Olympics is very tough on the schedule … especially with Davis Cup,” Isner said in 2016, according to USA Today. “I think the fact that they have no [ATP ranking] points [at the Olympics], to be honest, was a pretty big factor as well. Obviously the Olympics is not about the money, but no points I think hindered me a bit.”

Isner, who turns 35 on April 26, is likely giving up his last chance to play Olympic singles. In his only Olympic participation, he reached the quarterfinals of the 2012 London Games, plus lost an opening-round doubles match there with Andy Roddick.

The top four U.S. men qualify for Tokyo, assuming they are among the top 60 overall qualifiers (maximum four per country) after this spring’s French Open.

Taylor FritzReilly Opelka, Steve Johnson and Tommy Paul are the U.S. men currently in Olympic qualifying position if excluding Querrey and Isner.

OlympicTalk is on Apple News. Favorite us!

MORE: A century later, Naomi Osaka, Kei Nishikori can bring Japan Olympic tennis to forefront