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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 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.

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Noah Lyles, Michael Norman, green teens at Olympic Trials, now stars

Noah Lyles, Michael Norman
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Noah Lyles remembers all of it. Michael Norman is a little hazy on the details.

Even if they compete in different sprints (as they are at this week’s USATF Outdoor Championships), Lyles and Norman will always be linked by the 2016 Olympic Trials 200m final.

Both 18-year-olds. Both racing in high school singlets. Neither was expected to contend for the U.S. Olympic team at the start of the 10-day meet. But each won his 200m semifinal at Hayward Field on the University of Oregon campus two years ago.

The next day, the top three men in the 200m final would make the U.S. Olympic team. Lyles and Norman conversed in the call room before the race.

“Talking about how we were just doing this last year,” Lyles said, referencing his 200m win over Norman in the 2015 U.S. Junior Championships, also at Hayward. “I can’t believe we’re here, high schoolers, trying to bring a whole new generation.”

They entered the stadium.

“I remember walking down the track,” Lyles continued. “I can’t remember which race was going on, but I remember seeing Galen Rupp there, so it had to be the 5000m [it was, and perhaps the greatest race of the meet]. I remember everybody going wild for the distance race. All the people slamming on the front of the stands. Just starting to get hyped.”

Norman settled in lane six. Lyles in lane four. The starter’s gun fired.

“I remember running at the end,” Lyles said. “I had no idea what place I was in. I just saw LaShawn [Merritt] and Justin [Gatlin, a pair of Olympic champions] in front of me. That’s all that I saw, so I was really hoping I got third.”

Lyles didn’t see Ameer Webb in lane seven. Webb got third in 20.00 behind Gatlin and Merritt. Lyles was fourth in 20.09 (a national high school record). Norman was fifth in 20.14 (personal best).

Lyles and Norman just missed becoming the youngest U.S. man to make an Olympic track and field team in 32 years. Both left Eugene satisfied, though.

“That would be the only opportunity that both me and Noah Lyles will be able to go into the Olympic Trials with zero expectations and zero pressure,” Norman said this week.

Lyles and Norman are already U.S. Championships headliners at the midpoint of this Olympic cycle. Part of that is due to the absences of Gatlin, Merritt and Christian Coleman. But also what Lyles and Norman have done since those Olympic Trials.

USATF Outdoors: TV Schedule | Entries | Women’s Preview | Men’s Preview

Lyles is a co-favorite in Friday’s 100m, a complementary event for a man who signed a reported eight-year contract with Adidas shortly after the Olympic Trials.

The 5-foot-10, 160-pound Lyles is the son of Seton Hall track and field athletes. His first Olympic memory is watching Usain Bolt‘s record-breaking performances at the 2008 Beijing Games. He ran in R2-D2 socks on May 4, is a sneaker artist, dancer and Lego lover and apparently has “ICON” tattooed on his side.

Since Olympic Trials, Lyles is undefeated in outdoor 200m races. He broke 20 seconds in May 2017 but suffered a hamstring tear during that race and withdrew during the U.S. Championships the next month. He watched the August world championships from his Florida home, then beat the surprise world champion Ramil Guliyev at the Diamond League final three weeks later.

This year, Lyles set personal bests in the 100m (9.93, .02 off the fastest in the world this year) and 200m (19.69, tied for fastest in the world this year) and ran the fastest indoor 300m of all time.

Norman is expected to win Sunday’s 200m in his first meet since announcing he would turn professional after the NCAA Championships. Norman is forgoing his final two years at the University of Southern California.

The 6-foot-2, 175-pound Norman also has former college runners as parents. His dad went to Ball State, then transferred to a junior college before joining the Navy. His mom said she was once the fastest Japanese middle school 100m runner of all time. Norman has no evidence, but he has seen pictures.

Like Lyles, Norman’s first Olympic memory was Bolt in 2008. He races in a headband after being inspired by 2015 World 100m bronze medalist Trayvon Bromell. Norman has “22” in his social media handles because it shares a keyboard piece with the @ symbol.

Norman was also slowed by injuries in that post-Olympic Trials season as he became primarily a 400m runner at USC.

Shin splints. A stress reaction in his back. A hamstring strain that he reinjured in practice five weeks later. Norman did compete at the 2017 U.S. Championships, but not at full fitness, and finished seventh, missing the world championships 4x400m pool by one spot. He said this week is about “self redemption.”

Norman’s sophomore year at USC was a healthy one. Norman broke the 400m indoor record on March 10. He has taken .99 of a second off his outdoor 400m personal best, winning the NCAA title in 43.61. That’s the fastest time in the world since Wayde van Niekerk‘s world record 43.03 at the Rio Olympics. Norman is now the sixth-fastest 400m runner ever.

“I see myself as both a 200m and 400m runner,” said Norman, who hasn’t raced the 200m at a significant meet since winning the world U20 title two weeks after the Olympic Trials.

Norman and Lyles chose to room together at the 2016 World U20 Championships in Poland. They joked who would be put on the 4x400m relay (Norman led off, Lyles anchored, and the U.S. beat Japan by .08). Unlike trials, Norman has a better memory of the experience.

“Before [Lyles] raced his 100m final, he was talking to a sports psychologist,” he said. “I didn’t really know that people did that.”

Norman also remembers that Lyles is 2-0 in their all-time head to head. They could have raced this week, but Lyles chose the 100m. They are both entered in a 200m at a Diamond League meet in Lausanne on July 5.

“That’s one of my huge goals for the year, race Noah Lyles,” Norman said at the Olympic Trials.

They haven’t raced against each other since that day in Eugene. Norman had a dry-erase board at his USC dorm room on which he scribbled goals,. Though he never wrote anything about Lyles, he is certainly looking forward to their next meeting.

“It brings some more light to the sport, having rivalries like this may pique other people’s interest,” said Norman, who has gone about a year without ice cream but will indulge a Baked Bear double-decker ice-cream sandwich at the end of the season. “As long as it doesn’t become a negative, where we’re not conversing or being friendly, it will be beneficial to track and both of our careers.”

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Five men’s events to watch at USATF Outdoor Championships

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The featured men’s events at the USA Track and Field Outdoor Championships have a bit of everything.

Dominance from Olympic medalists Ryan Crouser (shot put) and Paul Chelimo (5000m). Promise in the form of Noah Lyles (100m), Michael Norman (200m) and Grant Holloway (110m hurdles). Overcoming adversity — Matthew Centrowitz (1500m) and Clayton Murphy (800m).

A Lyles-Norman showdown in the 200m would have enough spice to headline this meet on its own, but Lyles decided against the double. That enhances the likelihood that the biggest story in Des Moines could come from one of many events on Friday, Saturday or Sunday.

There is no Olympic or world championships team to qualify for this year, which is why established stars like Justin GatlinChristian Coleman and LaShawn Merritt are out.

But their absences could yield the emergence of first-time national champions. Just look at 2014, when that list included Tianna BartolettaKori CarterJeff HendersonSam Kendricks and Joe Kovacs, all of whom have since won Olympic or world titles.

USATF Outdoors: TV Schedule | Entries | Women’s Preview | Men’s Preview

Five men’s events to watch this week:

100m (Final — Friday, 8:30 p.m. ET, Olympic Channel, NBC Sports Gold)
World gold and silver medalists Justin Gatlin and Christian Coleman are missing, but two more impressive sprinters this outdoor season go head-to-head. Noah Lyles, who finished fourth in the 200m at the 2016 Olympic Trials at age 18 and is since undefeated in that event, drops down for his first 100m at a major meet as a professional. Lyles has the joint-fastest 200m in the world this year. He chose the 100m this week for two reasons — he can improve more in the 100m than the 200m over three rounds and to try something different given his race schedule the rest of the summer is tailored for the 200m. Lyles is forgoing a matchup with Michael Norman in the 200m this week, but he should have his hands full with Ronnie Baker. Baker, who grew up running cross-country and avoiding the moose in Alaska, has been the most impressive American in the 100m this year. Baker beat a slightly injured Coleman at consecutive Diamond League meets in May and, with favorable wind, should improve on his personal best of 9.93 and overtake the fastest time in the world this year (Zharnel Hughes‘ 9.91). As should Lyles, who also has a personal best of 9.93.

Shot Put (Saturday, 3:45 p.m. ET, NBC, NBC Sports Gold)
All four men from Rio and the 2017 Worlds are here, including Olympic gold and silver medalists Ryan Crouser and Joe Kovacs. Crouser, whose father, two uncles and two cousins were elite throwers, has won 13 of his last 14 head-to-heads with Kovacs, who was taught to throw by his mom in his Pennsylvania high-school parking lot. Crouser also won his last 13 of 14 head-to-heads with Rio Olympian Darrell Hill, according to Tilastopaja.org. Crouser also has the top 23 throws by an American this year out of his 24 total legal throws in 2018 competition, according to Tilastopaja.

1500m (Final — Saturday, 5:40 p.m. ET, NBC)
Is Olympic champion Matthew Centrowitz vulnerable? He was upset at nationals last year by Robby Andrews. Centrowitz revealed afterward that he competed on 10 days of training after a series of health problems that included an emergency-room visit with a viral infection. Then at worlds, a listless Centrowitz finished last in his first-round heat and said he was unable to get more than two straight weeks of healthy training all season. The 28-year-old heads into Des Moines ranked behind Andrews and Johnny Gregorek on best times this season. At last month’s Pre Classic, Centrowitz was beaten by a countryman (Olympic 800m bronze medalist Clayton Murphy, not racing the 1500m this week) at a major race at Hayward Field for the first time in five years.

800m (Final — Sunday, 4:13 p.m. ET, NBC)
Maybe the deepest field at nationals. The six fastest Americans since the start of 2016 are here. Clayton Murphy took bronze at the Rio Olympics but withdrew during 2017 Nationals with sore hamstrings and missed worlds. Boris Berian went from flipping burgers at McDonald’s to winning the 2016 World Indoor title and placing second at the Olympic Trials. He didn’t race at all in 2017 (Achilles) and ranks 186th in the U.S. this year. Donavan Brazier won the 2017 U.S. title and 2018 U.S. Indoor title at age 20 but hasn’t raced outdoors this year. Drew Windle took silver at world indoors on March 3. NCAA champion Isaiah Harris and Erik Sowinski are the fastest Americans this outdoor season.

110m Hurdles (Final — Sunday, 5:52 p.m. ET, NBC)
An intergenerational group with 2012 Olympic champion and world-record holder Aries Merritt, 2016 Olympic Trials winner Devon Allen and Grant Holloway, a rising University of Florida junior who won all four NCAA hurdles titles his first two years and ranks second in the world this season. Merritt underwent a kidney transplant in 2015, then missed the 2016 Olympic team by .01 and missed a national title in 2017 by .07 behind Aleec Harris (who is also in this field). Allen, the former University of Oregon wide receiver, looked primed to break 13 seconds after he won the trials in 13.03, but that remains his personal best. Holloway clocked his personal best of 13.15 on May 13 and is the only American to break 13.20 this year. It’s been nearly three years since an American broke 13 seconds, the longest drought in more than two decades.

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