Getty Images

What to watch this week in Olympic sports: Shiffrin’s season finale

Leave a comment

Mikalea Shiffrin’s incredible 2018-19 season will come to a close this week at the World Cup Finals in Soldeu, Andorra, where Shiffrin is expected to ski for two more crystal globes. The women’s super-G and giant slalom crystal globes are still up for grabs, with Shiffrin holding point leads in both disciplines.

On Wednesday the men’s and women’s downhill kicks off the event, but Thursday will be the draw for U.S. fans hoping to see Shiffrin clinch her first ever globe in a speed event. She came close at the end of the 2017-18 season when she finished fifth in the World cup downhill standings.

Shiffrin’s second chance at a globe this week comes on Sunday in the women’s giant slalom.

Watch the women’s super-G live on Thursday beginning at 5:30 a.m. ET on TV and streaming on Olympic Channel and NBC Sports Gold, with an encore presentation airing on NBCSN on TV at 11:00 a.m. ET.

To see if Shiffrin can win the giant slalom crystal globe, watch the first run live on Sunday morning at 4:30 a.m. and the second run at 7:00 a.m. Live first run action will be streaming on OlympicChannel.com and NBC Sports Gold, with the second run airing live on TV and streaming with Olympic Channel and NBC Sports Gold.

Another huge name in U.S. Olympic sports, gymnast Simone Biles, will make her season debut this week at the World Cup event in Stuttgart, Germany.

At the 2018 World Championships in Doha, the four-time Olympic gold medalist, helped the U.S. win its fourth-straight team title, then became the first woman to win four all-around world titles. Biles also won gold in Doha in the apparatus finals in the floor and vault and took home silver on the uneven bars and bronze on balance beam.

Check out the full schedule below for times, events and where to watch live on TV and streaming.

ALPINE SKIING WORLD CUP FINAL — Soldeu, Andorra

Day Time (ET) Event TV Stream
Wednesday 5:30 a.m. Men’s & Women’s Downhill Olympic Channel Olympic Channel/NBC Sports Gold
12:30 p.m. Men’s & Women’s Downhill* NBCSN
Thursday 5:30 a.m. Men’s & Women’s Super-G Olympic Channel Olympic Channel/NBC Sports Gold
11:00 p.m. Men’s & Women’s Super-G* NBCSN
Friday 7:00 a.m. Team Event Olympic Channel Olympic Channel/NBC Sports Gold
Saturday 4:30 a.m. Men’s Giant Slalom (Run 1) OlympicChannel.com/NBC Sports Gold
5:30 a.m. Women’s Slalom (Run 1) OlympicChannel.com/NBC Sports Gold
7:00 a.m. Men’s Giant Slalom (Run 2) Olympic Channel Olympic Channel/NBC Sports Gold
8:00 a.m. Women’s Slalom (Run 2) Olympic Channel Olympic Channel/NBC Sports Gold
Sunday 4:30 a.m. Women’s Giant Slalom (Run 1) OlympicChannel.com/NBC Sports Gold
5:30 a.m. Men’s Slalom (Run 1) OlympicChannel.com/NBC Sports Gold
7:00 a.m. Women’s Giant Slalom (Run 2) Olympic Channel Olympic Channel/NBC Sports Gold
8:00 a.m. Men’s Slalom (Run 2) Olympic Channel Olympic Channel/NBC Sports Gold
3:30 p.m. Women’s Giant Slalom* NBCSN

*Same-day delay

BIATHLON WORLD CHAMPIONSHIPS — Oestersund, Sweden

Day Time (ET) Event TV Stream
Tuesday 10:30 a.m. Women’s 15km Individual Olympic Channel Olympic Channel/NBC Sports Gold
Wednesday 12:30 a.m. Women’s 15km Individual* NBCSN
11:00 a.m. Men’s 20km Individual Olympic Channel Olympic Channel/NBC Sports Gold
4:00 p.m. Men’s 20km Individual* NBCSN
Thursday 12:00 p.m. Single Mixed Relay Olympic Channel Olympic Channel/NBC Sports Gold
Friday 1:00 a.m. Single Mixed Relay* NBCSN
Saturday 8:15 a.m. Women’s 4x6km Relay OlympicChannel.com/NBC Sports Gold
11:30 a.m. Men’s 4×7.5km Relay OlympicChannel.com/NBC Sports Gold
12:30 p.m. Women’s 4x6km Relay* Olympic Channel
1:30 p.m. Men’s 4×7.5km Relay* Olympic Channel
Sunday 8:15 a.m. Women’s 12.5km Mass Start OlympicChannel.com/NBC Sports Gold
10:00 a.m. Women’s 12.5km Mass Start* Olympic Channel
11:00 a.m. Men’s 15km Mass Start Olympic Channel Olympic Channel/NBC Sports Gold

*Same-day and next-day delay

CROSS-COUNTRY SKIING WORLD CUP — Drammen, Norway; Falun, Sweden

Day Time (ET) Event TV Stream
Tuesday 8:15 a.m. Men’s & Women’s Sprint Olympic Channel Olympic Channel/NBC Sports Gold
11:30 p.m. Men’s & Women’s Sprint* NBCSN
Saturday 9:30 a.m. Men’s & Women’s Sprint Olympic Channel Olympic Channel/NBC Sports Gold
Sunday 6:30 a.m. Women’s 10km NBC Sports Gold
9:30 a.m. Men’s 15km NBC Sports Gold
12:30 p.m. Women’s 10km* Olympic Channel
1:00 p.m. Women’s 10km* Olympic Channel
2:00 p.m. Men’s 15km* Olympic Channel

*Same-day delay

CURLING WOMEN’S WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP — Silkeborg, Denmark

Day Time (ET) Event TV Stream
Saturday 9:00 a.m. Russia vs. Switzerland OlympicChannel.com
9:00 a.m. Japan vs. Scotland OlympicChannel.com
2:30 p.m. South Korea vs. Canada OlympicChannel.com
2:30 p.m. USA vs. Denmark Olympic Channel Olympic Channel
Sunday 4:00 a.m. Canada vs. Germany OlympicChannel.com
4:00 a.m. USA vs. Japan OlympicChannel.com
9:00 a.m. Germany vs. Japan OlympicChannel.com
9:00 a.m. Switzerland vs. Sweden OlympicChannel.com
2:00 p.m. South Korea vs. USA OlympicChannel.com
2:00 p.m. Latvia vs. Canada OlympicChannel.com
4:30 p.m. USA vs. Japan* Olympic Channel
7:30 p.m. South Korea vs. USA* Olympic Channel

*Same-day delay

FENCING GRAND PRIX — Anaheim, California

Day Time (ET) Event TV Stream
Sunday 9:30 p.m. From Anaheim, California OlympicChannel.com

FREESTYLE SKIING WORLD CUP — Mammoth Lakes, California; Quebec City, Quebec; Veysonnaz, Switzerland

Day Time (ET) Event TV Stream
Thursday 12:30 a.m. Freeski: Slopestyle – Toyota U.S. Grand Prix* NBCSN
Saturday 4:00 p.m. Big Air OlympicChannel.com/NBC Sports Gold
Sunday 6:00 a.m. Ski Cross OlympicChannel.com/NBC Sports Gold

*Encore presentation

GYMNASTICS WORLD CUP — Baku, Azerbaijan; Stuttgart, Germany

Day Time (ET) Event TV Stream
Saturday 4:00 a.m. Apparatus Finals (Day 1) OlympicChannel.com
7:15 a.m. Men’s Indiv. All-Around OlympicChannel.com
5:30 p.m. Apparatus Finals (Day 1)* Olympic Channel
7:30 p.m. Men’s Indiv. All-Around* Olympic Channel
Sunday 4:00 a.m. Apparatus Finals (Day 2) OlympicChannel.com
7:15 a.m. Women’s Indiv. All-Around OlympicChannel.com
2:00 p.m. Women’s Indiv. All-Around* Olympic Channel
4:30 p.m. Women’s Indiv. All-Around* NBCSN
10:30 p.m. Apparatus Finals (Day 2)* Olympic Channel

*Same-day delay

NORDIC COMBINED WORLD CUP — Schonach, Germany

Day Time (ET) Event TV Stream
Saturday 6:00 a.m. HS106 OlympicChannel.com/NBC Sports Gold
10:00 a.m. 10km OlympicChannel.com/NBC Sports Gold
Sunday 6:00 a.m. HS106 OlympicChannel.com/NBC Sports Gold
10:00 a.m. 15km OlympicChannel.com/NBC Sports Gold

SNOWBOARDING WORLD CUP — Mammoth Lakes, California; Veysonnaz, Switzerland; Quebec City, Quebec

Day Time (ET) Event TV Stream
Saturday 9:15 a.m. Snowboard Cross OlympicChannel.com/NBC Sports Gold
Sunday 8:00 p.m. Big Air OlympicChannel.com/NBC Sports Gold
12:00 p.m. Halfpipe – Toyota U.S. Grand Prix* NBC

*Encore presentation

SKI JUMPING WORLD CUP — Nizhny Tagil, Russia; Raw Air Tournament Norway

Day Time (ET) Event TV Stream
Monday 12:30 p.m. Raw Air – Men’s Indiv. (Qualifying) OlympicChannel.com/NBC Sports Gold
Tuesday 12:00 p.m. Raw Air – Men’s Indiv. OlympicChannel.com/NBC Sports Gold
3:00 p.m. Raw Air – Women’s Indiv. OlympicChannel.com/NBC Sports Gold
6:30 p.m. Raw Air – Men’s Indiv.* Olympic Channel
8:00 p.m. Raw Air – Women’s Indiv.* Olympic Channel
Wednesday 12:30 p.m. Raw Air – Men’s Indiv. (Qualifying) OlympicChannel.com/NBC Sports Gold
2:30 p.m. Raw Air – Men’s Indiv.* NBCSN
Thursday 9:00 a.m. Raw Air – Women’s Indiv. OlympicChannel.com/NBC Sports Gold
12:00 p.m. Raw Air – Men’s Indiv. OlympicChannel.com/NBC Sports Gold
3:00 p.m. Raw Air – Women’s Indiv.* Olympic Channel
4:30 p.m. Raw Air – Men’s Indiv.* Olympic Channel
Friday 12:30 p.m. Raw Air – Men’s Indiv. Ski Flying (Qualifying) OlympicChannel.com/NBC Sports Gold
Saturday 8:00 a.m. Women’s Indiv. OlympicChannel.com/NBC Sports Gold
12:00 p.m. Raw Air – Men’s Team Ski Flying OlympicChannel.com/NBC Sports Gold
Sunday 8:00 a.m. Women’s Indiv. Olympic Channel/NBC Sports Gold
12:00 p.m. Raw Air – Men’s Indiv. Ski Flying OlympicChannel.com/NBC Sports Gold
5:00 p.m. Women’s Indiv.* Olympic Channel

*Same-day delay

SPEED SKATING WORLD CUP FINAL — Salt Lake City, Utah

Day Time (ET) Event TV Stream
Monday 11:30 p.m. Day 2* NBCSN

*Same-day delay

SHORT TRACK WORLD CHAMPIONSHIPS — Sofia, Bulgaria

Day Time (ET) Event TV Stream
Monday 1:00 a.m. From Sofia, Bulgaria NBCSN

MEN’S WRESTLING WORLD CUP — Yakutsk, Russia

Day Time (ET) Event TV Stream
Friday 10:00 p.m. Session 1 Olympic Channel
Saturday 3:30 a.m. Session 2 Olympic Channel
10:00 p.m. Session 3 Olympic Channel
Sunday 2:15 a.m. Bronze Medal Match Olympic Channel Olympic Channel
4:00 a.m. Gold Medal Match Olympic Channel Olympic Channel

 

U.S. curlers reflect on success one year after Olympic gold

Getty Images
Leave a comment

KALAMAZOO, Mich. — Nearly a year has passed since he won gold in South Korea, and John Shuster can still smile about his transformation from obscure curler to Olympic sensation.

“It’s a lot of pinch-yourself kind of days,” he said.

Shuster is back on the ice this week, competing at the USA Curling National Championships. His team also includes two of his fellow gold medalists from 2018 — John Landsteiner and Matt Hamilton — and in a way, this event represents a return to normalcy for them all. The past year has been unlike any they’ve experienced before, an opportunity to celebrate their memorable victory and promote their sport.

“We went everywhere across the country. All summer, we were doing a lot of things — California to New York, in between,” Landsteiner said. “Barely any time at home. I think, before this event, I was home for two weeks in a row, and it was the most I’ve been home in a year and a half.”

The gold medal at the Pyeongchang Olympics capped a remarkable run for the much-maligned Shuster, a Minnesota native who won bronze at the 2006 Olympics but was spurned when he applied for the U.S. high performance program after the 2014 Games in Russia. Undeterred, Shuster put together a team good enough to make it to South Korea last year, and when the Americans beat Sweden for the gold medal, it was one of the highlights of the Olympics for U.S. fans.

Curling isn’t a mainstream Olympic showcase like hockey or figure skating, but it certainly has a niche among viewers who enjoy its quirks — and the relatability of the competitors. After returning home, Shuster’s team rang the opening bell at the New York Stock Exchange and was honored at an outdoor NHL game in Annapolis, Maryland.

Shuster recalls playing in a celebrity golf tournament with some other Minnesota athletes — and discovering that he had a parking space reserved for him.

“I remember pulling into the parking lot, I parked my car and I went walking by. I was like, oh, the top 10 people all have their own car parking spots, their names on it. As I was walking, it was like, Jason Zucker, Adam Thielen, Kyle Rudolph, John Shuster,” he said. “I’m like, wait a minute, I had a parking spot! There was like, probably 40 NHL and NFL players that were at this tournament, and there was only 10 people that had parking spots, and I was one of them.”

When an American team exceeds expectations at the Olympics the way Shuster’s did, a sport like curling has an opportunity to capitalize. Although the U.S. is a ways away from any kind of curling boom, there’s some evidence that the game is growing.

“Our local club here has gone from around 90 members to over 150, literally since the Olympics,” said Garnet Eckstrand of the Kalamazoo Curling Club.

There are even some new potential ambassadors gravitating to the sport . Former Minnesota Vikings defensive lineman Jared Allen took up curling, forming a team with three other former NFL players: Rams quarterback Marc Bulger, Titans linebacker Keith Bulluck and Titans tackle Michael Roos. Allen said he’d watched Olympic curling, and he certainly remembers Shuster’s big victory.

“They made this insane run, and it really was like, dude, that’s awesome,” Allen said. “The coolest part about it is, you can see the confidence clicking. Now when I watch them play . they know they can beat everybody.”

Allen and Roos have actually been competing at nationals in Michigan this week, although not on the same team. Shuster’s group, not surprisingly, will play for the title Saturday after mostly rolling through this tournament. The team’s game Thursday — a 9-0 victory — was so lopsided that the opponent conceded before the halfway point.

Last year, Shuster’s team didn’t compete at nationals — the tournament was around the same time as the post-gold medal victory tour. That’s not an issue this time around. There are more goals ahead for Shuster and his teammates — they have an Olympic title to defend, after all.

But even as they focus on the future, these American curling celebrities still have plenty of appreciation for what they’ve already accomplished.

“It’s been pretty incredible to see the uptick in interest, just based on us maybe winning a gold medal, but also not all that surprising,” Shuster said. “Curling has a way of hooking you, when you give it a legitimate try.”

Ex-NFL Pro Bowl players try curling with 2022 Olympic goal

AP Images
1 Comment

Defensive lineman Jared Allen retired from the NFL in 2015 and wasn’t ready to give up on the competition he’d come to enjoy as a five-time All-Pro.

His solution: The Olympics.

The problem: He didn’t compete in any Olympic sports.

Less than a year later, Allen and three other former NFL stars — none with any prior experience — are attempting to qualify for the U.S. national curling championships against players who have been throwing stones for most of their lives.

It would be the first step toward competing in the 2022 Winter Games in Beijing.

“Every team in the NFL — whether you’re hot garbage or the defending Super Bowl champions — every coach come August says the same thing: ‘We’re trying to win the Super Bowl,’” Allen said. “We come from that mentality, where we set lofty goals.

“Our short term goals are continually to get better: Fundamentals, strategy, sweeping. We know if we master these little things, it will take us a long way.”

A 12-year NFL veteran who spent most of his career with the Chiefs and Vikings, Allen was lamenting the end of his playing days when a friend dared him to try an Olympic sport. Allen toyed with the idea of badminton but rejected it as too taxing.

“We thought about curling. It was chill, and the winners have to buy the losers beer,” he said. “We thought it was a win-win.”

He rounded up former Rams quarterback Marc Bulger and Titans linebacker Keith Bulluck and tackle Michael Roos to form a team; all were Pro Bowl selections during their NFL career, and living near Nashville, Tennessee.

Adopting the name All-Pro Curling Team, they started from scratch in March and kept their plans under wraps until they felt like they had made enough progress.

“We wanted the reaction when we got on the ice to be ’Oh, how long have you guys been doing this?” Allen said in a telephone interview after practicing on a converted hockey rink in Nashville. “We were serious. We didn’t want it to seem like it was just some media hype, or just trying to stay relevant.”

The first test was in November, when Allen and Bulger — with two “regular” curlers — competed in the Curl Mesabi Classic in Northern Minnesota. Their first opponent: The gold medal-winning team from Pyeongchang led by four-time Olympian John Shuster.

They lost 11-3, giving up five points in the sixth end.

“Honestly, they were a little better than I had expected,” said Matt Hamilton, the second on that team. “All in all, Jared was technically pretty sound. But at the end of the day, I’ve seen thousands of curling shots and situations and that is ultimately going to win us more games.”

Although curling matches are often conceded when they are out of reach, the Olympians kept playing through the eighth (of 10) ends, to help the football players gain the experience they’ll need if they are going to be more competitive. (If it’s any consolation for Allen’s crew, Shuster’s rink also scored a five-ender against Sweden in the gold-medal match.)

“We had one bad end, and we just kept playing with them. We just wanted to be a sponge,” Bulger said. “The key was they knew we were taking it seriously. It wasn’t just us saying ‘We’re going to take over curling,’ kind of as a gimmick.

“We hope to play them again,” he said, “when we’re better.”

The All-Pros are back at it at the USA Men’s Challenge Round this weekend in Blaine, Minnesota, where they are competing for one of four remaining spots in next month’s national championships. (Top teams like Shuster’s have already qualified.)

They got off to a rough start in their first match, falling 10-1 to Steve Birklid’s Seattle-based rink on Thursday night. But, by hopping into the sport early in the Olympic cycle, they have almost three more years before the team for the 2022 Games is chosen.

Hamilton confessed he was put off at first about newcomers thinking they could reach the Olympics in a sport he’d worked a lifetime to master. But he also realized the publicity will be good for curling, which has struggled to break out of its niche as an every-four-years curiosity.

“If I really think I’m that good, I should be like ‘Bring it on!’” Hamilton said in an email to The Associated Press from a competition in Japan. “How much they respected the game, though, is what made me realize they aren’t making a mockery. We just have some extremely athletic individuals who respect sport but have a need to compete in their blood. Can’t disrespect that!”

All four football players agreed the reception they’ve received from lifetime curlers is decidedly different from a curler trying to break into the hyper-competitive NFL.

“Oh, he’d get smashed,” Allen said. “We’d go out of our way to test his mettle, for sure.”

Instead, they found the tight-knit but friendly community of curlers was eager to accept them. In their match against the Olympians, there was trash-talking — or banter, depending on whom you ask — and Hamilton even gave them some of his old curling gear.

“I looked at their broom heads and I was disgusted. I was wondering why these former pro football players couldn’t afford new broom heads,” he said. “So I went into my curling bag and gave them some gently used ones before the game. That really surprised Jared, claiming nothing like that would ever fly in football.”

Like many of those who only experience curling every four years on TV, the football players saw the sweeping and the shouting and underestimated how hard it is. “We played football, but it’s a lot of muscles we didn’t use,” Bulger said.

Sliding on the ice was also an adjustment, but the biggest challenge has been the strategy.

When he first started watching, Bulger said, he would see curlers setting up protective stones called guards and thought they were missing their shots.

“We just assumed that you throw to the button every time, and we learned that is not the game,” he said. “It’s like a novice chess player going against” a grandmaster.

But their NFL experience did help in other ways, priming them with not just physical fitness but also good practice habits, making decisions on the fly and improving through film study and coaching.

“Like any other sport, you have to learn, try to figure out how to get better,” Bulluck said. “Playing football at a very high level, being one of the best at the position once upon a time, to get to that level in anything you do you have to be able to take coaching.”

And, of course, they’re competitive.

“The message is: We want to bring attention to it. We want to have fun with it,” Allen said. “But we’re dead serious about what we’re trying to accomplish.”