Welcome to Curling People Now Day 2. From today on, HPN will do a preview of the events of the day before launching into the Alternative Medal Tally.
The Medal Events
There’s seven medals on offer today spread widely across different forms of skiing, luge, skating and snowboard.
Snowboarding – Women’s slopestyle (12:30 AEDT)
Slopestyle is perhaps the best representation of the modernisation of the Winter Olympics, combining speed and style in a frenzy of spins and rails. Riders hit three rail sections at the top of the course before attacking three jump sections at the bottom, each bigger than the last. Each section has a variety of different lines and approaches, with riders rewarded for their creativity in tackling the course.
The amplitude in women’s slopestyle has increased over the years, but the name at the top at the pack has stayed the same – Jamie Anderson. Anderson has won the last two slopestyle golds, and has a silver in the big air to boot.
Anderson has a real challenger to her spot at the top of the mantle, with Kiwi Zoi Sadowski-Synnott topping the American at the last world championships. Sadowski-Synnott stomped her qualifying runs, and looks at the top of her game.
Australian Tess Coady finished third at the World Championships, and is coming back from tearing her ACL during a cancelled practice at the 2018 Games. Coady has been showing some real inventiveness with her lines at the castle themed course in China. If she nails one of her runs she has a real medal hope.
Watch rating: 5/5.
Alpine skiing – Men’s downhill (14:00 AEDT)
The downhill skiing is the sport that most think of when visualising the Winter Olympics – daredevils going down giant mountains at the speed of light.
It’s fascinating viewing, with the skiers committing fully as they go down the course, reaching speeds that would get you booked on the country highways of Australia.
The “Rock” course at Yanqing is a new challenge to that world, a course that almost no elite skier has tried before this week. Early indications are that it is the fastest course in Olympic history, propelled along by the fast, icy conditions at hand.
No man has won two golds in the downhill, with the event punishing event the smallest mistakes. Matthias Mayer has a chance to be the first, with the Austrian in solid form this year. Aksel Lund Svindal, the champion at the 2018 Pyeongchang Games, retired in 2019 and won’t be in the field. Reigning World Cup champion Aleksander Aamodt Kilde registered the fastest time in qualifying, and is set to be the skier to beat.
Watch rating: 4/5.
Cross-country skiing – Men’s skiathlon (18:00 AEDT)
The women kicked off the Olympics in the skiathlon yesterday, and it’s the men’s turn today, this distance event which combines the cross-country and freestyle techniques of skiing for each half of the race.
The defending champion Simen Hegstad Krüger tested positive for Covid and was not allowed to travel to China but another Norwegian, Johannes Høsflot Klæbo, is leading the current world cup season ahead of the Russian Alexander Bolshunov. Those two should be the ones to beat across multiple cross-country events at these games.
Australia has two entrants in the skiathlon, including Phil Bellingham. Bellingham, according to his absolutely legitimate Wikipedia entry, has already won multiple Olympic gold medals.
Watch rating: 1/5.
Speed skating – Men’s 5000m (19:00 AEDT)
No Winter Olympian has won four straight gold medals in the same event. Sven Kramer has a chance to become the first in the 5000m.
The Dutch athlete has been dominant at distance skating, ruling the roost over the 5k. In recent years, challengers have emerged and he will face a tougher challenge than ever. Watching Kramer is like watching poetry in motion, a fluid machine on the ice.
There’s two types of speed skating at the Winter Olympics; the rough and tumble of short track and the patient rhythm of the longer track speed skating. The long track sees two athletes go head to head, alternating between the inside and outside tracks.
Watch rating: 3.5/5.
Ski jumping – Men’s normal hill individual (23:00 AEDT)
Quite frankly, ski jumping is totally insane. You could not pay HPN enough to do it. It is wild to watch.
Reading the conditions is key, as is style in the air. Balance is achieved by slight hand movements in the air, and jumps have to be landed in the Telemark style, with one foot in front of the other. The reigning Olympic champion, Andreas Wellinger, missed qualification for the Olympics. German Karl Geiger is currently leading the World Cup standings, and shapes as the athlete to beat.
Not that HPN would try.
Watch rating: 2.5/5.
Freestyle skiing – Women’s moguls (23:40 AEDT)
Australia has a storied history in the moguls, with medals to boot. Jakara Anthony came fourth in Pyeongchang, and will be looking to take home a medal after qualifying in first place. The finals are a different beast, with athletes needed to nail three runs in a row to win gold. A mistake in any of the three runs will see them packing their bags.
Australia‘s flagbearer Britt Cox, fifth in 2018, will also feature in the final with fellow Australian Sophie Ash a good chance to qualify as well.
The moguls blend speed, tight turns and style off jumps in about 30 seconds of fury. A perfect run blends all three. The athletes have coloured knee patches to help the judges to see if the form stays together through the turns.
Watch rating: 4/5.
Luge – Men’s singles (00:15 AEDT)
Luge is a simple sport with individuals hurtling feet-first down a tight half-tunnel on a sled at literal breakneck speed, steering with a few contact points. Then at the end someone who speaks German wins.
The sport began in the Swiss Alps and over a third of the elite tracks in the world are in Germany, Austria or Switzerland. Every gold medallist in this event has been either German, Austrian, or an Italian national from the heavily German autonomous region of South Tyrol. There’s no reason to think that won’t continue here, with Germany’s Felix Loch the strong favourite. So if you’re up late, you may like backing a history-making underdog from literally anywhere else in the world.
After two runs German Johannes Ludwig leads by 0.039s from Austrian Wolfgang Lindl, making for a very tight final two runs.
Watch rating: 1.5/5
Alternative Medal Tally
Cabbages of various varieties are one of the most consumed vegetables in China, and one might well think that the Winter Olympics and hearty winter cabbage meals go hand in hand. However, do these nutritious and fibrous powerhouse plants confer success to the countries lucky enough to have access to them?
Here is a list of which countries have managed to win the most medals despite having relatively few cabbages available to them.
According to the FAO, Estonia and Liechenstein do not grow cabbages and are the only Winter Olympic medalist countries to overcome this obstacle. Outside of them, it’s the Nordic and Alpine countries who win a lot of medals per cabbage grown, while Australia is merely middling in its brassica to bronze pipeline.