The first event
There are six medals up for grabs today as we pass the halfway point of competition with the speed skating men’s 500m being the 55th of 109 events to award its medals.
The 500m was the first event at the very first Winter Olympics in 1924. The event was won by American Charles Jewtraw, the only American to win a gold at that Games. Jewtraw won the event in a time of 44.0 seconds, just 0.2 seconds ahead of second place.
At the 2018 Olympics, Håvard Holmefjord Lorentzen from Norway won the gold in a time of 34.41 seconds, a new Olympic Record. The march of time has seen performances in all the events of the Winter Olympics improve, even in the first event of them all.
The 500m is fast, furious, a little dangerous and fun to watch – a perfect summary of the first century or so of the Winter Olympics.
The Medal Events
Snowboarding – Mixed team snowboard cross (1350 AEDT)
The mixed team boarder cross is a new event at the Winter Olympics, but an exciting one.
The men set out from the gate first and race the course before the female riders take off, with a time advantage given due the male performance. Spoiler alert: Australia is the current World Champions.
Anything can and will happen in the Snowboard Cross, which makes it such a compelling event. The course set out is a good one, with plenty of overtaking opportunities and diverse sections.
This could be really fun.
Watch rating: 4.5/5
Cross-country skiing – Women’s 4×5km relay (1800 AEDT)
There is a lot of cross-country skiing at the Olympics. The relay sees the first two skiers set out in the classic style, before handing off to two freestyle skiers.
The usual suspects look to figure here – Norway, Sweden and Russia. This is perfect for the mini recaps of the event.
Watch Rating: 1.5/5
Speed skating – Men’s 500m (1953 AEDT)
The shortest of the long track events. Just 35 seconds of pure sprint. This event sees 15 pairs skating head to head, but really against everyone else’s times as they all get one chance each to post the fastest time.
Canadian Laurent Dubreuil is the form skater and he looks to back up a world championship win and strong world cup season here. Also in the mix are the Russian Pavel Kulizhnikov who will look to recreate his world record, and Håvard Holmefjord Lorentzen of Norway won the gold in Pyeongchang.
Watch Rating: 3/5
Biathlon – Men’s sprint (AEDT 2000)
As always, shooting clean in the biathlon matters. The winner will likely be decided by who can settle themselves the most on the range, alongside having good skiing skills.
By now, most have worked out whether biathlon is for them. It’s a bit of an acquired taste. For those keen, look out for Quentin Fillon Maillet, Sebastian Samuelsson, Johannes Thingnes Bø and Émilien Jacquelin.
Watch Rating: 1.5/5
Ski jumping – Men’s large hill individual (2300 AEDT)
The winter long jump, but with style points. The large hill is larger than the normal hill, 125 metres in Beijing. Skiers basically start with their very long skis in a guide groove on the ramp. They add posture and aerodynamics to the mix as gravity does most of the work launching them.
The goal is to see how far skiers can fly and how much they can impress the judges with their stability and position, with the typical distances being in the 130 metre range. Distance plus style points give a result. With a helmet and a skin suit and not much else, a crash can end a career.
There are several standouts who should all contest for the medals. Karl Geiger of Germany, Marius Lindvik of Norway and Ryōyū Kobayashi of Japan have all been winning large hill events during the ongoing world cup seasons, while Austrian Stefan Kraft won the World Championship but isn’t having as great a recent formline thanks to injuries.
Watch also for Norwegian Daniel-André Tande in the field, who was in a medically induced coma after being intubated on the track about ten months ago after a horrific crash where his quick mid-air reaction may have saved his life.
Watch rating: 3.5/5
Skeleton – Women’s (0055 AEDT)
One of Australia’s better sporting documentaries of the 21st century is the ABC’s exploration of the quest to find a raw athlete to become Australia’s skeleton representative at the 2006 Olympics.
The skeleton is a relatively new event at the Winter Olympics, reemerging at the 2002 Winter Olympics. The AIS considered the sport as one of the easiest sports to get a gold medal in, which was the genesis of the Australian skeleton program.
The 2022 Winter Olympics may be the end of this journey. Australia’s Jaclyn Narracott has rather unexpectedly put herself in the lead after two of the four heats with the second and third fastest time in the first and second legs so far. Narracott has hit rare form at the right time. Her career has sat around the level of a top-20 standard skeletoneer for the last few years, but she nabbed her first ever World Cup win in January at St Moritz, her first time finishing above 7th.
Four run times are added together so as the halfway point leader stands a real chance of claiming a medal from here, regardless of prior credentials. The margin is tight however. She won neither specific run, has five racers within 0.4 seconds of her, and ten within 1 second.
Watch Rating: 4/5
Alternate Medal Tally
In the cold atmosphere of a winter sporting event, you’ve gotta wear your woolies to stay warm. So here’s a table of the countries who can produce the most wool for those woolies, and how they’ve fared at the Games.
China, Australia and New Zealand are the three largest producers of “greasy wool” according to FAO stat. They have all won some Olympic medals, but China has the most. Some big wool producers haven’t reaped a medal benefit, such as Turkey and Morocco. Switzerland and Canada produce comparatively little wool, but have lots of medals. Many countries that don’t produce wool have also won medals.