Curling People Now – 2022 Winter Olympics Preview Day 7

The Medal Events

There are seven events see medals awarded today with most coming in the evening.

Snowboarding – Men’s halfpipe (1325 AEDT)

The halfpipe is the sign of transformation in the Winter Olympics, the line in the snow separating the old world and the new. Its introduction in Nagano was arguably the catalyst for the introduction of the wide range of exciting freeski and boarding events holding their own in the program.

The halfpipe is a test of commitment and creativity. Merely dropping into a halfpipe is a breathtaking moment for the first time, as the walls on the other side approach. Pro riders make it look easy, but plenty will wipe in the final while trying to lay it all out there.

The finals sees a pretty even field contest, with a few big names in lights. Australia’s Scotty James has achieved pretty much everything in the pipe except for an Olympic gold. Last time that went to polarising American Shaun White, who has three golds in the event to his name.

He was also sued by his ex-bandmate for sexual harrassment, and settled before the 2018 Olympics.

The Japanese contingent is also very strong, with the Hirano brothers and current World Champion Yūto Totsuka amongst the faves. Don’t count out young Australian Valentino Guseli, who has impressed since coming onto the scene.

Watch rating: 5/5

Alpine skiing – Women’s super-G (1400 AEDT)

The alpine skiing events so far at the Beijing Olympics have been chaotic, as is somewhat expected. The women’s super-G shapes as being maybe the most engaging of the lot.

To the neutral observer, the super-G is the most skiing of the alpine events, a fair blend of the speed and the technical elements. Skiers hit well over 100km/h on the course, yet have to work hard to get through the gates.

The group fighting for medals is an interesting bunch. Defending champion Ester Ledecká is fighting for the “double double”, a second straight Olympics where she wins gold in both snowboarding and alpine events. She hit the first half of the combo earlier this week.

The pressure laid upon American Mikaela Shiffrin has been well laid out, not least by the ABC’s Simon Smale. But the field doesn’t end at just two, with a host of riders sitting on the podium in the current world cup season.

The lesson so far at the Olympics is that anything can happen in the Alpine. That could lead to some must watch viewing.

Watch rating: 4/5

Cross-country skiing – Men’s 15km classical (1800 AEDT)

Another day, another cross-country event. This time, the men’s 15km classical. If you like cross-country skiing, this will be a must watch. If not, it’s going to be a fair amount of men skiing through the deep trails to get through.

They say that classic cross-country skiing is somewhat meditative to do, but sometimes that doesn’t translate to the watching.

Johannes Høsflot Klæbo, the winner in the sprint freestyle, and Alexander Bolshunov, the winner in the skiathlon, will be the two favourites heading in.

Watch rating: 1.5/5

Speed skating – Men’s 10,000m (1900 AEDT)

The longest distance speedskating event may have turned into a bit of a grudge match between the Swedish favourite and his Dutch rivals. After winning the 5000m race, the Swedish Nils van der Poel caused some controversy by accusing the Dutch team of corruption in influencing ice makers to make the surface at the Olympics more favourable to the Dutch team.

As well as winning the 5000m, van der Poel is the 10000m world record holder, world champion, and world cup leader, so he’s the strong favourite. The format of this race is a one-and-done event with six pairs of two riders each trying to post the fastest time.

Watch rating: 2/5

Biathlon – Women’s sprint (2000 AEDT)

The sprint sees just two shooting legs, and there really is a lot of cross-country skiing at the Olympics yeah? It even spreads out to other sports.

As with the individual, accuracy matters in the standing and prone (lying down) positions. Instead of a time penalty, as per the individual event, a penalty loop has to be skied for every missed shot.

No matter how quick you are on skis, these penalties can kill a race. Skiers set out in intervals, so working out who is doing well takes some time to sort out.

The same names that figured in the individual event will likely figure in the sprint. That includes Marte Olsbu Røiseland, Justine Braisaz-Bouchet and Denise Herrmann.

Watch rating: 1/5

Short track speed skating – Women’s 1000m (2343 AEDT)

Suzanne Schulting had to settle for silver in the 500m, and missed a medal in the mixed relay, so this is her third shot at a gold at these Games, with the 1500m and relay to come. She was a 20 year old gold medallist at this event in Pyeongchang, swept all three distances at the 2021 World Championships, and set a second Olympic record in a few days, in her heat two days ago.

Nothing in short track speed skating certain however, and some of her same rivals from the 500m will be there again. Some will be particularly aware of the vicissitudes of these events, including former multi-distance champion Choi Min-jeong of Korea, who crashed out in the quarters of the 500m. Arianna Fontana of Italy, fresh from the 500m gold, knows she can beat Schulting here.

One fancied rival who won’t be there is the 500m gold medallist Canadian Kim Boutin, who crashed on the final corner in her heat, and didn’t advance.

Watch Rating: 4/5

Skeleton – Men’s (0055 AEDT)

Luge, turned on its head. The inversion of things apparently is kryptonite to the luge-dominant Germans, with this event instead won by four other nations since its reintroduction in 2002.

The world champion Christopher Grotheer and Axel Jungk both carry German hopes of breaking the duck, sitting in first and second after the first two runs. Several others are within striking distance, but a lead is hard to overhaul when four times are being added together.

Watch rating: 2.5/5

Alternative medal tally

Winter sports are, quite often, mountain sports. Skiing, snowboarding, sliding, these are the events of high mountains and specialised resorts. So naturally, countries with accessible mountains should do quite well at the Winter Olympics.

Much of the Netherlands is below sea level, and the lowlands country as a whole sits just 30 metres above sea level on average. As a result, the bevvy of skating medals won by the country, a legacy of frozen waterways as much as anything, means the Dutch have a medal every 22 centimetres.

The modest elevation of Germany means they too have more than one medal per square metre, and the same goes for predominantly flat and forested Finland.

Australia is a surprising 330 metres above sea level on average, despite the lack of mountains, and doesn’t fare too well on this ranking. The real laggards are lofty nations such as Spain and Uzbekistan which have few medals to their name despite ample mountainous terrain.

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