Quick peek at the calendar shows us a couple of items to consider for 2014 medal projections:
12-27: Handball, Men’s World Championships
14-27: Tennis, Australian Open
18-27: Snowboarding, World Championships
19-Feb. 10: Soccer, African Cup of Nations
20-27: Figure skating, U.S. Championships
24: Bellator: Askren vs. Amoussou (welterweight title)
24-27: Winter X Games Aspen
25-Feb. 2 Bobsled/skeleton, World Championships
A few details:
SNOWBOARDING (worlds and X)
Reminder of the ever-expanding Olympic snowboarding program: halfpipe, snowboardcross, parallel giant slalom, slopestyle (new) and … parallel slalom (also new)?
The World Championships, underway in Stoneham, Quebec, have all those events, plus big air. The only problem is that a lot of top riders, especially Americans, have skipped the World Championships to prep for the X Games in Aspen, which will be heavily televised.
In slopestyle, the new world champs and runners-up in men’s and women’s slopestyle will make the trip — Roope Tonteri (FIN), Mark McMorris (CAN), Spencer O’Brien (CAN), Sina Candrian (SUI). Just a guess: Shaun White will get a bit more attention.
The men’s halfpipe has the top five from Worlds — Iouri Podladtchikov (SUI), Taku Hiraoka (JPN), Markus Malin (FIN), Christian Haller (SUI), Ryo Aono (JPN). But again, we’ll guess Shaun White will get the attention. And Louie Vito and Scotty Lago.
The women’s halfpipe (or SuperPipe, as they call it) features the big names: Kelly Clark, Elena Hight, Gretchen Bleiler, Hannah Teter and Aussie Torah Bright, who finished third in slopestyle at Worlds. The fourth- and fifth-place halfpipers in Quebec — USA’s Kaitlyn Farrington, Spain’s Queralt Castellet — will go to Aspen, while 16-year-old world champ Arielle Gold is an alternate. As Lane Myer said when he heard Ricky and Monique were speaking “the international language of love,” that makes sense.
But Aspen won’t have the races. The World Championships have snowboardcross, parallel giant slalom and parallel slalom all to themselves. Two-time Olympic snowboardcross champion Seth Wescott is on the U.S. team along with 45-year-old Lynn Ott. Multiple-time world champion Lindsey Jacobellis is recovering from an ACL injury suffered in last year’s X Games.
The other Oly-related events to watch in Aspen: freestyle skiing’s skicross, slopestyle and half/superpipe. Yes, they’re adding a lot of the X events in Sochi.
Actually just bobsled this week, the Zweierbob Frauen and Zweierbob Manner. There is a Team Wettkampf on Sonntag, so maybe I should translate the official site or check the FIBT site for a full preview and timetable — ah, that’s the bobsled/skeleton team event.
Switzerland’s Beat Hefti is the favorite on home ice, particularly here at St. Moritz, the only natural ice track in the world. Some of its idiosyncrasies are in this fun video, where you can see how it’s carved out of the snow instead of built up like other bobsled runs:
Defending champion Steven Holcomb had a great start to the two-man season but has dropped off considerably over the last two months. The U.S. women have bounced on and off the podium — Elana Meyers is third in the World Cup, Jamie Greubel fifth and Jazmine Fenlator eighth.
The USA also is the defending team champion.
Lolo Jones? Nope, not on the U.S. team for this one. She has done pretty well in her races and kept her sense of humor after a crash:
No Evan Lysacek, no Johnny Weir, no problem. For your U.S. Championships viewing pleasure, check the TV schedule; for your amusement, keep these predictions in mind:
Men: Jeremy Abbott, Ross Miner, Richard Dornbush
Women: Ashley Wagner, Mirai Nagasu, Gracie Gold (yes, Christina Gao had better Grand Prix results, but Gold has the higher score)
Pairs: Marissa Castelli/Simon Shnapir, Alexa Scimeca/Chris Knierim, Tiffany Vise/Don Baldwin (defending champ Caydee Denney/John Coughlin pair is out injured)
Dance: Meryl White/Charlie Davis, Maia Shibutani/Alex Shibutani, Madison Chock/Evan Bates
World Sprint Championships, the least interesting of the three championships the long-trackers hold each year but a fun event to catch if you happen to be in Salt Lake City this weekend.