Fixing the curling calendar

What was the big curling event of the past weekend?

Was it the third leg of the Curling World Cup? How about the provincial qualifiers for the Scotties and the Brier? Maybe the made-for-TV Skins Game?

If you’re curling in Canada, the Scotties and the Brier take top priority. To explain this to an American audience — this is the equivalent of the U.S. Open Cup or FA Cup in the sense that it’s a national championship in which unheralded entries can beat the big names. Qualification for the national event, which is broadcast on TSN (and therefore to a U.S. audience on ESPN), is a tournament in each of Canada’s provinces. Qualifying for those events tends to be based on subregional qualifiers and the handy Canadian Team Ranking System — basically, the year-to-date Order of Merit.

This looks like one of those shorts Mystery Science Theater 3000 plays before a feature.

It’s really wonderful. Check out the ESPN3 streams starting Feb. 16.

So the Skins Game proceeded this past weekend without any of the teams that were occupied with various qualifiers. Top-ranked Kevin Koe doesn’t have his Alberta qualifier until this week, so he was able to play in the Skins. Brad Jacobs, ranked second, had to take care of Brier business in Northern Ontario. Three top-eight teams were busy in Ontario, so No. 9 Reid Carruthers got the call. The women’s competition had four of the top six in Canada but not top-ranked Rachel Homan.

The World Cup? Canada sent seventh-ranked Matt Dunstone, who beat Sweden’s Niklas Edin to win the men’s event, and eighth-ranked Darcy Robertson, who duly lost all six of her games.

The Curling News is full of suggestions to revamp the calendar as well as the Scotties and the Brier. The jewels of Canadian curling have expanded to 16 teams each, incorporating all three of the sparsely populated northern provinces as well as a “wildcard” entry.

Sure, but after a few more years of climate change, Nunavut might have to build a wall to keep the rest of us out.

It’s a bit controversial because, as vast as those territories are, they’re rather sparsely populated. One survey of the population of Nunavut reports of population density of 0.0 per square kilometer.

The reason is pretty obvious. It’s cold. Really cold. Permanent polar vortex cold. From Nunavut Tourism: “The average temperature in Kugluktuk is the warmest in Nunavut, sometimes rising to 30°C in the summer and ranging from -15°C to -40°C in the winter.” The high end of that winter range is 5 degrees Fahrenheit. The low end, oddly enough, is -40 Fahrenheit. It’s the point at which they converge. It’s not better one province over. The average high temperature in January in Yellowknife, Northwest Territories, is -6 degrees. Yes, Fahrenheit. The average low is -23. Regina, Saskatchewan, is downright tropical by comparison.

So this open national championship, along with its requisite qualifiers, is competing for space on the crowded curling calendar. The Scotties and Brier are part of the “Season of Champions” umbrella along with the “North America vs. the World” Continental Cup and the Canada Cup, for which the teams are determined entirely by rankings.

AND we have the Grand Slam of Curling, which has seven events of its own — one per month from September to January, then a Players’ Championship and Champions Cup right after the World Championships.

AND now we have the World Cup, a complicated four-event series in which teams represent their countries, sort of.

Naturally, I’ll have to add my own pet solution on top of the suggestions The Curling News and the Rocks Across the Pond podcast have made. I promise I’ll get to the power ranking update after that.

WORLD TEAMS

World Cup: Every four years. Obviously not the same year as the Olympics. Make it a Davis Cup/Ryder Cup/World Team Tennis sort of thing — country vs. country matchups in which men, women and mixed doubles teams face off.

Continental Cup: Odd years only. This already has a Ryder Cup vibe to it — North America vs. Europe.

CANADIAN CHAMPIONSHIPS

It’s good to be inclusive, and part of the charm here is seeing teams repping their provinces. It’s less good to spend the first five days watching Rachel Homan, Kevin Koe, Jennifer Jones and company routing Nunavut.

For a couple of years, the Scotties and Brier had a play-in round for the lowest-ranked provinces based on previous years’ results. Bring it back. And cut back the number of teams by doing away with the Ontario/Northern Ontario split and the wildcard team.

(Alternate idea: Have one representative from the northern provinces and two from the Maritimes/Newfoundland and Labrador. Add in the defending champions and the six other provinces, and you’ve got 10 teams.)

THIS YEAR’S EVENTS

The Scotties’ field is powerful. The seven top teams in the rankings are going, though two of them (No. 2 Kerri Einarson and No. 5 Casey Scheidegger) will face off in the wildcard game. The top-ranked teams won in Ontario (Rachel Homan), Alberta (Chelsea Carey), Saskatchewan (Robyn Silvernagle), Northern Ontario (Krista McCarville), Prince Edward Island (Suzanne Birt) and Northwest Territories (Kerry Galusha). Manitoba had a minor upset, with No. 6 Tracy Fleury beating Einarson. The second-ranked team also won in British Columbia (Sarah Wark), New Brunswick (Andrea Crawford) and Newfoundland/Labrador (Kelli Turpin). No one from Nunavut or Yukon is ranked.

The only mild surprises were in Nova Scotia, where Scotties veteran Jill Brothers turned back the clock a few minutes, and Quebec, where Gabrielle Lavois was the best of a low-ranked field.

The men’s qualifiers aren’t done yet, with the brutally competitive Alberta, Manitoba and Saskatchewan provinces playing down this week. Perennial Northern Ontario representative Brad Jacobs is back, but Ontario had a bit of a surprise with Scott McDonald getting past the usually dominant John Epping and Glenn Howard teams. Brier veteran Jim Cotter beat two higher-ranked teams to win in British Columbia. Stuart Thompson edged similarly ranked Jamie Murphy in Nova Scotia. Martin Crete sprang a mild upset in Quebec. In Newfoundland and Labrador, Andrew Symonds won the battle of teams not skipped by Brad Gushue, who has the automatic bid as defending champion.

Power rankings

WOMEN

  1. Rachel Homan (CAN) – won Ontario provincials (up 1)
  2. Anna Hasselborg (SWE) – lost World Cup Jonkoping final to South Korea’s Min Ji Kim. (down 1)
  3. Jennifer Jones (CAN) – won the Skins Game, beating Fleury in the final (up 1)
  4. Chelsea Carey (CAN) – won Alberta provincials (up 3)
  5. Tracy Fleury (CAN) – won Manitoba final and reached Skins Game final (up 5)
  6. Silvana Tirinzoni (SUI) – idle (down 1)
  7. Satsuki Fujisawa (JPN) – idle (down 1)
  8. Kerri Einarson (CAN) – lost to Fleury in Manitoba final and Skins Game semi (down 5)
  9. Casey Scheidegger (CAN) – lost Skins Game semi to Jones (down 1)
  10. Sayaka Yoshimura (JPN) – idle (no change)
  11. Robyn Silvernagle (CAN) – won Saskatchewan provincials (new to top 12)
  12. Darcy Robertson (CAN) – third in Manitoba (down 1)

Dropping out: Anna Sidorova (RUS) – missed final four in Glynhill Ladies Invitational, second in group in World Cup Jonkoping

One U.S. women’s team in action — Cory Christensen was second to Kim in her World Cup group.

MEN

  1. Brad Jacobs (CAN) – won Northern Ontario provincials (no change)
  2. Niklas Edin (SWE) – lost to Matt Dunstone in World Cup Jonkoping final (no change)
  3. Kevin Koe (CAN) – runner-up to Bottcher in the Skins Game (no change)
  4. Brendan Bottcher (CAN) – Skins Game winner (up 3)
  5. Bruce Mouat (SCO) – idle (down 1)
  6. John Epping (CAN) – runner-up to McDonald in Ontario (down 1)
  7. Ross Paterson (SCO) – third behind Dunstone and Edin in Jonkoping (down 1)
  8. Brad Gushue (CAN) – lost to Bottcher in Skins Game semi (no change)
  9. Peter de Cruz (SUI) – idle (no change)
  10. Reid Carruthers (CAN) – won Ed Werenich Golden Wrench Classic in Arizona, lost to Koe in Skins Game semi (up 2)
  11. Matt Dunstone (CAN) – beat Edin to win in Jonkoping (new to top 12)
  12. Scott McDonald (CAN) – won handily in Ontario (new to top 12)

Dropped out: Glenn Howard (CAN) was third in Ontario. John Shuster (USA) has been idle for a while.

A few U.S. teams played in the Werenich Wrench Classic (not sure people call it that, but they should). Rich Ruohonen lost to Carruthers in the semis. Pete Fenson, the 2006 Olympic medalist who doesn’t play much any more, put together a young team — Mark Fenner and two more Fensons — and reached the quarterfinals. Todd Birr was 1-3 in group play. And Jared Allen’s NFL team was 0-4.

Fenner went back to skipping the next week in Jonkoping, finishing fifth.

This week, the big-time Canadian men’s provincials run through the weekend, and the U.S. Championships start Saturday.

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U.S. men win curling gold — how it happened

If you’re a little tired of curling coverage that tries way too hard to explain the sport without telling you anything that’s actually happening on the ice, this post is for you.

This is what happened. If you don’t know the terminology, figure it out. It’s not that hard. Also, my local curling club has a good glossary.

The teams in order of when they deliver their rocks:

Sweden: Christoffer Sundgren, Rasmus Wranaa, Oskar Eriksson, Niklas Edin.

USA: John Landsteiner, Matt Hamilton, Tyler George, John Shuster.

I’m also going to refer to the shot-by-shot diagrams on the results page, which includes grades for each shot (100%, 75%, 50%, 25%, 0%). Not that they’re accurate. When in doubt, trust NBC analyst Kevin Martin, a Canadian who took silver in 2002 and gold on home ice in 2010.

1st end: Sweden has the hammer. The USA goes straight into the house with its first rocks, setting up a routine string of takeouts. The only tricky shot in such an end is the last one, where Edin needs to hit Shuster’s last rock and roll his own rock out of the house, which means he has to hit it to one side rather than on the nose. Edin does just that, meaning there’s no score and Sweden retains the hammer. Fourteen of the 16 shots are scored at 100%, but it’s all pretty routine. 0-0.

2nd end: USA opts to set up a center guard this time. Sweden sets up another guard. Landsteiner draws around his own guard into the house, and Sundgren counters with a precise shot to bump the USA’s rock to the back of the house.

Hamilton, showing he’s not just a man with a sense of humor and great mustache, follows with a terrific shot to take the Swedish rock out of the house. Then Wranaa tops that with a double takeout, clearing out the U.S. rocks.

So we have a more complicated series of takeouts because everyone has to deal with the two guards in front.

And we finally get an outright miss. After Edin draws his penultimate shot to the top of the four-foot, Shuster tries an ambitious shot that would knock his own guard into the house and take out Edin’s. He hits the guard, but it’s just a little bit off the nose, and his rock sails by Edin’s rock, leaving the top-ranked player in the world an easy draw for two. 2-0 Sweden.

One thing here showing how Shuster has changed. The stereotype of Shuster in the past is the scrunched-up face of anguish. As The Ringer’s Rodger Sherman put it:

Each time, the camera finds Shuster, whose missed stone has turned him stone-faced. His look is not “Crap, I’ve messed up.” It’s “Crap, I’ve messed up again.” He’s probably lamenting the failure, and probably remembering the aftermath of every one of his past failures, and dreading the fact he has to live through it again. Then, the tweets begin to pop up.

This time, Shuster has a wry smile, and he and Hamilton dissect what went wrong. It’s a cool, calm reaction of a man at the height of his game.

3rd end: Sundgren puts Sweden’s first rock in the top of the house. Landsteiner sets up a guard off to the side. Sweden guards its own, and Landsteiner comes around it to bump Sweden’s rock back. Wranaa swiftly removes the U.S. rock in the house to leave Sweden lying two with a guard in place, but Hamilton’s double takeout reduces that to one. Wranaa freezes a Swedish rock to his own, both on one side of the button.

The next shot shows how scoring can be inexact. Was Hamilton trying to draw around his own guard to hit the Swedish rocks? If so, he failed, and it’s 0% — as it was indeed scored. But he managed to bump his own guard out of the way, which will make it easier for George and Shuster to bring the heavy lumber. Also, his shooter has neatly rolled underneath that forgotten corner guard that Landsteiner put in place earlier.

A cool-looking hit-and-roll from Eriksson gives Sweden three clustered rocks near the center of the house. Looks good, right?

3-9

Tyler George changes that. He hits the top rock, which bangs one of the Swedish rocks out of there, and his shooter rolls just ever so slightly so it’s neatly positioned between the two Swedish rocks. Good luck getting that rock out of there, Sweden.

3-10

Again, the scoring is a little odd with the next shot. Eriksson bumps into the cluster of rocks and gets 100%, but the NBC commentators think it’s a slight miss because it leaves George a good double takeout. George responds by getting both red rocks out of there, leaving just one yellow. He gets 100% and applause from Ivanka Trump in the crowd, but he’s grimacing (as he too often does), perhaps because he thinks Edin will make a double takeout of his own. He does.

That leaves two red rocks on one side of the house, lined up for a possible double. Shuster can only get one (50%). Edin takes out the rock Shuster just threw and rolls as far as he can across the house. We’re not sure who’s second rock now, which complicates things.

3-15

Shuster can easily take out Sweden’s shot rock and score one, but maybe not two. Does he go for the double takeout to make sure he gets two?

Yes. And he hits it. It’s the best shot of the game so far, and we’re tied. 2-2

4th end: The inverse of the last end at the start. Landsteiner draws to the button. Sundgren sets up a corner guard (remember from the last end — the USA’s corner guard helped them keep a second rock in the house). Landsteiner guards his own, and Sundgren freezes to the rock on the button.

Hamilton’s draw is slightly off (75%). Wranaa also gets 75%, Hamilton gets 50% on his next one, and we have five jumbled rocks in the house. Wranaa makes it six and bumps the yellow U.S. rock off the button — scored at 100%, but the NBC crew thinks it’s heavy, and they’re right.

Shuster and George have a long conversation about the next shot to see how many of these rocks they can get out. And it’s another strange score — 100%, but no one on the U.S. team sounds pleased. Eriksson tries a difficult double takeout and gets one (though he’s also scored at 100% for some reason).

NBC says George wants to bump a Swedish red rock out of the four-foot and roll slightly onto the center line. George bumps a Swedish red rock out of the four-foot and rolls slightly onto the center line. THAT is 100%, and Sweden’s path to score two is more complicated. The chance of scoring three or more is probably out.

But when Eriksson hits and rolls off his own, everything is coming up Sweden. Shuster says no, threading the needle to bump in for shot rock ahead of the Swedes.

4-13

And Edin finally misses. He tries to get past that yellow at the top of the four-foot (pinkish red circle) but just nicks it, sliding off to the side. Shuster has a half-miss (appropriately scored 50%), hitting to the right of that jumble and knocking a red rock off the four-foot, but he leaves a potential double takeout from which Edin can score two. But he doesn’t. He’s a little off to the right. The various caroms leave that best-placed yellow rock on the edge of the four-foot, and we need a measurement to see who scores one. It’s the USA, and it’s a steal of one. 3-2 USA

5th end: The first four shots are virtually identical to those of the fourth end. Wranaa accidentally gives Sweden a rock to the side of the house, bumping into a guard and rolling off to the side. Hamilton jumbles things up a bit more, and Wranaa has a difficult shot to hit and roll into the center.

Tyler George go bang. All the red rocks are out of the eight-foot. The USA lies four. Eriksson draws into the eight-foot, but it’s wide-open.

Another long chat ensues. Lots of U.S. rocks in the house, but that also means a lot of rocks Edin can hit.

George on one option: “We’ll only be sitting three.”

Shutster: “That’s fine. I like that — only be sitting three.”

George’s shot is fine. Eriksson’s is not. He should be able to get a couple of yellow rocks out of there, but he only gets one.

5-12

Shuster guards the middle of the house. Edin manages to draw past it but just a bit heavy, going to the back of the button. (Curling 101: Front is better than back. The idea isn’t just to get there but to stay there.)

But Shuster misses badly. His rock sails through the house. Edin draws for two, and we’re roughly even at the halfway point — Sweden up one, USA with the hammer. 4-3 Sweden

6th end: A little less traffic this time. Landsteiner removes one of Sundgren’s rocks. Wranaa tries to take out both Hamilton’s guard and the lone U.S. rock in the house, but he only gets one. Hamilton gets a harsh 0% on his next rock, which leaves a Swedish rock clinging to the house but leaves the USA lying two.

Eriksson plays a perfect hit-and-roll, given Sweden shot rock under a long center guard. George, who’s on fire, makes that one go away. Eriksson, also playing very well, takes out both U.S. rocks in the house and rolls his own shooter out, leaving just the one Swedish rock in the house. George draws around the Swedish guard and sets up shot stone at the top of the house.

Edin tries one of the curling shots that boggles my mind — the long, long runback, banging a guard into the house and trying to use that to take out the rock in the house. Shuster missed this shot earlier in the game. Edin misses, too.

Shuster draws to the side of the house to give the USA two stones and leave Edin a difficult double takeout. Edin opts against that shot and tries a hit-and-roll that would give him shot stone. It rolls too far, and Shuster draws for two. 5-4 USA 

7th end: Landsteiner plays a nice draw to the top four-foot behind his own center guard. Sundgren comes around and bumps it, giving Sweden shot rock early.

Hamilton isn’t happy with his first delivery. He hits the red rock, but it jams into the yellow rock behind the button. Sweden has one at the back of the four-foot, outcounting a U.S. rock off to the side.

But Wranaa’s attempt to freeze to that U.S. rock is off-target, and Hamilton redeems his end with a perfect double takeout. That’s two U.S. rocks in the house and none for Sweden, thanks very much. The Mustache Man is pumped. And Wranaa counters with a draw that comes up very light, not even reaching the house.

George pounces. He puts a draw right on the button, and with a yellow rock immediately behind it, that’ll be difficult to dislodge. Eriksson clears some traffic. George tries to guard the center, but he leaves enough room for Eriksson to put his own red rock on the button.

7-12

Shuster plays a guard in the eight-foot. He’s content to give up one here and take hammer in the eighth in a tie game. Edin tries to pick off Shuster’s rock and misses everything. (Well, he moved the red rock about an inch when his shot glanced by.) Shuster tosses up another guard to further complicate Edin’s chances of getting two, and Edin has to hit a complex chain reaction up the middle just to get one. 5-5

8th end: And now, the deluge …

Landsteiner tries the most difficult shot a lead ever plays, the “wick” shot to bump a guard out of the way without knocking it all the way out, which isn’t allowed while the leads are playing. (The stone would be replaced.) He misses. But he plays a nice draw with his second shot. In the house: 2 U.S. rocks, 0 for Sweden.

Wranaa draws into the four-foot for shot rock. Hamilton, whose numbers in this game aren’t great, removes a guard. Wranaa replaces it, and Hamilton bumps it out of the way again. The Swedish guard only moves partway out of the way, but Hamilton’s shooter rolls (spins, in fact) to the edge of the house, which will be important later.

Eriksson puts up yet another guard. George tries to pick the red rock out of the house but isn’t really successful (a legit 50%). Eriksson draws to the four-foot but leaves it open for George, who knocks it away.

Edin’s first rock is a draw almost to the same spot as Eriksson’s. But it’s not quite buried behind all the guards.

So we have one of those complicated ends in which a lot of rocks are in play. It could be a big end for the USA or a steal for Sweden, the latter outcome possible if Edin can get a rock in there that Shuster can’t get out.

8-14

Edin calls timeout. Kevin Martin thinks Edin can hold this end to no more than two, which would certainly leave Sweden in contention.

8-15

That 75% is so deceiving. Edin left Shuster a double takeout.

After all that John Shuster has been through — all the disappointment, all the ridicule — he has this shot to virtually clinch a gold medal.

Need you even ask?

10-5 USA

9th end: This is nearly academic now. Edin has to swing for the fences and get a ton of points here just to make the 10th end worth playing.

Landsteiner tosses a shot through the house. No need to leave any traffic. Hamilton takes out a guard. Wranaa replaces it. Hamilton clears it again. Wranaa draws deep into the house, partially buried behind the lone remaining guard, but George takes it out.

Then Eriksson errs. His draw goes all the way through the house. George has a bit of a miss, too, knocking out the lone guard but leaving his own rock in play. Eriksson draws behind that.

Shuster takes out the guard. He’s willing to give up two here. Edin barely gets a draw to the top of the house. Shuster removes it, leaving Edin the whole house to draw for two. 10-7 USA 

10th end: Sweden needs to steal three. Good luck with that.

A mistake from Landsteiner as he tries to hit the “wick” — he knocks the Swedish guard all the way out, so it’s replaced. Sundgren puts up another guard. Landsteiner flings his rock through the house. Again, just trying to avoid a lot of traffic here. Completely different situation than trying to score two.

Wranaa draws behind the two guards. Wait, what two guards? Hamilton bangs them away and leaves nothing in front of the house. Big fist pump time. Sweden’s got very little to play with here.

Wranaa guards again. Only one? Hamilton gets rid of that one, finishing his lonnnnnng Olympics (about 40 hours on the ice between mixed doubles and men’s) on a high.

Eriksson guards. George removes it. Rinse, repeat.

 

Edin does a spin move on his last shot, then shakes hands. It’s over.

 

 

 

 

2018 Winter Olympics: A concise viewing guide with stars, medals and flags

Each day during the Olympics, I’ll be telling you what to watch and making a few predictions. You can also find my daily previews at Bleacher Report.

Time difference and schedule/streaming options: The Pyeongchang schedule is …

  • Eight hours ahead of a lot of Europe (Eurosport)
  • Nine hours ahead of Greenwich Mean Time (BBC)
  • 14 hours ahead of Eastern Time (NBCCBC)
  • 17 hours ahead of Pacific Time (NBCCBC)

Here, all times are Eastern. So if it’s Thursday morning in South Korea, it’s Wednesday night here. If it’s Thursday night in South Korea, it’s Thursday morning here. NBC is live-streaming everything, and I’ve noted network coverage where applicable.

And yes, I’m using emoji. Stars for recommended viewing, Xs are for events of interest to X Games fans, medals for medal events, U.S. flags where the USA has a good chance of getting a medal (or a couple of events you simply have to see if you’re interested in U.S. athletes). It’s slightly selective — on busy days, I don’t list every qualifying session or curling matchup.

(Update: Bleacher Report bowed to the “Day 1” naming convention, and so have I. Also, I’ve updated some of the rescheduled events.)

Wed/Thurs, Feb. 7-8 – Day before the day before Day 1

PRIME TIME

7:05 p.m.: Curling, mixed doubles, USA-“Russia.” First event of Games. Note: Each curling session throughout the Games (until tiebreakers and playoffs) will have 3-4 games at once.

OVERNIGHT

Naught (NBCSN will have more curling and some training runs.)

EARLY MORNING

6:05 a.m.: Curling, mixed doubles, USA-Canada (NBCSN)
7:30 a.m.: Ski jumping, men’s normal hill qualification (NBCSN)

Thurs/Fri, Feb. 8-9 – Day 0

PRIME TIME

6:35 p.m.: Curling, mixed doubles, USA-Switzerland
⭐8 p.m.: Figure skating, team event, men’s short program (NBC; Nathan Chen?)
8 p.m.: Freestyle skiing, women’s moguls qualification (NBC; Jaelin Kauf)
9:45 p.m.: Figure skating, team event, pairs short program (NBC)
9:45 p.m.: Freestyle skiing, men’s moguls qualification (NBC)

OVERNIGHT

11:35 p.m.: Curling, mixed doubles, USA-South Korea (NBCSN)

EARLY MORNING 

⭐6:00 a.m.: Opening Ceremony. (Live stream has “natural sound only.”)

Fri/Sat, Feb. 9-10 – Day 1

PRIME TIME

7:05 p.m.: Curling, mixed doubles, USA-China
(8 p.m.: NBC shows fully produced Opening Ceremony on 14-hour delay)
✖8 p.m.: Snowboarding, men’s slopestyle qualifying

OVERNIGHT

🥇🇺🇸2:15 a.m.: Cross-country skiing, women’s 15k skiathlon (NBCSN; Jessie Diggins; chance for U.S. women’s first-ever Nordic medal)
2:40 a.m.: Hockey, women’s, Japan-Sweden

EARLY MORNING 

🇺🇸5 a.m.: Short-track speedskating, heats in multiple events (NBCSN; Maame Biney)
🥇6 a.m.: Speedskating, women’s 3,000 meters
6:05 a.m.: Curling, mixed doubles, USA-Norway
🥇6:15 a.m.: Biathlon, women’s 7.5k sprint (Susan Dunklee)
7 a.m.: Hockey, women’s, Switzerland-South Korea (USA Network)
⭐🥇🇺🇸7:28 a.m.: Short-track speedskating, men’s 1,500-meter final (NBCSN; J.R. Celski)
🥇7:35 a.m.: Ski jumping, men’s normal hill final (NBCSN)

Sat/Sun, Feb. 10-11 – Day 2

PRIME TIME

7:05 p.m.: Curling, mixed doubles, USA-Finland (final round-robin game)
✖🥇8 p.m.: Snowboarding, men’s slopestyle final (NBCSN)
⭐8 p.m.: Figure skating, team event, ice dance short program (NBC; Shib Sibs?)
⭐🥇9 p.m.: Alpine skiing, men’s downhill (NBC)
⭐9:45 p.m.: Figure skating, team event, women’s short program (NBC)
✖11:30 p.m.: Snowboarding, women’s slopestyle qualifying (NBCSN)
11:40 p.m.: Figure skating, team event, pairs free skate (NBC)

OVERNIGHT

🥇1:15 a.m.: Cross-country skiing, men’s 30k skiathlon
🥇2 a.m.: Speedskating, men’s 5,000 meters (Brian Hansen)
2:40 a.m.: Hockey, women’s, USA-Finland (NBCSN)

EARLY MORNING 

🥇6 a.m.: Luge, men’s, final two runs
6:05 a.m.: Curling, mixed doubles, tiebreaker (if necessary)
🥇6:15 a.m.: Biathlon, men’s 10k sprint (NBCSN; Lowell Bailey)
🥇🇺🇸7 a.m.: Freestyle skiing, women’s moguls final (Jaelin Kauf)
7 a.m.: Hockey, women’s, Canada-“Russia” (USA Network)

Sun/Mon, Feb. 11-12 – Day 3

PRIME TIME

7:05 p.m.: Curling, mixed doubles semifinal 1
✖🥇🇺🇸8 p.m.: Snowboarding, women’s slopestyle final (NBCSN; Jamie Anderson)
8 p.m.: Figure skating, team event, men’s free skate (NBC; Nathan Chen)
⭐8:15 p.m.: Alpine skiing, women’s giant slalom, first run (NBC; Mikaela Shiffrin)
9:10 p.m.: Figure skating, team event, women’s free skate (NBC)
⭐🥇🇺🇸10:20 p.m.: Figure skating, team event, free dance (NBC; Shib Sibs)
⭐✖11:30 p.m.: Snowboarding, women’s halfpipe qualifying (Chloe Kim)
⭐🥇🇺🇸11:45 p.m.: Alpine skiing, women’s giant slalom, second run (NBC; Mikaela Shiffrin)

OVERNIGHT

2:40 a.m.: Hockey, women’s, Switzerland-Japan (NBCSN)

EARLY MORNING 

🥇5:10 a.m.: Biathlon, women’s 10k pursuit (NBCSN; Susan Dunklee)
6:05 p.m.: Curling, mixed doubles semifinal 2
🥇7 a.m.: Biathlon, men’s 12.5k pursuit (Lowell Bailey)
🥇7 a.m.: Freestyle skiing, men’s moguls final
⭐🥇🇺🇸🇺🇸7:30 a.m.: Speedskating, women’s 1,500 meters (Heather Bergsma, Brittany Bowe)
🥇7:50 a.m.: Ski jumping, women’s final (Sarah Hendrickson)

Mon/Tues, Feb. 12-13 – Day 4

PRIME TIME

7:05 p.m.: Curling, mixed doubles, bronze medal game
⭐⭐✖🥇🇺🇸🇺🇸🇺🇸8 p.m.: Snowboarding, women’s halfpipe final (NBC; Chloe Kim)
9:30 p.m.: Alpine skiing, men’s combined, downhill (NBC)
✖11 p.m.: Snowboarding, men’s halfpipe qualifying (NBC; Shaun White)

OVERNIGHT

🥇1 a.m.: Alpine skiing, men’s combined, slalom (NBC)
2:40 a.m.: Hockey, women’s, Canada-Finland (NBCSN)
3:30 a.m.: Cross-country skiing, men’s and women’s sprint qualifying (Jessie Diggins, Kikkan Randall)

EARLY MORNING 

5 a.m.: Short-track speedskating, heats in women’s 500 meters, men’s 1,000 meters and men’s relay
🥇🇺🇸5:30 a.m.: Luge, women’s final two runs (Summer Britcher, Erin Hamlin)
6 a.m.: Cross-country skiing, men’s and women’s sprint heats (NBCSN)
⭐🥇🇺🇸6 a.m.: Speedskating, men’s 1,500 meters (Shani Davis)
🥇6:05 a.m.: Curling, mixed doubles gold medal game
🇺🇸7:10 a.m.: Hockey, women’s, USA-“Russia” (NBCSN)
🥇7:11 a.m.: Short-track speedskating, women’s 500-meter final
⭐🥇🇺🇸7:25 a.m.: Cross-country skiing, women’s sprint final (Diggins, Randall)
🥇7:34 a.m.: Cross-country skiing, men’s sprint final

Tues/Wed, Feb. 13-14 – Day 5

PRIME TIME

7:05 p.m.: Curling, men’s, USA-South Korea (first game)
8 p.m.: Figure skating, pairs short program (NBC/NBCSN)
8:15 p.m.: Alpine skiing, women’s slalom, run 1 (NBC; Mikaela Shiffrin)
⭐✖🥇🇺🇸8:30 p.m.: Snowboarding, men’s halfpipe final (NBC; Shaun White)
⭐⭐🥇🇺🇸🇺🇸11:45 p.m.: Alpine skiing, women’s slalom, run 2 (NBC; Mikaela Shiffrin)

OVERNIGHT

🇺🇸12:05 a.m.: Curling, women’s, USA-Japan (first game)
1 a.m.: Nordic combined, normal hill ski jump
2:40 a.m.: Hockey, women’s, Japan-South Korea (USA Network)
🥇3:45 a.m.: Nordic combined, normal hill 10k race (NBCSN)

EARLY MORNING 

⭐🥇🇺🇸🇺🇸5 a.m.: Speedskating, women’s 1,000 meters (NBCSN; Heather Bergsma, Brittany Bowe)
🥇6:05 a.m.: Biathlon, women’s 15k individual (Susan Dunklee)
🥇6:20 a.m.: Luge, doubles
⭐🇺🇸7:10 a.m.: Hockey, men’s, USA-Slovenia (NBCSN; debut for non-NHL team)

Wed/Thurs, Feb. 14-15 – Day 6

PRIME TIME

7:05 p.m.: Curling, women’s, USA-Britain
🥇8:30 p.m.: Figure skating, pairs free skate (NBC/NBCSN)
🥇9 p.m.: Alpine skiing, men’s super-G (NBC; Andrew Weibrecht)
⭐⭐🇺🇸10:10 p.m.: Hockey, women’s, USA-Canada (NBCSN)
✖11:30 p.m.: Snowboarding, men’s snowboardcross, heats

OVERNIGHT

12:05 a.m.: Curling, men’s, USA-Italy
✖🥇12:45 a.m.: Snowboarding, men’s snowboardcross, final (NBC)
🥇🇺🇸1:30 a.m.: Cross-country skiing, women’s 10k individual (Jessie Diggins)
2:40 a.m.: Hockey, one men’s and one women’s game (NBCSN/USA Network)

EARLY MORNING 

🥇6 a.m.: Biathlon, men’s 20k individual (Lowell Bailey)
🥇6 a.m.: Speedskating, men’s 10,000 meters (no USA)
6:05 a.m.: Curling, women’s, USA-Switzerland
7:10 a.m.: Hockey, two men’s games (NBCSN/USA Network)
🥇7:30 a.m.: Luge, team relay

Thurs/Fri, Feb. 15-16 – Day 7

PRIME TIME

7:05 p.m.: Curling, men’s, USA-Sweden
🥇7:30 p.m.: Skeleton, men’s final two runs (NBC; Matt Antoine)
8 p.m.: Figure skating, men’s short program (NBC/NBCSN; Nathan Chen)
10:10 p.m.: Hockey, men’s, USA-Slovakia (CNBC)
✖🥇🇺🇸10:15 p.m.: Snowboarding, women’s snowboardcross, heats and final (NBC; Lindsey Jacobellis)

OVERNIGHT

🥇1 a.m.: Cross-country skiing, men’s 15k individual (NBCSN)
2:40 a.m.: Hockey, men’s, “Russia”-Slovenia (NBCSN)

EARLY MORNING 

✖🥇6 a.m.: Freestyle skiing, women’s aerials
🥇6 a.m.: Speedskating, women’s 5,000 meters
6:05 a.m.: Curling, men’s, USA-Denmark
7:10 a.m.: Hockey, two men’s games (NBCSN/USA Network)

Fri/Sat, Feb. 16-17 – Day 8

PRIME TIME

7:05 p.m.: Curling, women’s, USA-“Russia”
🥇🇺🇸🇺🇸8 p.m.: Figure skating, men’s free skate (NBC/NBCSN; Nathan Chen)
🥇9 p.m.: Alpine skiing, women’s super-G (NBC; Lindsey Freaking Vonn)
10 p.m.: Hockey, women’s, quarterfinal 1 (CNBC)
✖🥇🇺🇸11 p.m.: Freestyle skiing, women’s slopestyle final (NBC; Maggie Voisin)

OVERNIGHT

2:40 a.m.: Hockey, women’s, quarterfinal 2 (USA Network)
2:40 a.m.: Hockey, men’s, South Korea-Switzerland (NBCSN)
🥇4:30 a.m.: Cross-country skiing, women’s 4x5k relay
5 a.m.: Short-track speedskating, women’s 1,500-meter and men’s 1,000-meter heats

EARLY MORNING 

6:05 a.m.: Curling, women’s, USA-Canada
🥇6:15 a.m.: Biathlon, women’s 12k mass start (Susan Dunklee)
🥇6:20 a.m.: Skeleton, women’s final two runs
⭐⭐🇺🇸7:10 a.m.: Hockey, men’s, USA-“Russia” (NBCSN; last group-stage game)
🥇7:11 a.m.: Short-track speedskating, women’s 1,500-meter final
🥇7:26 a.m.: Short-track speedskating, men’s 1,000-meter final
🥇7:30 a.m.: Ski jumping, men’s large hill final

Sat/Sun, Feb. 17-18 – Day 9

PRIME TIME

7:05 p.m.: Curling, men’s, USA-Japan
8 p.m.: Alpine skiing, men’s giant slalom, run 1 (NBC)
✖8 p.m.: Freestyle skiing, men’s slopestyle qualifying (NBCSN)
✖🥇11:15 p.m.: Freestyle skiing, men’s slopestyle final (NBC)

OVERNIGHT

🥇11:45 p.m.: Alpine skiing, men’s giant slalom, run 2 (NBC; Ted Ligety)
🥇1:15 a.m.: Cross-country skiing, men’s 4x10k relay
2:40 a.m.: Hockey, men’s, Czech Republic-Switzerland (NBCSN)

EARLY MORNING 

✖🥇6 a.m.: Freestyle skiing, men’s aerials final
⭐6:05 a.m.: Curling, men’s, USA-Norway (fancy pants)
🥇6:15 a.m.: Biathlon, men’s 15k mass start (Lowell Bailey)
🥇6:56 a.m.: Speedskating, women’s 500 meters (Erin Jackson)
7:10 a.m.: Hockey, two men’s games (NBCSN, USA Network)

Sun/Mon, Feb. 18-19 – Day 10

PRIME TIME

7:05 p.m.: Curling, women’s, USA-Denmark
✖7:30 p.m.: Snowboarding, women’s big air qualifying
8 p.m.: Figure skating, ice dance short program (NBC/NBCSN; Shib Sibs)
✖8 p.m.: Freestyle skiing, women’s halfpipe qualifying (NBC; Maddie Bowman, 2 more contenders)

OVERNIGHT

⭐11:10 p.m.: Hockey, women’s semifinal 1 (NBCSN)
12:05 a.m.: Curling, men’s, USA-Canada

EARLY MORNING 

6:05 a.m.: Curling, women’s, USA-China
🥇6:15 a.m.: Bobsled, two-man final two runs (in memory of Steven Holcomb)
🥇6:53 a.m.: Speedskating, men’s 500 meters
⭐7:10 a.m.: Hockey, women’s semifinal 2 (NBCSN)
🥇7:30 a.m.: Ski jumping, men’s team

Mon/Tues, Feb. 19-20 – Day 11

PRIME TIME

7:05 p.m.: Curling, men’s, four games (no USA)
⭐🥇🇺🇸🇺🇸8 p.m: Figure skating, ice dance free dance (NBC/NBCSN; Shib Sibs)
✖🥇🇺🇸🇺🇸8:30 p.m.: Freestyle skiing, women’s halfpipe final (NBCSN; Maddie Bowman, more)
10:10 p.m.: Hockey, men’s playoff 1 (NBCSN)
✖11 p.m.: Freestyle skiing, men’s halfpipe qualifying (NBC)

OVERNIGHT

12:05 a.m.: Curling, women’s, USA-South Korea
2:40 a.m.: Hockey, men’s playoff 2 (NBCSN)
5 a.m.: Short-track speedskating, men’s 500 meters and women’s 1,000 meters heats
5 a.m.: Nordic combined, large hill ski jump

EARLY MORNING 

6:05 a.m.: Curling: men’s, USA-Switzerland
🥇6:15 a.m.: Biathlon, mixed relay
🥇6:33 a.m.: Short-track speedskating, women’s relay final (no USA)
7:10 a.m.: Hockey, men’s playoff 3 and 4 (NBCSN / USA Network)
🥇7:45 a.m.: Nordic combined, large hill 10k race

Tues/Wed, Feb. 20-21 – Day 12

PRIME TIME

7:05 p.m.: Curling, women’s, four games (no USA)
✖7:30 p.m.: Snowboarding, men’s big air qualifying (NBC)
8 p.m.: Figure skating, women’s short program (NBC/NBCSN; Mirai Nagasu)
⭐⭐🥇🇺🇸🇺🇸9 p.m.: Alpine skiing, women’s downhill (NBC; Lindsey Freaking Vonn)
10 p.m.: Hockey, men’s quarterfinal 1 (CNBC)
✖11:15 p.m.: Freestyle skiing, men’s skicross heats

OVERNIGHT

12:05 a.m.: Curling, men’s, USA-Britain
✖🥇12:35 a.m.: Freestyle skiing, men’s skicross final
2:40 a.m.: Hockey, women’s bronze medal game (USA Network)
2:40 a.m.: Hockey, men’s quarterfinal 2 (NBCSN)
3 a.m.: Cross-country skiing, men’s and women’s team sprint semifinals

EARLY MORNING 

⭐🥇🥇🇺🇸5 a.m.: Cross-country skiing, men’s and women’s team sprint finals (Diggins/Stephen)
6:05 a.m.: Curling, women’s, USA-Sweden
⭐🥇6:40 a.m.: Bobsled, women’s final two runs (Elana Meyers Taylor)
7:10 a.m.: Hockey, men’s quarterfinal 3 and 4 (NBCSN / USA Network)
🥇🥇7:52 a.m.: Speedskating, men’s and women’s team pursuit finals

Wed/Thurs, Feb. 21-22 – Day 13

PRIME TIME

7:05 p.m.: Curling, men’s and women’s tiebreakers
8:15 p.m.: Alpine skiing, men’s slalom run 1 (NBC)
✖🥇9:30 p.m.: Freestyle skiing, men’s halfpipe final (NBC; possible U.S. sweep)
⭐⭐⭐🥇🇺🇸🇺🇸🇺🇸11:10 p.m.: Hockey, women’s gold medal game (NBCSN)

OVERNIGHT

🥇11:45 p.m.: Alpine skiing, men’s slalom run 2 (Marcel Hirscher)
2:30 a.m.: Nordic combined, team ski jump (NBCSN)

EARLY MORNING 

5 a.m.: Short-track speedskating, men’s 500-meter and women’s 1,000-meter heats
🥇5:20 a.m.: Nordic combined, team relay (NBCSN)
6:05 a.m.: Curling, men’s semifinals
🥇6:15 a.m.: Biathlon, women’s 4x6k relay (NBCSN)
🥇6:18 a.m.: Short-track speedskating, men’s 500-meter final
🥇6:30 a.m.: Short-track speedskating, women’s 1,000-meter final
🥇7:03 a.m.: Short-track speedskating, men’s relay final

Thurs/Fri, Feb. 22-23 – Day 14

PRIME TIME

✖🥇7:30 a.m.: Snowboarding, women’s big air final (NBC)
⭐🥇8 a.m.: Figure skating, women’s free skate (NBC/NBCSN; Mirai Nagasu)
9 a.m.: Alpine skiing, women’s combined downhill run (NBC; Mikaela Shiffrin, Lindsey Freaking Vonn)
✖11:15 p.m.: Freestyle skiing, women’s skicross heats

OVERNIGHT

⭐🥇🇺🇸🇺🇸12:30 a.m.: Alpine skiing, women’s combined slalom run (NBC; Mikaela Shiffrin, Lindsey Freaking Vonn)
✖🥇12:35 a.m.: Freestyle skiing, women’s skicross final (NBC)
1:35 a.m.: Curling, men’s bronze medal match
⭐2:40 a.m.: Hockey, men’s semifinal 1 (NBCSN)

EARLY MORNING 

🥇5 a.m.: Speedskating, men’s 1,000 meters (NBCSN; Shani Davis)
6:05 a.m.: Curling, women’s semifinals
🥇6:15 a.m.: Biathlon, men’s 4×7.5k relay
⭐7:10 a.m.: Hockey, men’s semifinal 2 (NBCSN)

Fri/Sat, Feb. 23-24 – Day 15

PRIME TIME

✖🥇8 p.m.: Snowboarding, men’s big air final (NBC)
🥇🇺🇸9 p.m.: Alpine skiing, team event (NBC; Olympic debut)
🥇🥇10 p.m.: Snowboarding, parallel giant slalom heats and final (NBC)

OVERNIGHT

🥇12 a.m.: Cross-country skiing, men’s 50k mass start (NBCSN)
⭐🥇1:35 a.m.: Curling, men’s gold medal game

EARLY MORNING 

6:05 a.m.: Curling, women’s bronze medal game
7:10 a.m.: Hockey, men’s bronze medal game (NBCSN)
🥇7:30 a.m.: Speedskating, men’s mass start
🥇8 a.m.: Speedskating, women’s mass start

Sat/Sun, Feb. 24-25 – Day 16

PRIME TIME

⭐🥇7:05 p.m.: Curling, women’s gold medal game (NBCSN)
7:30 p.m.: Figure skating, exhibition gala (NBC)
⭐🥇7:30 p.m.: Bobsled, four-man final two runs (NBC; in memory of Steven Holcomb)
⭐⭐🥇11:10 p.m.: Hockey, men’s gold medal game (NBCSN)

OVERNIGHT

🥇1:15 a.m.: Cross-country skiing, women’s 30k mass start (NBCSN; joined in progress?)

EARLY MORNING 

6 a.m.: Closing Ceremony (natural sound only)

(NBC will show the Closing Ceremony with full commentary at 8 p.m., wrapping up their coverage.)

Curling: Huge win for U.S. Olympic hopeful

Yes, it’s already curling season. In fact, we’re less than two months away from the Olympic Trials, set for Nov. 11-18.

Curling isn’t the most predictable sport in the world, but the four-team (or five, pending an appeal by Todd Birr) men’s competition has a clear favorite. John Shuster has been the skip in the last two Olympics after taking bronze on Pete Fenson’s team in 2006. His current team — Tyler George, Matt Hamilton and John Landsteiner — has qualified for the World Championships three straight years and done no worse than fifth, making the playoffs each of the last two years and the tiebreaker the year before that. They sometimes have wayward results in World Curling Tour events, and Shuster has a slim lead over Heath McCormick in the Order of Merit, but they tend to put it together when needed.

The women’s competition has only three skips competing, but a good case could be made for all three. All are young-ish and relatively inexperienced in major championships. Cory Christensen is the youngest skip, finishing second in the 2016 World Juniors. Nina Roth got the ticket to last year’s Worlds and took a respectable fifth.

But maybe we have a favorite now?

Jamie Sinclair won the Shorty Jenkins Classic this weekend, defeating all six Canadian teams she faced, including seventh-ranked Allison Flaxey and perennial contender Krista McCarville. That win was worth 41.791 Order of Merit points (no, I don’t understand the math involved, either), the biggest one-event total I could find for a U.S. curler over the past 14 months.

Curling is erratically streamed — ESPN3 picks up TSN’s Canadian coverage on occasion — but Team Sinclair is trying to get its games out live this season.

 

 

2018 medal projections: 31 today

NBC’s Nick Zaccardi has taken care of something I had planned to do, rounding up this winter’s World Championship results into a medal projection.

His numbers:

34 Germany
28 USA
27 Norway
26 Canada
22 France

Compare this to the most recent Virtual Medal Table from Gracenote, which compiles all results:

34 Germany
34 Norway
31 USA
29 Canada (only 5 gold)
23 Russia

I haven’t done a full-fledged projection (and I might not), but I’ll take a quick pass through the World Championship results and assign a plus or minus to Nick’s count:

ALPINE SKIING

Medals won: 3

  • Mikaela Shiffrin: gold, slalom
  • Shiffrin: silver, giant slalom
  • Lindsey Vonn: bronze, downhill

Shiffrin won Sochi slalom gold at age 18. Now she’s the overall World Cup champion, dominating in slalom and running quite well in giant slalom. If Vonn’s healthy, she can do it again. The U.S. men can surprise, but if you’re crunching numbers, no one’s near the podium.

Reasonable projection: 3

BIATHLON

Medals won: 2

  • Lowell Bailey: gold, 20k individual
  • Susan Dunklee: silver, 12.5k mass start

Breakthrough! At long last, Bailey and Dunklee put it all together and took major hardware. There’s no reason they can’t do it again, but unless you’re Laura Dahlmeier or Martin Fourcade, biathlon success can be fickle.

Reasonable projection: 1 (-1)

BOBSLED/SKELETON

Medals won: 2

  • Elana Meyers Taylor / Kehri Jones: gold, women’s bobsled
  • Jamie Greubel Poser / Aja Evans: bronze, women’s bobsled

North American women are dominant these days — Canada’s Kaillie Humphries took the middle spot on the podium. The ever-reliable Steven Holcomb was in the World Cup overall top three in both two-man and four-man. The skeleton crew isn’t doing quite as well but still picked up a couple of World Cup podiums.

Reasonable projection: 3 (+1)

CURLING

Medals won: 0 so far; mixed doubles is ongoing

John Shuster made the World Championship bronze-medal game for the second straight year but couldn’t follow through on his breakthrough medal from last year. Nina Roth finished fifth, and breaking that top four will be tough. The wild card: mixed doubles. Joe Polo and Tabitha Peterson took bronze last year, and Becca and Matt Hamilton have gone unbeaten in round-robin play. The Round of 16 and quarterfinals take place today.

Reasonable projection: 1 (+1)

FIGURE SKATING

Medals won: 2

  • Maia Shibutani / Alex Shibutani, bronze, ice dancing
  • Team, bronze (in World Team Trophy)

We can read the World Championship disappointment two ways. Maybe it means the USA just isn’t able to deliver. Or maybe it means phenoms Karen Chen (fourth) and Nathan Chen (sixth) now have the experience they need to blast through the competition next year. Also, two ice dancing medals are a good possibility.

Reasonable projection: 3 (+1)

FREESTYLE SKIING

Medals won: 6 (not including non-Olympic dual moguls)

  • Jonathon Lillis, gold, men’s aerials
  • Ashley Caldwell, gold, women’s aerials
  • Aaron Blunck, gold, men’s halfpipe
  • McRae Williams, gold, men’s slopestyle
  • Gus Kenworthy, silver, men’s slopestyle
  • Devin Logan, bronze, women’s halfpipe

Yeah, the USA is still pretty good in the X Games sports, and they’ve come roaring back in aerials. Two aerials golds and two men’s slopestyle medals may be tough to repeat, but the U.S. team has legitimate challengers across the board.

Reasonable projection: 6

ICE HOCKEY

Medals won: 1 (so far; men yet to play)

  • U.S. women, gold

They settled their labor dispute and won a world title. As always, we’re expecting a USA-Canada final. The men’s competition is completely up in the air — with NHL players apparently not getting time off to go, we might be back to the era of U.S. amateurs playing European pros.

Reasonable projection: 1

LUGE

Medals won: 2 (not including non-Olympic sprint events)

  • Erin Hamlin, silver, women’s
  • Team, silver

In Hamlin we trust. And we should point out the World Championships weren’t in North America this year, so don’t chalk this up to home-ice advantage. Tucker West has a shot in the men’s event and strengthens the team for the relay.

Reasonable projection: 2

NORDIC EVENTS (cross-country skiing, ski jumping, Nordic combined)

Medals won: 3

  • Jessie Diggins, silver, sprint
  • Kikkan Randall, bronze, sprint
  • Diggins / Sadie Bjornsen, bronze, team sprint

Randall came roaring back after maternity leave. Diggins is now a true all-event threat, placing sixth in the World Cup. Still, sprints can be messy, and repeating the 2-3 from Worlds is far from guaranteed.

Reasonable projection: 2 (-1)

SNOWBOARDING

Medals won: 3 (not including several non-Olympic events)

  • Lindsey Jacobellis, gold, women’s snowboard cross
  • Chris Corning, silver, big air
  • Corning, bronze, slopestyle

No halfpipe medals? What in the name of Shaun White is going on here? That won’t happen next year.

Reasonable projection: 5 (+2)

SPEEDSKATING (long-track)

Medals won (World Single Distance): 4

  • Heather Bergsma, gold, women’s 1,000 meters
  • Bergsma, gold, women’s 1,500 meters
  • Bergsma, bronze, women’s mass start
  • Joey Mantia, gold, men’s mass start

It’s easy to lose faith after the flameout in Sochi, but Bergsma was overwhelming on the World Cup circuit (6-for-6 at 1,000 meters, 3-for-5 at 1,500). Brittany Bowe is working her way back. Mantia and Shani Davis had a few podiums as well.

Reasonable projection: 4

SPEEDSKATING (short-track)

Medals won: 0

John-Henry Krueger and J.R. Celski each had one World Cup bronze, and the men’s relay reached the podium once in six tries.

Reasonable projection: 0

TOTAL PROJECTION: 31.

Handicapping the men’s world curling championship

There might be some geoblocking on the YouTube feed. Let’s hope not. This is going to be fun.

A look at each team, in order of year-to-date Order of Merit:

CANADA: Kevin Koe is the skip after winning a masterful performance at the Brier, his team’s sixth win in 11 events this year. He won the world title in 2010 and was fourth in 2014, but he has a totally new crew now.

Order of Merit, total: 4th
Order of Merit, year-to-date: 1st
Best finish in 2015-16: 1st. Often.

SWEDEN: Niklas Edin isn’t just the top non-Canadian curler in the world. He’s the defending world champion. He won his first world title in 2013, took bronze in Sochi, replaced his entire team, and won Worlds again in 2015. This is a well-funded crew, playing 16 events all over the world this season, usually in the top five.

Order of Merit, total: 6th
Order of Merit, year-to-date: 8th
Best finish in 2015-16: 1st, European Championships and Baden Masters (and 1st in Sweden)

USA: John Shuster is still in his early 30s. He just seems like he’s been around forever. He was the lead on the most successful U.S. men’s team in recent years, Pete Fenson’s 2006 bronze medalists. He has been back to the Olympics twice as a skip, finishing a disappointing 10th and 9th. He’s been a bit better at Worlds, finishing fifth in two previous trips as skip. This season? Runner-up in the U.S. Championships, but first in three other events.

Order of Merit, total: 14th
Order of Merit, year-to-date: 14th
Best finish in 2015-16: 1st, three times. 

SCOTLAND: Tom Brewster represents the sport’s ancestral home and has done so many times on the world stage. He has medals — Olympic silver as an alternate, two World Championship silvers as a skip — but no gold yet. They’ve been busy this year, playing 13 events and finishing in the top 5 in 10 of them.

Order of Merit, total: 18th
Order of Merit, year-to-date: 15th
Best finish in 2015-16: 2nd, Baden Masters and Aberdeen International (and 1st in Scotland)

SWITZERLAND: Sven Michel has skipped once at Worlds (7th, 2013) and the Olympics (8th, 2014). His only win this season was the Swiss Championship, but they’ve been close several times, traveling almost as much as the Swedes.

Order of Merit, total: 16th
Order of Merit, year-to-date: 16th
Best finish in 2015-16: 2nd, Dave Jones Stanhope Simpson Mayflower Cashspiel (and 1st in Switzerland)

NORWAY: Thomas Ulsrud and his very loud pants is making his 12th appearance at Worlds, and he has been playing with the same group for nearly a decade. They took silver in the 2010 Olympics and then a gold and silver in the last two World Championships. No wins this season, but they’re usually in the playoffs. A team to watch, as if you could miss those pants.

Order of Merit, total: 10th
Order of Merit, year-to-date: 17th
Best finish in 2015-16: 2nd, Mercure Perth Masters (and, oddly, 2nd in Norwegian Championships)

SOUTH KOREA: Kim Soo-hyuk has been here twice before as a third, finishing 10th in 2003 and 11th in 2011. This is his first Worlds as a skip. But this is a hot team this season — five top-3s and two fifth-place finishes in eight events.

Order of Merit, total: 30th
Order of Merit, year-to-date: 25th
Best finish in 2015-16: 1st, Pacific-Asia Championships and Avonair Cash Spiel 

JAPAN: Yusuke Morozumi is still looking for a breakthrough in his fifth Worlds (fourth straight) with the same crew. His best is fifth in 2014. Odd stat: He has never won the Pacific-Asia title but has finished second six times, four in a row.

Order of Merit, total: 24th
Order of Merit, year-to-date: 51st
Best finish in 2015-16: 2nd, Pacific-Asia Curling Championships (and 1st in Japan)

FINLAND: Aku Kauste. Sounds like a Death Metal band, doesn’t he? This is his fifth time at Worlds, third as skip. Before that, he played with Markku … OK, let’s copy and paste … Uusipaavalniemi He was fourth with Mr. U in 2003 and again last year.

Order of Merit, total: 28th
Order of Merit, year-to-date: 54th
Best finish in 2015-16: 3rd, Edinburgh International

DENMARK: Rasmus Stjerne is making his fourth appearance as a skip at Worlds at the young-ish age of 27. His best finish is fourth in 2013. This year’s results aren’t great — three top-5s in seven events.

Order of Merit, total: 67th
Order of Merit, year-to-date: 67th
Best finish in 2015-16: 2nd, Stroud Sleeman Cash Spiel

GERMANY: Alexander Baumann is making his first appearance at Worlds. With two top-5s in nine events (not counting the German Championships), they’re not on anyone’s radar.

Order of Merit, total: 81st
Order of Merit, year-to-date: 80th
Best finish in 2015-16: 5th, German Masters and Karuizawa International (and 1st, German Championships)

RUSSIA: Alexey Stukalskiy throws the last stones, but Andrey Drozdov is the skip. Drozdov, still just 28, made it to Worlds in 2013 and skipped on home ice at the 2014 Olympics. Still an emerging curling nation, they’ve been a non-factor in most events this season.

Order of Merit, total: 88th
Order of Merit, year-to-date: 87th
Best finish in 2015-16: 3rd, Thompson Curling Challenge

NOTABLE HEAD-TO-HEAD EVENTS

Baden Masters, Aug. 28-30: Edin (Sweden) 1st, Brewster (Scotland) 2nd, Michel (Swiss) 3rd, Ulsrud (Norway) 3rd, Drozdov (Russia) 9th, Baumann (Germany) 13th

GSOC Tour Challenge Tier 1, Sept. 8-13: Koe (Canada) 1st, Shuster (USA) 3rd, Edin (Sweden) 9th

Point Optical Classic, Sept. 25-28: Shuster (USA) 5th, Edin (Sweden) 5th, Michel (Swiss) 11th, Kim (South Korea) 15th, Morozumi (Japan) 15th

Swiss Cup Basel, Oct. 2-4: Michel (Swiss) 5th, Stjerne (Denmark) 5th, Ulsrud (Norway) 9th, Drozdov (Russia) 11th, Baumann (Germany) 17th, Kauste (Finland) 17th, Brewster (Scotland) 23rd

Canad Inns Men’s Classic, Oct. 16-19: Koe (Canada) 2nd, Morozumi (Japan) 5th, Edin (Sweden) 9th, Shuster (USA) 12th

Curling Masters Champery, Oct. 22-25: Brewster (Scotland) 5th, Baumann (Germany) 10th, Kauste (Finland) 10th, Drozdov (Russia) 12th

Masters of Curling, Oct. 27-Nov. 1: Koe (Canada) 3rd, Edin (Sweden) 5th, Ulsrud (Norway) 10th

The National, Nov. 10-15: Koe (Canada) 5th, Ulsrud (Norway) 5th, Edin (Sweden) 9th, Michel (Swiss) 10th

EUROPEAN CHAMPIONSHIPS, Nov. 19-28: Edin (Sweden) 1st, Ulsrud (Norway) 3rd, Kauste (Finland) 4th, Stjerne (Denmark) 5th, Drozdov (Russia) 9th

Meridian Canadian Open, Dec. 8-13: Koe (Canada) 3rd, Edin (Sweden) 5th, Shuster (USA) 12th

Karuizawa International, Dec. 17-20: Edin (Sweden) 3rd, Kim (South Korea) 3rd, Baumann (Germany) 5th, Morozumi (Japan) 5th

Perth (Scotland) Masters, Jan. 7-10: Koe (Canada) 1st, Ulsrud (Norway) 2nd, Michel (Switzerland) 3rd, Brewster (Scotland) 5th, Drozdov (Russia) 5th, Edin (Sweden) 9th, Kauste (Finland) 17th, Stjerne (Denmark) 17th, Baumann (Germany) 23rd

German Masters, Jan. 21-24: Kim (Korea) 2nd, Michel (Swiss) 3rd, Edin (Sweden) 3rd, Kauste (Finland) 5th, Baumann (Germany) 5th, Stjerne (Denmark) 9th, Brewster (Scotland) 14th, Drozdov (Russia) 14th

Aberdeen International, March 25-27: Brewster (Scotland) 2nd, Ulsrud (Norway) 3rd, Kauste (Finland) 5th, Shuster (USA) 5th, Drozdov (Russia) 10th, Baumann (Germany) 10th

PREDICTIONS

  1. Canada
  2. Sweden
  3. Scotland
  4. Switzerland
  5. Norway
  6. USA
  7. Finland
  8. South Korea
  9. Japan
  10. Russia
  11. Germany
  12. Denmark

Curling controversy swirls at nationals

I’ve been writing about U.S. Soccer’s efforts to cultivate elite play even if it means breaking up teams and long-established ways of organizing competition. Turns out there’s a similar story in curling.

Part of the issue: The High Performance program, which takes top players and forms teams under a national-team staff. Another part of the issue: The World Championship berths at stake are decided by a convoluted points system that robs the national championship of some of its suspense.

And so some people on the CurlingZone forums are a bit cynical about the big event going on in Jacksonville this week. Between the lack of a shot at the World Championships and the travel to Florida, the women’s tournament only has seven teams. One blogger offers a really cynical take — and please bear in mind I haven’t fact-checked his accusations, though I can verify that the Jacksonville crowd is bigger than “tens.”

But it’s easy to understand what USA Curling is trying to do. You could argue, perhaps, that the High Performance program should be team-based rather than based on individuals. The two top teams, John Shuster’s and Erika Brown’s, weren’t formed through tryouts. (Shuster is now in the HP program; Brown is not.)

The points system debate is shakier. Should one team represent the USA just because it got hot one week or figured out the ice in an unfamiliar venue? I’m inclined to say no.

The first couple of days of the championships saw another controversy. In the showdown between Alex Leichter and Heath McCormick, someone threw popcorn on the ice. Curling is largely self-officiated, but in this case, they needed to call in officials to decide whether a do-over was in order. It was not. But people kept their sense of humor.

So how are the championships going?

The women’s competition has had few surprises. Brown’s team and the three High Performance teams, including the juniors led by Cory Christensen, are a level above the other three teams. Jamie Sinclair beat Brown’s team in the only result I’d call an upset.

The absences hurt. The top four teams are all in the top 50 in the Order of Merit. The other skips in the top 100 — Alexandra Carlson, Patti Lank and Courtney George — are not at nationals. The next highest-ranked skip is Abigayle Lindgren at 169. The Order of Merit rankings don’t tell all — they reward teams that play a lot of tournaments with points on the line — but that’s a big gap.

The men’s competition is less predictable. Here’s how I ranked the teams coming into the tournament, with Order of Merit rankings in parentheses:

  1. John Shuster (14)
  2. Craig Brown (24)
  3. Brady Clark (50)
  4. Pete Fenson (44)
  5. Todd Birr (90)
  6. Korey Dropkin (105)
  7. Alex Leichter (123)
  8. Heath McCormick (77)
  9. Brandon Corbett (109)
  10. Hunter Clawson (194)

But who’s undefeated through five games? Brady Clark, who is not in the HP program but has beaten Shuster and Fenson. Then we have four teams at 3-2, including three HP teams (Shuster, Brown, Dropkin) and Clawson. Torino Olympic medalist Fenson opened with a win against Leichter but dropped the next four games.

Yesterday evening’s draw was full of upsets. Leichter beat Brown. Clawson beat Fenson. Dropkin (the HP junior team) beat Shuster. And though they’re close in my rankings, a lot of people would be surprised to see Corbett beat former national champion McCormick.

That’s certainly enough to keep things interesting. Whatever your opinion of the programs, this is a national championship worth watching on its own merits. And yes, it’s live-streamed. Enjoy.

Curling at the crossroads

Here’s why you should be paying attention to curling right now:

  1. The Challenge Round, to fill out the field for the national championships, is underway.
  2. The national championships this year are in the unlikely venue of Jacksonville, Fla., a sure sign that someone is bullish on the idea of curling expanding beyond the states that border Canada.
  3. USA Curling, responding to a couple of lackluster performances in the Olympics, now has a “High Performance” program that dominates discussion at CurlingZone.

The High Performance program is a major change in the way curling teams are formed. Curlers usually pick their own teammates, and it’s common to see siblings or people who live close to each other forming a foursome (or fivesome, with an alternate). The top teams may still resemble all-star teams, like the strong group of former Olympians Erika Brown assembled to win qualification to the 2014 Games.

But the Brown team, while taking a solid fourth place in the 2013 World Championships, flopped in Sochi, going 1-8. That was just the latest in a string of disappointing performances in international competition.

  • 2010 Olympics: Men 2-7, Women 2-7 (skips: John Shuster, Debbie McCormick)
  • 2010 Worlds: Men 4th place; Women 7-4/5th place (Pete Fenson, Erika Brown)
  • 2011 Worlds: Men 3-8, Women 6-5 (Pete Fenson, Patti Lank)
  • 2012 Worlds: Men 4-7, Women 7-4/5th (Heath McCormick, Allison Pottinger)
  • 2013 Worlds: Men 5-6, Women 4th place (Brady Clark, Erika Brown)
  • 2014 Olympics: Men 2-7, Women 1-8 (John Shuster, Erika Brown)
  • 2014 Worlds: Men 3-8, Women 6-5 (Pete Fenson, Allison Pottinger)

More results like this, and the USA could be in danger of missing out on future Olympics and World Championships. The USA is currently seventh in the world in men’s curling and eighth in women’s. Those rankings don’t exactly correspond to the selection criteria for the big tournaments, but they show that the USA’s position is far from guaranteed.

So the High Performance program changed things up, holding tryouts and putting together new teams under national coaches. The soccer analogue — going from House teams based on neighborhoods to Travel teams based on tryouts.

In the first year of this system (2014-15), USA Curling put together three men’s teams and three women’s teams, with one team of each gender reserved for juniors. This year, they added another men’s team — essentially, John Shuster’s team joined the program.

Other than adding Shuster’s team, the biggest change in the HP program was the return of 2006 bronze medalist skip Pete Fenson. In the shuffle, Heath McCormick went back to his old team. The program made a couple more changes on the men’s teams during the year.

On the women’s side, the HP roster barely changed, though the two non-junior teams were switched around.

Meanwhile, Erika Brown assembled an all-new all-star team with three 2010 Olympians — Allison Pottinger, Nicole Joraanstad, Natalie Nicholson. Their results have been better than those posted by the HP teams skipped by Jamie Sinclair and Nina Roth. The junior HP skip, Cory Christensen, has had a promising season.

But the Challenge Round this week is men-only. That’s because only seven teams (eight, if Christensen doesn’t win the U.S. junior championship) have entered nationals.

Four men’s teams got byes past the Challenge Round. All four are in the HP program.

That leaves 20 teams in the Challenge Round. In the following sheet, I’ve listed their World Curling Tour Order of Merit ranking — 2015-16 and overall and a few other numbers. The Order of Merit system gives points for each event, and I’ve given the top performances in from each team as well.

You’ll notice something right away: Shuster is far ahead of the pack. If you look at the top 10 performances of the season, it’s overwhelming:

45.8 – John Shuster, 3rd, Grand Slam Challenge, Sept. 13
38.6 – Craig Brown, 2nd, U.S. Open, Jan. 4
34.4 – Shuster, 1st, Huron ReproGraphics, Nov. 1
29.6 – Shuster, 1st, Curl Mesabi, Dec. 20
26.8 – Shuster, 5th, Point Optical, Sept. 28
25.7 – Brown, 5th, Shorty Jenkins, Sept. 20
21.1 – Shuster, 5th, U.S. Open, Jan. 4
21.0 – Mike Farbelow, 3rd, Huron ReproGraphics, Nov. 1
20.9 – Shuster, 1st, Coors Light Cashspiel, Nov. 29
18.0 – Pete Fenson, 3rd, Curl Mesabi, Dec. 20
18.0 – Todd Birr, 3rd, Curl Mesabi, Dec. 20

The other numbers: USA Curling’s seeding for the Challenge Round (based on past nationals and the OOM) and how many times each team has earned less than 4 OOM points in a single event. (Basically, how often they haven’t been close to the top.)

Then I’ve made my own somewhat subjective ranking, taking all of these numbers into account without making a Nate Silver-style formula.

[gview file=”http://www.sportsmyriad.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/01/curling-2015-16-Mens-rankings.pdf”%5D

A couple of notes:

  • Lyle Sieg is the world senior champion.
  • Yes, Darryl Horsman is from Arizona. Told you the sport was spreading.
  • “NA” in the Challenge Round seedings means they got a bye. “NE” means Not Entered.

Let’s see how these rankings played out in the first Challenge Round games today:

#12 S. Dropkin 13, #25 Horsman 6
#17 Lilla 8, #21 Clawson 6
#10 Leichter 7, #26 Funk 6
#16 Sieg 11, #20 Sobering 8
#6 Farbelow 10, #19 E. Fenson 0
#3 Clark 6, #22 Workin 4
#13 Corbett 6, #11 Jackson 5
#24 Roe 12, #7 McCormick 5
#5 Birr 9, #23 Deeren 4
#14 Smith 7, #9 Bahr 5

So the only three upsets were #13 Corbett over #11 Jackson (which was not an upset if you’re going by the Challenge Round rankings that put Corbett fifth and Jackson 12th), Smith over Bahr, and the stunning win for Roe over McCormick.

The same games, by Challenge Round rankings (and re-sorted):

#1 Clark 6, #16 Workin 4
#15 Roe 12, #2 McCormick 5
#3 Birr 9, #15 Deeren 4
#4 Farbelow 10, #13 E. Fenson 0
#5 Corbett 6, #12 Jackson 5
#11 Smith 7, #6 Bahr 5

#7 Leichter 7, #20 Funk 6
#8 S. Dropkin 13, #19 Horsman 6
#9 Lilla 8, #18 Clawson 6
#10 Sieg 11, #17 Sobering 8

The bracket (basically a triple-elimination tournament) shows us how big Roe and Smith’s wins were. Like Clark, Birr, Farbelow and Corbett, they’re now two wins away from qualifying for nationals.

Clark, Birr and Farbelow should make it through. McCormick would be a favorite based on past years, but he’s looking shaky now.

Beijing’s bid for the Winter Games

Curling at the Water Cube? Please make this happen!

The rest of this USA TODAY story is more skeptical, perhaps with good reason. China isn’t known for skiing, to put it mildly. But one of their local ski resorts is getting good reviews at TripAdvisor.

And it’s probably too late to consider splitting the Games to put ice events in Beijing and snow events in Norway, so it’s either this or Almaty.

Whither the Winter Games? A study in arrogance

The Winter Olympics aren’t that expensive. Not if you already have most of the infrastructure in place — a sliding track, ski jumps, a solid Alpine skiing area, and maybe four or five arenas ranging from 3,000 (curling) to 15,000 (figure skating).

Russia spent $51 billion, allegedly, to stage the 2014 Games. That’s Russia. That’s the hubris of building things from scratch and the corruption to get it done in haphazard fashion. Sochi will host some other stuff, from the (men’s soccer) World Cup to Formula 1 to the Magnus Carlsen-Vishy Anand World Chess Championship rematch, but we’ll have to see if anyone actually goes there on a regular basis in the future. In any case, they didn’t spend $51 billion on the Olympics. They spent that money to grease a few palms and build the world’s biggest Potemkin village. (Even the originally Potemkin villages may have been overblown.)

Oslo could host the Games with relative ease. Some venues — the sliding track, the Kvitfjell and Hafjell resorts for Alpine skiing — have been in steady use since Lillehammer 1994. The Holmenkollen area, practically the birthplace of modern ski jumping, hosted the 2011 World Nordic Championships. They’re already hosting the 2016 Youth Olympic Games.

So we’re talking about a much, much smaller price tag. And as Alan Abrahamson points out, the IOC was going to chip in a hefty $880 million for expenses.

Add in the fact that Norway is generally considered a pleasant place to visit, without the recent history of undermining neighboring governments, and Oslo looks like a much better bet that Sochi when it comes to hosting the Games. Surely it would have defeated 2022 bid opponents Almaty and Beijing with ease.

Until Norway decided to withdraw the bid.

What happened?

Sochi certainly poisoned the well. You can tell people the Games didn’t cost and won’t cost $51 billion, but it sticks in the head. I guarantee you someone will respond to this post — here, on Twitter, or on Facebook — using the $51 billion figure as if it’s true.

But there’s more to it, and it’s all about the IOC.

Rewinding a bit: I actually met the last IOC president, Jacques Rogge. He stopped by to visit USA TODAY not long after his election. I held open a door for him, and he insisted on stopping to thank me and shake my hand. The impression he left: Compared to his predecessor, he was down to earth and humble. He backed up that impression by staying in the Olympic Village alongside the athletes.

Those gestures, though, were never going to change the culture of the IOC. The Olympic movement is still in the hands of people who want to be treated as kings and kingmakers.

Separating the stereotype from reality is difficult, so not all of the complaints about the IOC hold water. Business Insider extracted a few IOC demands that aren’t particularly demanding:

– Hot breakfast buffet at IOC hotel. (That seems reasonable.)

– Consistent signage in sans-serif font. (If you’ve ever been to the Olympics, you know how helpful that is. Or is the objection that the IOC should use serifs?)

– IOC members and guests “segregated from press and broadcast” personnel. (THANK you! The last thing we need in the press area is a bunch of IOC bigwigs wandering around.)

– IOC hotel’s fitness areas, pool and sauna must be available at no extra cost. (Can I make this demand the next time I’m covering something in Vegas?)

– Volunteer drivers must speak fluent English or French. (Well, yeah.)

– No street vendors. (Call that a reaction to Atlanta.)

– Airports must have “smiling, positive and welcoming staff” to greet IOC members. (OK, that’s creepy.)

– IOC meeting rooms must be air-conditioned to 68 degrees. (For Summer Olympics, that seems a little extreme. But at least we’re talking about winter here.)

The IOC has shot back that all of this is less than ironclad. And indeed, the Technical Manual says: “The content found within the Manuals represents the IOC and its partners‟ best understanding of the specific theme at a given moment in time, and must always be put in context for each Games edition. Even a requirement with a distinct objective may vary from Games to Games, and therefore a spirit of partnership should be shared with the Games organisers to allow for the evolution of the requirements. This is especially true as the Manuals are updated following the evaluation phase of each Games.”

But a bit of bureaucratic sheen can’t hide the fact that Norway simply found the IOC just a bit overbearing.

“Norway is a rich country, but we don’t want to spend money on wrong things, like satisfying the crazy demands from IOC apparatchiks,” said Frithjof Jacobsen, VG’s chief political commentator. “These insane demands that they should be treated like the king of Saudi Arabia just won’t fly with the Norwegian public.”

“The IOC’s arrogance was an argument held high by a lot of people in our party,” said Ole Berget, a deputy minister in the Finance Ministry. “Norwegian culture is really down to earth. When you get these IOC demands that are quite snobby, Norwegian people cannot be satisfied.”

So even if non-authoritarian countries are willing to pay the financial price, will they pay the price of hosting a bunch of people they really don’t like?

Abrahamson has suggested that the IOC should put off the 2022 bidding until the IOC releases a new highfalutin’ vision. Perhaps that vision should include a nice dose of reality. Or at some point in our lifetime, World Championships will become more important than the Olympics.