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Favorites and underdogs

Bryan Fletcher (Matthew Stockman/Getty Images)


Favorites and underdogs

A preview of the Winter Olympics

Here’s a look at some of the athletes, events, and storylines worth watching at this year’s Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea. The games will begin on Feb. 8 and continue through Feb. 25.

Alpine skiing: Lindsey Vonn, who has more World Cup victories (78) than any female skier in history, sparked controversy in December when she told CNN that “I hope to represent the people of the United States, not the president,” at the games. Vonn injured her back during a Super-G race in Switzerland shortly thereafter, but she will still vie for her first gold medal since she won the downhill at the 2010 Olympics in Vancouver.

John Locher/AP

Erin Jackson (John Locher/AP)

Speed skating: Erin Jackson has already made history, becoming the first African-American woman to qualify in a long-track race despite spending just four months training on ice. Jackson could make history again by claiming a medal in the women’s 500-meter final on Feb. 18.

Bobsled: This sport is fertile ground for feel-good underdog stories. Following in the sled trails of the 1988 Jamaican men’s team, which inspired the hit Disney movie Cool Runnings, are three women from Nigeria: Driver Seun Adigun and brakewomen Akuoma Omeoga and Ngozi Onwumere will become the first bobsledders to represent an African nation when they compete on Feb. 19.

Nordic combined: Cancer survivor Bryan Fletcher is a sentimental favorite in this sport that combines ski jumping and cross-country skiing. Pushing him will be his younger brother Taylor, a two-time Olympian.

Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

Gigi Marvin (Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)

Women’s hockey: Gigi Marvin, a Christian who is outspoken about her faith (see “Competing with a smile,” May 17, 2014), is among several returning U.S. players who settled for silver in the past two Olympic finals. The 2014 loss especially hurt: Team USA blew a two-goal lead before losing to Canada—winner of the past four gold medals—in overtime. Team USA expects another grudge match against its powerhouse northern neighbor in this year’s final.

Figure skating: In ladies’ singles, Karen Chen, Mirai Nagasu, and Bradie Tennell aim to end a U.S. medal drought that has spanned two Olympics, which hasn’t happened since the 1936 and 1948 Games. On the men’s side, Nathan Chen and Vincent Zhou are vying to win a singles medal. Chris Knierim and his wife, Alexa, will represent the United States in pairs.

Men’s hockey: For the first time since 1994, the National Hockey League is not suspending its season so players can represent their countries at the Olympics. A team of college players, minor leaguers, and Americans who play professionally abroad will thus attempt to become the first U.S. squad to win gold on foreign soil. Even if this team of NHL prospects and rejects doesn’t win gold on Feb. 25, it could still be fun to watch.