Pyeongchang 2018: Athletes and events to watch

Pyeongchang is ready to welcome athletes from across the globe for the 2018 Winter Olympics, with the opening ceremony taking place on Friday.

With a host of new events and 102 gold medals up for grabs, it promises to be a spectacular show.

But with so much going in, it can be hard to figure out what to watch out for.

Fear not, for we have pulled together the biggest names and the best events for you to keep an eye on in South Korea this month.

WHAT SHOULD I WATCH?

Truth be told, there is something for everyone at a Winter Games, but certain events definitely have a tendency to steal the limelight.

For the locals, the short-track speed skating will be the greatest attraction - it is a huge deal in South Korea and they are the only nation to have won a gold medal at every Games in which the event has featured.

One thing that will be returning after an 86-year absence is bound to bring drama, with the mass-start discipline making an appearance, meaning 24 athletes will compete for gold in the final.

Alpine skiing is of course a staple and, with the speed of downhill, the thrills of the super-G and the skills of giant slalom, there will be something to entertain you on any of the 16 days of scheduled action on the slopes.

And that does not even take into account the snowboarding, which has undoubtedly helped to bring a new generation of athletes and fans to winter sports.

Along with the slopestyle, which pits riders' wits on a course featuring rails, jumps and other obstacles, and the more self-explanatory half-pipe, new for this year is big air.

That is every bit is brilliant as it sounds, with competitors launching themselves down a hill, up a huge ramp and into the air before performing various tricks.

If ice is more your thing, the luge, bobsleigh and skeleton should do the trick - they are all fast, furious and frankly the preserve of some very brave women and men, bettered only perhaps by those who opt for ski jumping as a career.

Looking for something a little more sedate, but no less exciting? Curling will appeal and fresh for 2018 is the mixed doubles. This sport rewards pinpoint accuracy, tactical nous and expert sweeping. Just watch it.

 

WHO SHOULD I WATCH?

Winter sports do not generally attract the same kind of crowds and followings as more traditional pursuits, which makes becoming a recognisable star much more difficult than in the domain of, say, football.

So it is a great credit to the likes of Shaun White and Lindsey Vonn that you have almost certainly heard of them. 

Snowboarder White's profile is such that he starred in a Super Bowl half-time commercial, showing off the talent that has earned him two Olympic golds and may see him add another in the half-pipe this year.

He shares in common with American compatriot Vonn a potted history of various injury woes, but that is par for the course in such sports.

Vonn warmed up for Pyeongchang with victory in the World Cup downhill in Garmisch-Partenkirchen to sound a warning to her rivals.

The likes of Marcel Hirscher and Mikaela Shiffrin will also be gracing the slopes with a bit of star quality, which is precisely what Poland's Kamil Stoch brings to the ski jump.

He won two golds at Sochi 2014, taking out top spot on the podium in the normal hill and large hill.

On the speed skating track, keep your eyes peeled for Great Britain's main medal hope Elise Christie, while the ice hockey rink will showcase a moment of history when a unified Korean women's team face Switzerland.

Finally, it should not have escaped your notice that - in echoes of the famous feat of their male counterparts in reaching the Calgary 1988 Games - Jamaica's women's bobsleigh team have qualified this time around.

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