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Speed, tricks and big air: What to watch from Pyeongchang

Sebastien Toutant, of Canada, jumps during the men's slopestyle qualifying at Phoenix Snow Park at the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea, Saturday, Feb. 10, 2018.

Sat, 10 Feb 2018 06:38:18 -0500

PYEONGCHANG, South Korea (AP) — After a night of pomp and politics, Olympic athletes are getting down to what it is all about: competition! Day 1 features medal events in short track speedskating, snowboarding and biathlon:

Here are some key things to watch. All times Eastern:

WOMEN'S ICE HOCKEY

Not all politics will be left at the opening ceremony. While medals will be awarded in a number of disciplines, one of the biggest ticket events is a preliminary round of women's ice hockey (7:10 a.m.). The combined Korean team will make its debut against Switzerland. Watch to see how many North Korean players take the ice because the team was created a few weeks ago. Also, will North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un's sister attend? Will the North Korean cheerleading team?

CURLING

The mixed doubles curling round robin, which started before the opening ceremony, continues Saturday. US sibling team Becca and Matt Hamilton have been struggling in early competition. They lost on Friday in a 9-1 rout to a young Korean team and 9-4 to the Swiss, who stunned with a rare perfect score. The Canadians are generally considered the favorites in the strategic sport. Watch as the teams vie to put their stones as close as possible to the center and block your opponent from doing the same. Competition starts at 6:00 a.m.

SHORT TRACK SPEEDSKATING

Short track speedskating will feature men's 1,500m semis and finals featuring three-time US Olympic medalist J.R. Celski. Despite recent injuries, he won bronze in this event at the world cup in Seoul. He is the only veteran Olympian skating for the U.S. men's short track team. Heats start at 5:25 a.m., semifinals at 6:32 a.m. and the finals at 7:22 a.m.

To the uninitiated, short track may look like ice-bound roller derby, but the high speeds and quick turns require agility, skill and no small amount of fearlessness. The women will also start competition with heats in the 3,000-meter relay. Heats start at 6:52 a.m.

South Korea is a favorite in both events, guaranteeing a big, enthusiastic crowd in the stands.

SNOWBOARDING

Slopestyle snowboarding made its debut just four years ago at Sochi. A combination of rail riding, jumps and tricks, it offers a nice sampling of what snowboarding can be. Judging is highly subjective, with nine judges watching for different elements including "impression." Keep an eye out for Norway's Marcus Kleveland. Only 18, he was the first to complete a quad cork 1800 in competition at the Winter X Games in 2017. Qualifying heats started at 8 p.m. The final will begin at 9:04 p.m.

SKI JUMPING

The men will hit the "normal" hill at 109 meters. The U.S. team is a slate of new faces, including a group who train together at the Norge Ski Club near Chicago. Watch for Kevin Bickner, who set a U.S. distance record of 244 1/2 meters last season in Norway. Austria's Stefan Kraft will make his Olympic debut. German powerhouse Andreas Wellinger bested the field in qualifying, defeating the defending Polish Olympic champion Kamil Stoch. Competition starts at 7:35 a.m. and the final is scheduled to lift off two hours later.

CROSS-COUNTRY SKIING

The women will fight for medals in the 7.5km/7.5km skiathlon, an event that forces athletes to use both classical and freestyle techniques, back-to-back. Norway's Marit Bjoergen, who has earned three gold medals in each of the past two Olympic Games, has the chance to become the woman with the most medals from a winter games. With her current total of 10, she shares that title with two other athletes. Competition starts at 2:15 a.m.

BIATHLON

Medals will be awarded in the 7.5km women's biathlon, the quirky but incredibly difficult sport of cross-country skiing and shooting. It has its roots in the hunting skills needed for survival in Scandinavia, where the sport is popular. Watch how the competitors slow their breathing after sprinting in order to shoot straight, once standing and once flat on the ground. The gold medal race will start at 6:15 a.m.

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This story has been corrected to show that the men's slopestyle snowboarding final is at 9:04 p.m. Saturday, not 9:04 p.m. Sunday.

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