Temperatures may be dropping, but competition is heating up across winter sports as we draw ever closer to the Olympic Winter Games PyeongChang 2018. From world cups to Olympic team trials, athletes will be competing for their Olympic dreams in nearly every discipline.
Take a look at nine lingering questions that will be answered in Olympic sports as 2017 draws to a close.
Which Snowboarders Will Fly The Highest At The Toyota U.S. Grand Prix?
As the Olympic Winter Games PyeongChang 2018 draw closer, intensity ramps up for U.S. snowboarders. They’ll take to the snow – and the skies – at two Toyota U.S. Grand Prix events in December, both of which serve as Olympic selection events counting towards team selection. The first, held Dec. 6-10 in Copper Mountain, Colorado, includes halfpipe and big air, while the second, a Dew Tour event on Dec. 15-16 in Breckenridge, Colorado, features halfpipe and slopestyle. In the hunt to make her first Olympic team is halfpipe sensation Chloe Kim, but she faces steep competition from four-time Olympic veteran Kelly Clark. 2014 Olympic gold medalist Jamie Anderson still leads the pack in slopestyle, while Ryan Stassel is a medal threat in both slopestyle and big air. Anderson is joined in slopestyle and big air by newcomers Hailey Langland and Julia Marino, who could combine for a podium sweep this month. And never, ever count out two-time Olympic halfpipe champion Shaun White.
Will Olympic Veteran Freestyle Skiers Continue To Throw Down?
The Toyota U.S. Grand Prix events aren’t just for snowboarders. Team USA’s freestyle skiers will also be looking to make statements ahead of Olympic team selection, and the field is led by athletes that have done this all before. Halfpipe skiing will take place Dec. 6-10 in Copper Mountain, while both halfpipe and slopestyle will be contested Dec. 15-16 at the Dew Tour in Breckenridge. Sochi slopestyle medalists Joss Christensen, Gus Kenworthy, Nick Goepper and Devin Logan are all looking for repeat podium performances, while Olympic champions Maddie Bowman and David Wise are still in a class of their own in the halfpipe. But Maggie Voisin, Torin Yater-Wallace and Annalisa Drew are among a crop of talented contenders looking to unseat them.
Can Nathan Chen Reign Supreme On The World’s Biggest Stage?
Things are getting real for Team USA figure skaters: the ISU Grand Prix Final, which runs Dec. 7-10 in Nagoya, Japan, is the most prestigious competition of the season thus far, and is also the final competition before the Olympic team is named after the national championships. Team USA has six entries at the Grand Prix Final, three each in the men’s and ice dance divisions. All eyes will be on phenom Nathan Chen: can he rebound from an error-prone performance at Skate America and remain undefeated this season? Chen is joined by Adam Rippon and Jason Brown, who are both looking to make a statement ahead of Olympic selection. On the dance side, the U.S. contingent consists of Maia and Alex Shibutani, Madison Chock and Evan Bates, and Madison Hubbell and Zachary Donohue, all of whom won medals at their two grand prix assignments this season and have podium aspirations at the Final.
How Many Olympic Quota Spots Will Long Track Speedskaters Earn?
Team USA long track speedskaters will head to their final world cup of 2017 looking to nail down Olympic quota spots, and they won’t have to travel very far. The ISU Long Track World Cup 4 runs from Dec. 8-10 in Salt Lake City, a site that is no stranger to U.S. success; at the world cup held there in 2015, Brittany Bowe and Heather Bergsma swapped world records in the 1,000 and 1,500-meter, both of which they still hold today. Bowe be competing at the 2017 iteration of the event, while Bergsma sits out the event in preparation for next month's Olympic trials. The U.S. roster is highlighted by 12 Olympians, including KC Boutiette, Brian Hansen, Joey Mantia, Shani Davis and Mitch Whitmore.
Which Mixed Doubles Curling Team Will Be The First Ever To Represent Team USA At An Olympic Games?
Mixed doubles curling makes its debut on the Olympic program at the Olympic Winter Games PyeongChang 2018. At the U.S. Olympic Team Trials for Mixed Doubles Curling, held from Dec. 13-17 in Blaine, Minnesota, Team USA’s representatives will be determined. The field is led by 2016 world bronze medalists Tabitha Peterson and Joe Polo, as well as 2017 world team members and sibling duo Becca and Matt Hamilton. All four are members of the men’s and women’s teams that qualified for the Olympic team last month. The eight-team field also includes Jamie Sinclair and Korey Dropkin, both runners-up at trials and both hungry to earn an Olympic berth.
Can Anyone Catch J.R. Celski At Olympic Team Trials?
Three-time Olympic medalist J.R. Celski looks to make his third Olympic team at the U.S. Olympic Team Trials for Short Track Speedskating, held Dec. 15-17 in Kearns, Utah. Team USA has five men’s and three women’s quota spots to fill, and the fastest skaters will punch their tickets to PyeongChang. Celski will be joined – and challenged by – relay teammates John-Henry Krueger, Thomas Hong and Keith Carroll, Jr., while the women’s field includes veterans Katherine Reutter-Adamek and Jessica Kooreman plus 17-year-old newcomer Maame Biney.
Which Sliders Will Join Erin Hamlin On The Olympic Luge Team?
Luge star Erin Hamlin earned her Olympic berth last month and has been the lone luge athlete to have such security… until the Viessman World Cup held in Lake Placid, New York on Dec. 15-16. The rest of USA Luge’s Olympic roster will be named at a gala on Dec. 16, and the race for roster spots could come down to the wire. Summer Britcher and Emily Sweeney lead the charge for the two remaining women’s spots, while Matt Mortensen and Jayson Terdiman have the lead in doubles. The men’s field is currently headed by Tucker West, Chris Mazdzer and Taylor Morris, but plenty of sliding remains before the team is named.
Can The Women’s Ice Hockey Team Topple Canada?
Coming into December, the U.S. women’s hockey team held a 3-1 advantage over rival Canada in the pre-Olympic series between the two rivals. But two games later, Canada has evened things up at three wins apiece. The U.S. women have had the clear upper hand over Canada in recent years, winning the last three world titles after falling in the gold-medal game at the Olympic Winter Games Sochi 2014, and they will look to get back into the win column with two more contests before year’s end. The Time is Now Tour concludes with a 2018 U.S. Olympic Team Trials exhibition game on Dec. 15 in San Jose, California, which is followed by another exhibition on Dec. 17 in Edmonton, Alberta.
Will Sarah Hendrickson Soar To Another Olympic Berth?
The U.S. Olympic Team Trials for Ski Jumping and Nordic Combined will be held from Dec. 31-Jan. 1 in Park City, Utah, and all eyes will be on Sarah Hendrickson. The ski jumper made history as the first female ski jumper ever to take a jump at an Olympic Winter Games when she competed in the No. 1 bib in Sochi, and she looks to make her second Olympic team. Newcomers Nita Englund and Tara Geraghty-Moats also look to be in contention. On the men’s side, Will Rhoads, Kevin Bickner and Michael Glasder duke it out for the top spot. In Nordic combined, the brother duos of Taylor and Bryan Fletcher and Adam and Ben Loomis look to lock down trips to PyeongChang.