Fear not a lack of excitement this year, Olympic sports fan, because 2017 is actually packed with events for lovers of both summer and winter sports.
The next American superstar gymnast could emerge at this year’s national championships. The U.S. women’s ice hockey team could win a world title on home ice for the first time ever. Scores of athletes who shined in Rio will have the chance to defend their titles at world championships from the track to the pool to the wrestling mat. Plus, with PyeongChang just around the corner, fans will have lots of opportunities to get to know the athletes who’ll likely be competing as well as the venues where they’ll chase their Olympic dreams.
Here are 10 things that fans of the Olympics have to look forward to in the coming year:
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1) Top Alpine Skiers Aim For World Titles In Switzerland
Two years ago, with the United States hosting the alpine skiing world championships at Vail and Beaver Creek in Colorado, the Americans finished second in medals to powerhouse Austria with five overall, including two golds. Led by Olympic champions Ted Ligety and Mikaela Shiffrin, American skiers will go for more medals at the FIS Alpine World Ski Championships Feb. 6-19 in St. Moritz, Switzerland. Ligety, the three time defending champ in giant slalom, will be looking to get back on the podium after being slowed with injuries so far this season. Defending slalom champ Shiffrin, however, has been on a tear and is currently leading the world cup overall standings. She could medal in both slalom and giant slalom, having won consecutive giant slalom races at the end of December.
2) Home Ice Awaits Team USA At Women’s Hockey Worlds
Team USA and Canada have traded world championships in women’s ice hockey over the years, but the Americans have extra motivation to defend their title this year. The 2017 IIHF Women’s World Championship on March 31-April 7 will be held in Plymouth, Michigan, and a win would not only mark the fourth in a row for Team USA, but it would also be the first world title claimed on home ice. The U.S. team has won six of the last seven world titles dating back to 2009, but Canada won the 2012 tournament in Vermont and also the 2014 Olympic gold medal. Game on.
3) Testing PyeongChang
A pre-Games tradition, athletes will continue heading to PyeongChang, South Korea, this year to take part in Olympic and Paralympic test events on the venues that will be used in next year’s Winter Games. Test events have already been in held in several sports, and between January and April there will be another 33 test events for both Olympic and Paralympic sports including cross-country skiing, figure skating, wheelchair curling, ice hockey and bobsled/skeleton. These test events are critical not just for ironing out kinks and making sure everything runs smoothly during the Olympic and Paralympic Games, but they also give the athletes the chance to get to know the courses, tracks and venues as they prepare for the real deal.
4) Back On Track: Worlds Returns To London
Olympic and Paralympic track and field stars shined at the London 2012 Olympic Games, and they’ll be back in town this summer when the World ParaAthletics Championships (July 14-23) and IAAF World Championships (Aug. 4-13) are both held at Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park. The London Paralympics saw unprecedented fan support, and this year fans could be cheering on U.S. Paralympic gold medalists such as David Brown (men’s 100-meter T11) and Tatyana McFadden, who won gold medals in distances ranging from 400 to 5,000 meters. Meanwhile, 2016 Olympic gold medalists such as Matthew Centrowitz (1,500) and Michelle Carter (shot put) are among the U.S. stars who will be looking for world titles in August.
5) The Pools Will Be Full At The FINA World Championships
Held every odd year, the FINA World Championships will take place in 2017 in Hungary from July 14-30 and will bring 3,000 athletes from around the world to compete in swimming, diving, water polo, synchronized swimming and open water swimming. Although Michael Phelps has retired, the United States will still send a plethora of talented athletes. In 2015, Katie Ledecky became the first swimmer to sweep the 200-, 400-, 800- and 1,500-meter at a single world championships. Others who could help Team USA this year include 2016 first-time Olympic swimmers Lilly King, Ryan Murphy and Josh Prenot, in addition to the U.S. women’s water polo team, which in August became the first women’s water polo team to win back-to-back Olympic gold medals.
6) Who Will Be The Next Gymnastics Stars?
Sure, Tokyo is more than three years away, but it’s never too early to start dreaming about what the next U.S. Olympic gymnastics team might look like. This year’s nationals will be held in Anaheim, California, from Aug. 17-20. Of the members of the “Final Five,” which won women’s team gold in Rio, the gymnast most likely to compete this year is 16-year-old Laurie Hernandez. With her Rio teammates either in college or likely to take the year off, the door could be open for younger competitors, such as Rio alternate Ragan Smith, to begin to make their mark on the team. On the men’s side, Sam Mikulak has said he has no plans to retire and, should he compete in Anaheim, could earn his fifth national title in a row. Even sweeter: This year’s world championships are just north of the border on Oct. 2-8 in Montreal.
7) Wrestling World Championships Bring Chance For Redemption
Jordan Burroughs’ quest to defend his Olympic wrestling gold medal ended with two heartbreaking defeats before the medal round in Rio. His wait for redemption ends in August. The world championships for Greco-Roman and men’s and women’s freestyle wrestling are in Paris Aug. 21-26. Burroughs, who came to Rio with a 130-2 international record, has won three of the last four freestyle world titles at 74 kg. Adeline Gray is another three-time world champion looking for redemption in Paris after losing in the Olympic quarterfinals. Kyle Snyder, who became the youngest American wrestling gold medalist in Rio, and Helen Maroulis, who became the first U.S. woman to win Olympic wrestling gold, are also defending world champions. Maroulis, who won her 2015 world title at 55 kg., dropped down to 53 kg. in Rio.
8) PyeongChang Is Right Around The Corner
With just 13 months to go, the PyeongChang 2018 Olympic Winter Games will be here before you know it, which means that over the coming year there will be lots of opportunities to get to know the athletes who will be vying for gold in 2018. Team USA always goes big to mark 100 days out from the Games, and in 2013 transformed Times Square in New York City to a showcase of winter sports, demonstrating ice hockey, figure skating, curling and even skiing and snowboarding. Team USA athletes will also take center stage this spring at the West Hollywood NBC/USOC photo shoot and then in the fall at the Team USA Media Summit, which brings together athletes with hundreds of journalists prior to each Games.
9) Let The Trials Begin
The buildup to the 2018 Winter Games isn’t just publicity. Athletes will start earning spots on the U.S. Olympic Team in 2017, including at the U.S. Olympic Team Trials for Curling Nov. 12-19 in Omaha, Nebraska. A separate trials event will be held in December for mixed doubles curling, which makes its Olympic debut in PyeongChang. The short track speedskating trials are also set for Dec. 15-17, though the location hasn’t yet been announced, and the ski jumping and Nordic combined trials are expected to be held in late December.
10) And The 2024 Olympic And Paralympic Games Will Be Held In …
Los Angeles, Paris and Budapest are all in the running to host the 2024 Olympic and Paralympic Games, and the winner will be announced in September. The three candidate cities are currently preparing to submit the final round of documents to the International Olympic Committee by the Feb. 3 deadline, after which the selection committee will visit all three cities and file a final report in July. An announcement of the winner is expected on Sept. 13. Los Angeles previously hosted the Games in 1932 and 1984, and several prominent Team USA athletes are active in promoting the city’s bid.
Karen Price is a reporter from Pittsburgh who has covered Olympic sports for various publications. She is a freelance contributor to TeamUSA.org on behalf of Red Line Editorial, Inc.