The 2018 Winter Olympics are upon us, which means if you haven’t already, it’s now time to start counting up your sick days, scouring official schedules and figuring out which days you’ll be calling out of work. Or, if you don’t have any sick days left because flu season kicked your butt, you’ll need to start figuring out how to watch all the figure skating and curling you want from your desk while fooling your boss into thinking you’re actually working. Not that we would know much about that.
Here’s everything you need to know to prepare yourselves for one of the greatest traditions in Winter Sport.
- The 2018 Winter Olympics will be held in PyeongChang, South Korea
This is the first time in 30 years that Korea has hosted the Olympics; Seoul hosted the Summer Games in 1988. While this is a fun fact that you can and definitely should bust out at viewing parties, it’s also important to know this because it obviously involves a major time difference. South Korea is 14 hours ahead of New York and the rest of the Eastern timezone, meaning it is 17 hours ahead Los Angeles. If you want to watch events as they unfold in real time, you will need to plan ahead.
- The Olympics will consume your life from Thursday, Feb. 8 until Sunday, Feb. 25.
Competition actually begins Thursday, Feb. 8 when curling and ski jumping kick off the festivities, but the opening ceremonies will take place the next day, Friday, Feb. 9. Events will continue until the closing ceremonies on Sunday, Feb. 25.
- The games will be broadcast on NBC, but you can also livestream events
NBC will broadcast the Games across all NBC Universal platforms (including NBCSN, USA, and The Olympic Channel) starting with the opening ceremony Friday, Feb. 9 at 8/7c. Of course, the events will be tape-delayed because of the aforementioned time difference, so you would be wise to check out NBC’s schedule to find out what will be airing and when. If you, like Paula Cole, don’t want to wait, NBC will also host a livestream of their coverage of the games on its website as well as on the NBC Sports app.
- There are just 15 sports in the Winter Olympics
While the Summer Games seem to have 100 different sports, the Winter Olympics have 15. On the slopes you’ll find alpine skiing, biathlon, cross-country skiing, freestyle skiing, nordic combined, ski jumping, and snowboarding. Over on the ice, you’ll see curling, figure skating, ice hockey, short track speed skating, and speed skating. And last but not least, there are the sliding sports bobsleigh, luge and skeleton.
- There are four events making their Olympics debut in PyeongChang
Who doesn’t love new stuff? This winter you’ll see big air snowboarding, mixed doubles curling, mass start speed skating and mixed team alpine skiing join the competition.
- You should probably familiarize yourself with these folks:
Skier Mikaela Shiffrin, who took home the top prize in Sochi at 18 to become the youngest Olympic slalom gold medalist, has been called the “the best slalom skier in the world.” In PyeongChang, she’ll be attempting to become the first person of any gender to repeat as Olympic slalom champion. Meanwhile, Gus Kenworthy, who took home the silver in the inaugural men’s ski slopestyle event at Sochi, is also returning. He made waves in 2015 when he became the first action-sports (vs. mainstream sports) star to come out as gay.
Elsewhere, snowboarder Chloe Kim, 17, is poised to become a new Team USA favorite in her first Olympics. She actually qualified in 2014, but she could not compete because of her age. She is the heavy favorite to take home the gold in the halfpipe. Meanwhile, two-time gold medalist Shaun White, who finished fourth in the halfpipe in 2014, will attempt a shot at redemption after qualifying for the U.S. Olympic team earlier this month. He is coming back from a serious injury he sustained in October.
On the ice, watch out for rising star Nathan Chen, 18, the first male figure skater to land five quadruple jumps in a single performance. On the women’s side, Mirai Nagasu, who placed fourth at the 2010 Olympics but failed to make the team in 2014, will be going for the gold in PyeongChang.
- There are 102 medals up for grabs this year
If you’re reading this, it probably means you don’t stand a chance in winning a medal at the Olympics, which is a shame, because the PyeongChang medals are rather striking, especially compared to those from years past.
- Bob Costas won’t be hosting the Olympics this year
It was announced in 2017 that Bob Costas, who has handled hosting duties for NBC’s Olympics coverage since 1992, is stepping down from the role to make way for sportscaster Mike Tirico, who joined NBC from ESPN, where he was the play-by-play announcer for Monday Night Football. Who will we be without Bob Costas? We’ll soon find out.
- The NHL will not be participating in the Olympics
The National Hockey League announced in 2017 that it will not allow players to participate in the 2018 Olympics, ending five consecutive Winter Olympics involving NHL players. The league did not want to include a 17-day break in the middle of the hockey season to allow for players to participate in the Winter Games, which will likely hurt both the U.S. and Canadian teams’ chances of taking home the gold.
- Russia is banned from the Olympics
In December, the International Olympic Committee announced it was barring Russia’s national Olympic committee from the 2018 Games as punishment for its alleged state-sponsored cover-up of athlete doping. However, select athletes will be able to compete under a neutral Olympic flag.
ATHLETES TO WATCH IN PYEONGCHANG
Sport: Alpine skiing
If you know the name of only one athlete representing the United States in Pyeongchang, it’s probably Lindsey Vonn, one of the top female athletes in America. This three-time Olympian has earned one gold medal and one bronze, and will try to return to the podium at the 2018 Winter Olympics. As reported Vonn has sustained many injuries over the course of her career, including a knee injury that sidelined her from the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi.
Vonn has had a decorated career and now will be among the oldest racers on the mountain, nearly all of the competitors who came into the sport when Vonn did are retired and, by a wide margin, the most accomplished.”
Another American athlete you’ll only hear more about once the 2018 Winter Olympics begin? Shaun White. White will be one of the most recognizable names in Pyeongchang, and it could be the last time that White competes for Olympic gold. His run at a fourth Olympic team almost ended before it began when in October, he slammed his face into the halfpipe at an Olympic superpipe in New Zealand. He needed more than 60 stitches and stayed for five days in the hospital. But White made a recovery from the brutal crash and will try to add to the two Olympic medals he’s already won.
Lowell Bailey was the first U.S. athlete to officially qualify for the 2018 Winter Olympics and the first biathlon world champion for the U.S. The three-time Olympian will try to win the U.S.’s first-ever Olympic biathlon medal in Pyeongchang. Bailey earned Team USA’s highest-ever finish in the Winter Olympics sport when he achieved eighth place in the men’s 20-kilometer in Sochi in 2014. In 2017, Bailey won the U.S.’s first world championship gold medal, and he hopes to make history again in Pyeongchang.
Sport: Short track speed skating
Maame Biney is another athlete to watch at the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang. The 17-year-old has already made history by becoming the first black woman to qualify for Team USA’s short track speed skating team. Biney became a “viral sensation” when she dominated the 500-meter races at the U.S. Olympic Team Trials for speedskating. Plus, “her exuberant celebrations and giggly interview earned her legions of new fans.” Biney hails from Ghana, a country on the west side of Africa, and began taking skating lessons at age six, when she moved to Virginia.
Sport: Cross country skiing
World champion Jessie Diggins will lead the 2018 Winter Olympics cross-country skiing team in Pyeongchang. Though the U.S. trails behind European nations in cross-country skiing, the women’s team has made significant strides in recent years. Diggins, along with teammate Kikkan Randall, made history by earning silver and bronze medals in the world championship sprints. Michael McKay reports that though Diggins likes to wear some glitter on her cheeks when she competes, she says there’s an old cross-country skiing stereotype she’d like to end. “We are not just spandex-wearing fairies gliding through the woods! Our sport can have some brutal crashes in the head-to-head sprint races or mass starts, and it’s aerobically the hardest sport there is.”
Bryan and Taylor Fletcher
Sport: Nordic combined
Brothers Bryan and Taylor Fletcher appeal as dominant figures in the Nordic combined for Team USA. Bryan, the older brother, overcame leukemia as a child. At that point in his life, he “found happiness in ski jumping,” according to previous interviews. Taylor, Bryan’s younger brother, followed Bryan into the sport of ski jumping before the siblings made their way into the Nordic combined. (The Nordic combined involves both ski jumping and cross-country skiing.) In 2014, both Fletchers competed in the Sochi Olympics. The brothers say that they enjoyed “healthy competition” with each other growing up. And sibling rivalry continues to motivate them as they prepare for Pyeongchang.