Winter Olympics just weeks away

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The 2018 Winter Games will soon be underway, and some locals are poised to make the USA proud

By Brooklynn Wong

The 2018 Winter Olympics are now just a few weeks away, and The Independent has you covered on what to watch for, and local prospects that just may rise to stardom.

The opening ceremony from PyeongChang, South Korea is Feb. 8, although some events will get underway the day before.

PyeongChang local time is 17 hours ahead of Pacific Standard Time, so when the opening ceremony is live, it will be 3 a.m. on the west coast. The ceremony will be shown live, but NBC will also show it the following evening in primetime.

And for the ensuing 17 days, athletes from around the world will compete for the gold.

Two young Southern California snowboarders will be of particular interest, making their Olympic debuts with rather high hopes.

Hailey Langland is a 17-year-old originally from Irvine, who lists her hometown as San Clemente. She has medaled in the last two years’ X Games and is ranked number two in the 2016/2017 World Snowboard Tour big air standings. In PyeongChang she could be a medalist in big air as well as slopestyle, although she will be up against many veterans.

Chloe Kim, also 17, was born in Long Beach, considers Torrance her hometown, and will graduate from La Palma Christian School this year. She could become a household name after these Games, as she is currently ranked first in the 2016/17 World Snowboard Tour rankings. She is a three-time X Games gold medalist. She would have mathematically qualified for the 2014 Olympic team, but she did not meet the minimum age requirement. She likely would have been a medal contender had she competed, at the tender age of 13. Since the last Olympics, Kim has become the world’s dominant rider in women’s halfpipe. She is very much expected to medal, as well as get a lot of media coverage, in PyeongChang.

The women’s snowboard events begin Feb. 11.

The lowdown

-For the first time ever, NBC will air its coverage in real-time in each time zone, not just as a primetime wrap-up in the evenings.

-Many have confused PyeongChang, the host city, with Pyongyang, the capital of North Korea. The two are nowhere near each other. In fact the name of the host city has been stylized with a capital “C” in an attempt to further set it apart from Pyongyang.

-Six new events (one alpine skiing event, two snowboarding events, two speedskating events, and one curling event) have been added.

-The official mascots of the games are Soohorang, a white tiger, and Bandabi, an Asiatic black bear.

-The National Hockey League announced that it would not pause its season during the Olympics, so far fewer NHL players are opting to participate. The teams will be composed of college players, former NHLers, and players from international and independent leagues.

Political climate

-PyeongChang is just 50 miles from the demilitarized zone that separates North and South Korea. And for a time there was a question as to whether the United States would even send an Olympic team given the tension between it and PyeongChang’s neighbors to the north.

-North Korea will send a team, composed of two figure skaters, to the Games. North Korea boycotted the last Olympics held in South Korea, in 1988.

-Olympic powerhouse Russia will not compete as a country, due to doping violations. Russian athletes who had qualified to compete do have the option to compete under a neutral flag, but any medals won will not be reflected as won for Russia.

What to watch for

-Alpine skiers Lindsey Vonn, who missed the last winter Games due to injury, and could call it quits after these Olympics, and Mikaela Shiffrin, are both predicted to do well.

-Snowboarder Shaun White will compete, after recently crashing in training and needing 62 stitches.

-Former Olympic greats Bode Miller and Apolo Ohno will make their broadcasting debuts as part of the NBC team.

-American Green Beret Nate Weber will compete in bobsled, as will Chris Fogt, who has spent his time between the Vancouver Olympics and these ones training Iraqi intelligence agencies as an Army member in Baghdad.

On the horizon

-The 2028 Summer Olympics will be hosted in Los Angeles, with venues all across Southern California set to be in use, from downtown Los Angeles to Santa Monica, Venice, Long Beach, and the South Bay.

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