The United States is sending its largest delegation of athletes ever to Russia for the XXII Winter Olympics, despite the controversy surrounding this year’s competition. Should you decide to tune in over the next two weeks, whether at home or at one of the watering holes we’ve listed below, you’ll see some of the world’s best cold-weather athletes go for the gold.
Two Team USA members have chances to become the first athlete to ever win three back-to-back-(to-back) gold medals at any Olympic Games–Shaun White in the men’s snowboarding halfpipe competition on Feb. 11 and Shani Davis in the men’s 1,000m speed skating race on Feb. 12– having won gold already in their respective events in Vancouver and Turino. With White looking good for another gold a day ahead of Davis, there’s a chance the speed skater might have to settle for second in the history books. Even if he’s not the first to complete a hat trick (to borrow a term from another great Winter Olympic event), Davis has already made history as the only African American speed skater to medal at an Olympics.
Sochi, despite being selected as a host city for the Winter Games, has a subtropical climate that’s not exactly conducive for cold weather sports. Snow machines have been converting 230 million gallons of water into fresh powder over the past few months in preparation for the outdoor events, which start on Feb. 8.
Downhill skier Lindsey Vonn bowed out of the Sochi Games because of a knee injury, making 18-year-old Mikaela Shiffrin America’s best chance for a women’s alpine skiing medal. She’s favored to win gold in the Giant Slalom (Feb. 18) and Slalom (Feb. 21) competitions. Of America’s male alpine skiers, keep an eye out for Ted Ligety. The Utah native is the reigning World Champion–and gold-medal favorite–in the Super Combined (Feb. 14), Super G (Feb. 16) and Giant Slalom (Feb. 19).
On the ice at Sochi, the U.S. men’s hockey team will be looking for a gold-medal rematch against Canada, and given the professional athletes on both benches, it’s feasible that the two North American nations might face off again in the finals on Feb. 23. Also in the medal race are the defending World Champions, the U.S. women’s hockey team, which enters the Sochi Games as a favorite for the finals on Feb. 20. After taking home the silver four years ago, they’ll be angling for an upgrade when play starts on Feb. 8.
Figure skating is the oldest–and some might say most beloved–discipline at the Olympics. Expect even more eyes to be on the ice at this year’s competition, not only because of the brouhaha about Ashley Wagner, but also because a new team competition has been added at Sochi. Each nation must select a team of figure skaters and ice dancers to represent its country across eight individual and pair performances, with the top three finishers taking home the first ever Olympic medals in team figure skating on Feb. 9. If your figure-skating knowledge starts and stops at sequins, here is a GIF guide to salchows, lutzs and axels to get you up to speed.
Given the amount of glitter both its men and women can get away with, it’s hard to steal the fashion thunder from the figure skaters at any Winter Games–just ask Johnny Weir–but the Norwegian curling team has drawn attention to one of the Olympics’ most esoteric sports thanks to its outlandish outfits (uniforms?). The fashionable foursome have already been crowned the sartorial champions of the Sochi Games, whether or not they make it to the gold-medal match on Feb. 21.
So that’s Sochi in a nutshell, at least if you’re planning to root for Team USA (and Norway). NBC is streaming the Winter Olympics online, but if you’d prefer to watch with others, here is a list of local bars who told us that they’ll be tuning into the games, broken down by neighborhood.
Carroll Gardens: Union Grounds
Gowanus: Dinosaur Bar-B-Que
Prospect Heights: Woodwork
Bed Stuy: Black Swan
Bushwick: Heavy Woods
Greenpoint: Red Star