CURATED: Sochi Olympics – Who to watch, when.

Who to watch.

*Reprinted from The Huffington Post, Gal’s Got Game.

1. Mark McMorris

Without a doubt, one of the most exciting athletes to watch this year will be Mark McMorris, the 20-year-old snowboarder who will make his Olympic debut in slopestyle, one of several new events at Sochi. An X Games gold medalist, McMorris is among the best in the world at his game, and with the stakes higher than ever, you’ll want to tune in to see this Regina, Saskatchewan native. After all, it’s hard not to love a guy whose nickname is McLovin. Snowboard slopestyle qualifiers began today ahead of the Games tomorrow. McMorris surprisingly sits in seventh. Can he climb his way back to the top to win the first gold medal in slopestyle?

2. Christine Nesbitt

This Olympic veteran from London, Ontario, could take home three medals in Sochi, as she’s competing in the 500-metre, 1,000-metre and 1,500-metre distances. She won gold in Vancouver in the 1,000-metre — Canada’s only individual gold medal in long-track speed skating — and she’s won world titles since, even setting a new world record in 2012. Though she had a tough start to the season with finishes as far back as 12th place, we know Nesbitt, 28, is capable of coming from behind to shine in the spotlight.

3. Patrick Chan

Patrick Chan has wowed Canadian figure-skating fans as the three-time reigning world champion. Though he finished fifth in Vancouver in 2010 and has been beaten this season, when he’s mentally prepared, he’s a force to be reckoned with and Canada’s best hope at its first-ever Olympic gold medal in men’s singles. Keep an eye out for a quad in his program at Sochi — that’s something he’s added since his last Olympic run.

4. Rosalind “Roz” Groenewoud

Another Canadian athlete to make her Olympic debut in Sochi is Rosalind Groenewoud, a favourite in the ski halfpipe with multiple X Games medals and world titles under her belt. Ranked second in the world going into the Winter Games, Groenewoud is great on her own incentive, but she may have extra motivation in Sochi. On her helmet will be the name of former teammate Sarah Burke, who helped get the sport into the Olympics before she died tragically in a training run in 2012.

5. Sidney Crosby

It’s safe to say a fair share of Canadians will tune in to see the Canadian men’s hockey team in action, especially after their spectacular gold medal finish in Vancouver. But team captain Sidney Crosby may draw even more attention than usual after cementing himself as a symbol of Canada’s success in the Winter Olympics. We know we won’t forget that overtime goal any time soon. With the pressure on to defend Canada’s title, who knows what this hockey star will pull out of his helmet.

6. Greg Westlake

Just as the competition should fear Sidney Crosby on skates, they should dread Greg Westlake on a sledge in equal measure. Named most outstanding forward at the 2013 Ice Sledge Hockey World Championship in South Korea — where he helped Canada snatch up gold — Westlake, 27, will lead Canada’s top-ranked Paralympic sledge hockey team into battle for the first time in Sochi. And after missing the medal rounds in Vancouver, Westlake and the rest of the Canadian team will be raring to go.

7. Kaya Turski

A three-time gold medalist at the X Games, Kaya Turski will show off her skills in slopestyle skiing in the sport’s debut at the Sochi Olympics. Though she recently underwent a major knee surgery to repair a torn ACL, Turski, 25, reached the podium in her first competition back in mid-January. With a few more weeks of practice under her belt, this Montreal native will surely bring her A-game. We can’t wait to see her tricks!

8. Tessa Virtue, Scott Moir

Figure-skating duo Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir are coming off a gold medal finish in Vancouver, but they’ll have plenty of fire in their bellies as they face tough competition from their American training partners, Meryl Davis and Charlie White. The two pairs have flip-flopped on the top of the world stage over the last three years, with Virtue and Moir winning the World Championship in 2010 and 2012, and Davis and White in 2011 and 2013. But don’t rule out the Russian pairs yet. This one will be a tight race.

9. Atsuko Tanaka

Another athlete making her Olympic debut is Calgary native Atsuko Tanaka, who will be soaring through the sky in ski jumping. Though men have competed in one of the original extreme sports at the Winter Olympics since 1924, Sochi will mark the first time for women. Tanaka will jump down a mountain, reaching speeds up to 90km/h, in a move that may look effortless in the air but takes years of intense training. Get ready to have her take your breath away as she flies like a bird.

10. Kelsey Serwa

Kelsey Serwa will head the Canadian women’s ski-cross team heading into Sochi after her fifth place finish in Vancouver. If you have any doubts what the 24-year-old from Kelowna, B.C. can do, well, just look at her record: She’s made it to the podium on the World Cup stage 15 times — eight of those times she was on top. Despite a knee injury, Kelsey Serwa has proven she’s back and has the goods to make it to the top of the podium once again.


Day by Day of who to watch

*Reprinted from The Globe & Mail, Robert MacLeod.

Here is a day-by-day Olympic highlight guide from a Canadian perspective, to you make sure you don’t miss any of the important action (check local listings for start times):


Feb. 8

Regina snowboarder Mark McMorris has insisted the rib he broke Jan. 25 at the Winter X Games should not detract from his status as the gold-medal favourite in the men’s Olympic slopestyle. We’ll find out in the semi-finals and final. Canada will be well represented, with Maxence Parrot of Bromont, Que., and Sebastien Toutant of L’Assomption, Que., also medal threats.

The freestyle skiing gold medal in women’s moguls will also be handed out, and the event will feature the Dufour-Lapointe sisters from Montreal – Justine, Chloé and Maxime – who are all considered medal contenders.

The women’s hockey competition gets rolling with two games, including Canada’s opener against Switzerland.


Feb. 9

Erik Guay is the most decorated Canadian World Cup ski racer in history, but the Mont-Tremblant, Que., athlete has never been able to reach the podium in two previous Olympic appearances. Guay hopes to rectify that in the men’s downhill.

Spencer O’Brien of Courtenay, B.C., is considered a legitimate podium threat in women’s snowboard slopestyle competition.

The team event in figure skating is making its Olympic debut and Canada figures to do well. Canada has qualified an Olympic-high 17 skaters for Sochi and is the top qualifying country for the team event.


Feb. 10

Speed skating’s Charles Hamelin of Levis, Que., a triple-medal threat in Sochi, will begin his Olympic journey in the men’s short-track 1,500 metres.

Canadian medal hopefuls will be all over the bumps in the freestyle skiing men’s moguls event, with podium favourites Mikaël Kingsbury, the 2013 World Cup champion from Deux-Montagnes, Que., and Alexandre Bilodeau, the defending Olympic champion from Montreal, set to take centre stage.

Canada’s women’s hockey team will play Finland.


Feb. 11

Montreal’s Kaya Turski, the 2013 world champion and gold medalist at the Winter X Games, is prepared to show she has fully recovered from knee surgery last August in the women’s freestyle ski slopestyle event. She will be pushed by 19-year-old Dara Howell of Huntsville, Ont.

The sliders also get going, with Calgary’s Alex Gough hoping to give the heavily favoured German contingent a run for their money in women’s luge.

The Olympic curling competition is still in its early stages, but there is an interesting meeting featuring Brad Jacobs of Sault Ste. Marie, Ont., and Sweden’s Nicklas Edin. Canada will be looking to avenge a loss to Sweden in the gold-medal game at the world championship last April.


Feb. 12

Canada’s figure-skating contingent gets to flex its muscles in the pairs free skate, with Meagan Duhamel, of Lively, Ont., and Eric Radford, of Balmerton, Ont., two-time national champions, taking the ice. Canada has qualified a total of three teams for the event.

Canada and the United States will resume their fierce rivalry in women’s hockey, with a preliminary round contest.


Feb. 13

Canada’s men’s hockey team, led by captain Sidney Crosby, will make its much-anticipated Olympic debut on the big ice with its opening preliminary round game against Norway.

Christine Nesbitt of London, Ont., will get the chance to defend her Olympic title in the women’s long-track speed skating 1,000 metres.

The luge mixed-team relay will be presented as a new Olympic sport, and the Canadian team of Gough, Sam Edney, Tristan Walker and Justin Snith – all of Calgary – is expected to medal.


Feb. 14

Canada has a glorious international skating reputation, but not so much at the Olympics, where it has never been able to win a men’s gold. Patrick Chan of Toronto, the three-time world champion and seven-time Canadian champ, will be looking to rewrite the record book in Sochi. Kevin Reynolds of North Vancouver (runner-up to Chan at the Canadian championship) will be making his Olympic debut.

The mighty Austrians will provide the opposition for Canada’s men’s hockey team in its second game.


Feb. 15

The quarter-finals in women’s hockey are on tap and, barring a major upset, both Canada and the United States are expected to be playing.

Short-track speed skating will be front and centre, with a couple of Canadians drawing attention, including Hamelin, who, with three first-place finishes in four World Cup events this season, is the overwhelming favourite to earn gold in the men’s 1,000 metres. Valérie Maltais of La Baie, Que., will be vying for a medal in the women’s 1,500 metres.


Feb. 16

A busy day on the schedule for Canadians, starting with women’s snowboard cross, as Dominique Maltais of Petite-Rivière-St-François, Que., leads an impressive one-two charge for the gold medal. Maltais will be pushed for the spot at the top of the podium by Maëlle Ricker of North Vancouver, who is the defending Olympic champion.

In women’s speed skating, Nesbitt, the bronze medalist at the 2013 world championships, will lead the way for Canada in the women’s 1,500 metres, where she is favoured to finish with a medal.

In men’s hockey, Canada has its first big test against Finland, which has arguably the best goaltending of the competition. To overlook the Finns, who have won three Olympic medals dating to Nagano in 1998, would be a mistake.



Feb. 17

The ice dance free skate competition will draw plenty of attention as 2010 gold medalists Tessa Virtue of London and Scott Moir of Ilderton, Ont., will battle world champions Meryl Davis and Charlie White of the U.S. for supremacy. Canada will also be represented at the event by U.S.-born Kaitlyn Weaver and Andew Poje of Waterloo, Ont., and Alexandra Paul of Toronto and Mitchell Islam of Barrie, Ont.

Canada’s chances in freestyle ski men’s aerials will rest with Travis Gerrits, a 22-year-old high flier from Milton, Ont., who is a projected bronze medalist.

Women’s hockey reaches the semi-final stage.


Feb. 18

Veteran freestyle skiing competitor Mike Riddle, currently No. 3 in the World Cup standings, will lay it all on the line in the men’s halfpipe, as the Edmonton native heads in as a gold-medal favourite. Canada will be well represented in the event with Vernon, B.C.’s Justin Dorey, currently No. 1 in World Cup standings, projected as a bronze medalist.

Canada won silver in the women’s 3,000-metre short-track speed-skating relay in Vancouver four years ago, and the foursome is intent on landing on the podium once again.

The medal qualification round in men’s hockey gets under way.



Feb. 19

Jasey-Jay Anderson, Canada’s most decorated snowboarder, will try to add to his treasure chest in the men’s parallel giant slalom. Anderson, of Mont-Tremblant, Que., will be making his fifth Olympic appearance and is the defending gold medalist in this event.

Kaillie Humphries is about as close to a sure thing as you can get in sports these days, and the Calgary native heads into women’s bobsleigh as the overwhelming gold-medal favourite. With brakeman Heather Moyse of Summerside, Humphries has dominated the World Cup circuit this past year. They are the defending Olympic champions.

Quarter-final play in men’s hockey begins – and if Canada is not represented, you can expect calls for a board of inquiry.


Feb. 20

Almost two months after having arthroscopic surgery on both her knees, freestyle skier Rosalind Groenewoud of Calgary heads into the women’s halfpipe as a gold-medal favourite.

The women’s curling competition winds up and will be considered an upset if the Canadian foursome, skipped by Winnipeg’s Jennifer Jones, is not in the medal mix.

Freestyle skier Christopher Del Bosco of Montreal will be looking to improve on a disappointing fourth-place finish in Vancouver four years ago, when he crashed out in the final of the men’s ski cross.

The women’s hockey finalists will hit the ice, with arch-rivals Canada and the U.S. expected to battle it out once again.



Feb. 21

The men’s curling completion draws to a close and it is anticipated Canada will be shooting for gold.

Bolstered once again by the participation of the Hamelin brothers, Charles and François, Canada is considered a gold-medal favourite in the short-track men’s 5,000-metre relay. Canada is the defending Olympic champion in the event.

Charles Hamelin of Levis, Que., will also be skating for a podium spot in the men’s 500 metres, an event in which he struck gold four years earlier in Vancouver.

Freestyle skier Marielle Thompson has not finished lower than fifth this season, a trend she hopes to carry into the women’s ski cross, where the Whistler, B.C., competitor is favoured to win a medal.


Feb. 22

In long-track speed skating, Canada is expected to challenge for the silver medal in the women’s team pursuit.



Feb. 23

The final day of competition in Sochi, and the finale will be celebrated by the gold-medal game in men’s hockey. It was the highlight of the Olympics for many Canadians four years ago, when Canada edged the United States in overtime. Take note: Canada has not won a medal in men’s hockey at a European-based Winter Games since the 1994 Lillehammer Olympics (silver).



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