2014 Olympic Preview: Rink Sports

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The Olympics are a great display of many sports that the majority of sports fans never look for and never really try to watch. They are a number of sports that are not followed by the majority of people and that only take focus every four years. They are not full of stars and only have a few people who are recognized outside of the four years between games. They are the forgotten sports more often than not and are full of the forgotten athletes. They are heroes for the months following the Olympics but can quickly fall off of the map when speaking about the best athletes in the world. Still these athletes give everything they have for their countries and are rewarded with a medal and possibly some fame for their great performances. After the Olympics many of these sports and these athletes will not be heard from again as they will disappear until the next Olympic games. That is not entirely true for every sport in the Olympics as some sports count as some of the most popular throughout the world. For the Summer Olympics there is soccer that counts as the most popular sports in the world. There is also the 100m sprint that takes focus throughout the year when the main names in the sport are talked about. For the Olympics the most popular sports outside of the Olympics are all played in rinks. Rink sports can be seen almost regularly throughout their seasons even if it is outside of an Olympic year. These sports are some of the few that many people follow no matter what year it is as they have been around for years and feature some of the few big stars throughout the world. That includes what is always the premier event of the Winter Olympics as some of the biggest Olympic stars ever set foot in the Olympic Village. The NHL will once again travel to the Olympics as one of the major professional leagues will participate in the Olympics for another year during the hockey tournament. It will once again be a major a part to the Olympics and marks what will be the most followed part of these Winter Olympics both in the host country and outside of it. Rink Sports will be amongst the biggest draws in the Olympics and although some of them will not translate to the host country but still may get some of the most views throughout the Olympics. They are popular and they are relatable as more people know about these sports than any other and for that reason they stand alone separate from the rest of the sports.

 

Curling

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First Year:
1924 (Continuously since 1998)
Most Medals: Canada, 8 (3 Gold)

It is not nearly as exciting as many of the sports in the Olympics but it is a sport full of skill and precision. First started in the early 1500s in Scotland curling was used as a past time for the Scottish in the lowlands. They would throw stones along the frozen lochs trying to get as close to the centre of the target as they could. It would not make the Olympics at the very start and in fact would have to wait for 1998 to be included in the Olympic program. The rules are fairly simple as teams of 4 throw 8 rocks down a sheet of ice trying to get as many rocks as close to the centre of the target as possible. The game consists of ten ends where each team throws their rocks and only one team scores points. Teams score a point for every stone they can put in the house that is closer than the opposition stones. It seems like a simple game but it is one that includes a lot of strategy and precision to win. Over the centuries the sport has evolved into a chess match where teams set up their shots and set up blocks while trying to get around their opponents. Teams will look to put their rocks close to the centre of the house, also known as the button, while they look to make it even more difficult for their opponents to take their rocks out. Teams can try to remove their opponent’s rocks from the house by throwing their own rocks and trying to hit their opponent’s rocks away. The back and forth battle between the teams is a great one as every throw is another attempt at getting the upper hand in the great chess match of the Olympics. In 2010 Curling would be one of the hot tickets and although it will not have the same impact in Russia, there will be many people around the world will be watching and hoping they can see their country take home the gold medal.

 

Who to Watch:
Swedish Men’s Team
– In the 2013 World Championship it was a new team that took over as Sweden would win the title with Niklas Edin leading the way as the Swedes look to open up their new season with an Olympic Gold medal

Great Britain Men’s Team
– Great Britain has had a great tradition of curlers as they have produced multiple world and Olympic Champions as Scotland’s David Murdoch will lead the defending world champions into the Olympics hoping to earn a gold medal

Swedish Women’s Team
– Sweden has had a great run in Curling as the women’s team would win the 2013 World Championships and the 2010 Olympic Gold Medal as this year’s quad led by Maria Prytz has a lot to live up to

Great Britain Women’s Team
– Eve Muirhead has been one of the best skips in the last few years as she looks to take her 2013 World Championship into Sochi to win the Olympic Gold Medal as she hopes to help the British to more curling medals

Canadian Content:
Men’s Canadian Team
– Canadians will once again go into the Olympics as favorite for a medal as they have always been a great curling nation and this year Brad Jacobs will lead the Men’s team to try to take another Gold medal for Canada

Women’s Canadian Team
– Jennifer Jones will enter her first Olympics as the head of the Canadian Women’s team and has some work to do as she hopes to bring the gold medal back to Canada after three straight Olympics with the women finishing without the gold

 

Figure Skating

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First Year:
1924 (1908/1920 in the Summer Olympics)
Most Medals: USA, 46 (14 Gold)

Another very popular sport Figure Skating translates throughout the world as one of the premier events of the Winter Olympics. Some of the popularity could simply be the fact that this sport is one of the most debated sport in the Olympics. Figure Skating a purely a judged event where a panel of people determine who should win the medals. When a gold medal is determined by a human eye controversy is sure to follow as reports of corrupt judges are an almost constant. Everyone feels like a judge in figure skating and when things do not work out the way they believe or the majority of people believe it can bring about the controversy of the Olympics. There is sure to be another controversy this Olympics and the rumours will start but in the end people will remain glued to the TV watching these athletes perform and hoping that their favorite can win the gold. Figure Skating at the Olympics has four different disciplines that all require a specific technique and a grace to impress the judges. There are the individual competitions for men and women where the athletes perform a short program, that includes 7 required skills, and a free program, the contents of which are completely up to the skater. The Pairs skating is much the same as one female and one male compete together in a free program, with 7 required skills, and a free program, with whatever skills they want to perform. The Ice Dance competition is similar to the pairs competition as they must perform a short program and a free program except that in ice dance the concentration is more on movement and skating that throws and jumps. This year the Olympics will also see a team competition where one male, one female, one pair, and one ice dance group compete together to earn the best combined score and earn a medal. This year Figure Skating will take another big focus in a country that excels at the sport as it will be a very popular sport and is sure to be talked about.

 

Who to Watch:
Kanako Murakami (Japan)
– She has been getting the most out of her recent season and is hitting her stride at the perfect time as she would win the Gold Medal in the Four Continents Championships to take momentum into the biggest competition of her life

Yuzuru Hanyu (Japan)
– He is a big medal favorite this year as he would win the gold medal in the 2013-14 Grand Prix Final and would win Silver in the Four Continents Championships as he enters the Olympics as a true favorite to win in the men’s singles events

Yevgeny Plushenko (Russia)
– Controversy follows figure skating and that didn’t change this year when Plushenko was named as the only men’s singles entry for Russia despite not being at the top of his game and will now enter the Olympics as the home country’s hope to win a Gold medal

Tatiana Volosozhar/Maxim Trankov (Russia)
– There is another Russian hope in figure skating as Volosozhar and Trankov may be the best bet to win a medal for Russia in Figure Skating after winning the Pairs World Championship, European Championship, and Grand Prix Final

Meryl Davis/Charlie White (USA)
– They are the biggest competition in ice dancing for any team as they would win the 2013 World Championship and are hoping to improve on their silver medal from the 2010 Vancouver Olympics

Canadian Content:
Patrick Chan (Ottawa, ON)
– Chan was a medal favorite for the 2010 Olympics but would finish 5th and now enters the Sochi Games as the favorite once again without the pressure of performing in his home country as he hopes to bring home gold this time around

Scott Moir/Tessa Virtue (London, ON)
– They were one of the faces of the 2010 Olympics as they would win the gold medal in Ice Dance and now they enter their second Olympics as favorites again in what will be a battle between Canada and USA

Kaetlyn Osmond (Marystown, NFL)
– She is the new face of women’s figure skating in Canada as she would win her first Grand Prix event and put everyone else on notice as she looks to do the same at the Olympics by surprising the world and winning a gold in Sochi

 

Ice Hockey

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First Year:
1924 (1920 in the Summer Olympics)
Most Medals: Canada, 18 (11 Gold)

It is far and away the most popular sport in the Olympic program as it is the only sport that merges into the professional ranks. Those professional ranks are the KHL and the NHL as they lend players to the Olympics to pit the best players against the best. That may not happen for too much longer as the NHL, NHLPA, IIHF, and IOC would have one of the lengthiest negotiations ever to bring the NHL players to the Olympics. The fact is that the NHL owners are not big fans of taking two weeks off while their players play for other teams and risk injury. A big reason for the decision to send their players was the fact that the Olympics would be in one of the craziest hockey countries in the world. Russians will make sure that the commitment to the team from NHL players will be repaid as they will make sure that this tournament is the most popular in the Olympics. It has become the focus of the Olympics year after year and it will happen once again as the hockey nations all look to their teams to determine who will rule over the hockey world for the next four years. The tournament will be made up of 12 teams for the men and 8 team for the women. They will play a round robin in groups with the top teams moving on to the playoffs where teams go through single elimination games to determine the gold medal. It will be another tight battle this year as teams are getting better and better and the competition is getting closer and closer. There are a number of major stars on each team and anything can happen at any time. Of course there are the favorites as USA, Canada, Russia, and Sweden seem to be the favorites to win the Gold medal this year. Of course the crowd will be behind the Russians this year as the hockey crazy nation looks to get a gold medal in one of the most important sports in the Olympics.

 

Who to Watch:
Russian Men’s Team
– Last year the Canadians would win at home and now the Russians will try to do the same as they will play in front of their home crowd looking get their first medal in three Olympics and are hoping Evgeni Malkin and Alexander Ovechkin can lead them to the gold

Swedish Men’s Team
– By many accounts this is one of the best teams assembled in the Olympics this year as the Swedes have essentially an NHL all-star team with Erik Karlsson, Daniel Alfredsson, and the Sedin brothers hoping to get the gold after finishing out of the medals last year

American Women’s Team
– In reality there are really only two teams in the tournament as the Americans will look to end the Olympic winning streak of the Canadian women who have taken the gold in the last three Olympics as the Americans look to translate their World Championship success to Sochi

American Men’s Team
– They have not had a lot of talk surrounding them this time around but the silver medalists from 2010 are looking to fly under the radar and earn another medal while hoping they can avenge their gold medal game loss from 2010

Canadian Content:
Canadian Men’s Team
– They are the defending Olympic Champions after an amazing overtime goal in the gold medal game by Sidney Crosby and this time they are hoping for a repeat performance as any medal but gold is a failure for the Canadian national sport

Canadian Women’s Team
– The rivalry between the Canadians and the Americans has gotten hot as two fights have broken out between the teams while the Americans have continued to win games but the Canadians are hoping that those games are behind them and that they can continue their Olympic winning streak

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