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7 to Watch: History in the Making in PyeongChang

These Winter Olympics haven’t always been kind to Americans, but there might be no bigger day for Team USA at the Pyeongchang Games than the one that finally sees Mikaela Shiffrin and Lindsey Vonn share the hill.It’s the matchup we’ve been waiting for since Vonn recovered from the years of injuries that kept her out of the Sochi Games, where Shiffrin made her Olympic debut and won gold. The Alpine combined will give the two greats a chance to play to their strengths as they duke it out down the hill. Must See Olympic Video: Chloe Kim Lands Back-to-Back 1080s, Wins Olympic Gold Beyond that pair of stellar skiers, there are a handful of medals that the U.S. could grab, including at least a silver in the women’s hockey finale — the latest installment in one of hockey’s deepest rivalries.A trio of American freestyle skiers are in pole position going into the men’s halfpipe finals, and what sport is more American than big air snowboarding? The first big air Olympic champion will be crowned tonight. Must See Olympic Video: Snowboarder Lands on Back in Crash So break out the Stars and Stripes and settle in for some of the best action the Olympics has to offer. Here are our “7 to Watch” in Pyeongchang for Wednesday:  Must See Olympic Video: Watch All 3 of Shaun White’s Gold Medal Runs 1. US Women Win 1st Long Track Speedskating Medals in 16 YearsThe long wait is over for an American woman to stand on the podium in long track speedskating.Team USA beat Canada in the women’s pursuit on Wednesday, becoming the first American women to win an Olympic medal in long track speedskating since 2002. No American had won a long track medal since the 2010 Games.For most of the match, the U.S. skaters looked like they had the medal in the bag. They leapt out to a huge lead, more than two-and-a-half seconds after two laps, and then ratcheted it up. But the high speeds wore on Mia Manganello, who began clutching her knee and nearly fell in the final stretch. Nevertheless, she, Heather Bergsma and Brittany Bowe held on.The Netherlands, so dominant in speedskating in Pyeongchang, were upset in the team pursuit. The men lost to eventual gold medalists Norway in the semifinals, while the women, who had cruised to victory over the U.S. in the semifinals, lost to Japan in their final.  Watch as part of NBC 7’s daytime coverage starting at noon PT Wednesday.2. Third Gold’s the CharmThe last day of individual Alpine skiing at the 2018 Winter Games could bring a moment of rare greatness.Austria’s Marcel Hirscher won the Alpine combined and giant slalom events already, and he’ll be in men’s slalom on Thursday (Wednesday night in the U.S.).Only three people have won three Alpine gold medals at the Olympics, the last in 2002, so another gold for Hirscher would be a big deal. Fortunately for Hirscher, slalom is his best event. Six of his 10 world cup victories since December have come in slalom.The race is also the last chance for members of the American men’s Alpine ski team, who haven’t won a medal at these Olympics. Ted Ligety has the best shot, but he couldn’t win his signature event, the giant slalom, and he probably won’t win the slalom, either.Watch the first run of the men’s slalom live during NBC 7’s primetime coverage Wednesday, which begins at 5 p.m. PT, or on digital platforms at 5 p.m. PT Wednesday here. Watch the second run of the men’s slalom live on NBC 7 beginning at 8:30 p.m. PT Wednesday, and on digital platforms at this link. 3. Women’s Hockey Grudge MatchThe American women who suit up for USA Hockey had Feb. 22 circled on their calendars as soon as the 2018 Olympic schedule was announced. It’s the day of the women’s hockey gold medal game, when they can get revenge over Canada.The bitter rivalry between the U.S. and Canada has all but defined Olympic women’s hockey. They’re so much stronger than other countries that the two teams they play in the round-robin games automatically go through to the playoffs. Not that it’s much help, since Canada and the U.S. are about to face off in the gold medal match for the sixth time in seven Games.Look at the Olympics head-to-head and Canada has the clear advantage over the U.S. They’ve won four gold medals to Team USA’s one, and beat the U.S. in pool play last week, 2-1.But the Americans believe they should have won gold in 2014, when Canada rallied from two goals down with less than four minutes to play and won in overtime.”This is the game we’ve been dreaming of and to have another opportunity to get back here, it’s huge,” star Hilary Knight said after the team punched its ticket to yet another final.Watch live on NBCSN at 8:10 p.m. PT on Wednesday, or on digital platforms here.  4. Finally: Shiffrin vs. VonnThe past and future of American skiing are about to face off for the only time at the Pyeongchang Olympics, and maybe any Olympics.Lindsey Vonn and Mikaela Shiffrin will both race in the women’s Alpine combined, the last individual Alpine skiing event at the Games, in what’s turned out to be their only head-to-head matchup.Thursday’s two-legged event (the first airs Wednesday night in the U.S.) plays to both of their strengths: Vonn’s best event is downhill, Shiffrin’s the slalom.Both competitors were expected to set up camp atop the podium this year, with hopes for Shiffrin running especially high. But Shiffrin and Vonn both lost races they were favored to win, and Shiffrin’s Olympics got even more disappointing when she bowed out of two races after high winds compressed the racing schedule. The one gold medal she has so far might be the pinnacle of another skier’s career, but it’s a disappointing haul for Shiffrin, 22, who had talked in 2014 of winning five gold medals here.Vonn is the comeback story of the Games. She won gold and bronze in Vancouver but injuries kept her out of Sochi; she went through intense rehab to return to the top of the sport. She took bronze in the downhill Wednesday, finishing 0.47 seconds behind her Italian rival Sofia Goggia, who won gold. This will likely be the only time she and Shiffrin race each other on the world’s biggest stage — Vonn indicated she will not return to the Olympics in 2022. Watch the downhill run of the women’s Alpine combined live during NBC 7’s primetime coverage Wednesday, which begins at 5 p.m. ET, or on digital platforms at 6:30 p.m. PT Wednesday here.Watch the slalom run on NBC 7 or on digital platforms at 10 p.m. PT Wednesday here.5. Big Air’s Big FinishThe first big air snowboarding competition at the Olympics will conclude Thursday (Wednesday night in the U.S.) with more of the soaring spins that made the women’s qualifying rounds so fun to watch.Weather permitting, that is. The event was moved up a day to avoid high winds forecast for Friday, after winds messed with snowboarders in slopestyle, another high-flying Olympic competition.But in the calm weather during qualifying, Austrian Anna Gasser set the big air bar very high, corkscrewing herself around three times as she flew through the air and getting a 98 from judges. A pair of Japanese snowboarders, Yuka Fujimori and Reira Iwabuchi, rounded out the top three on Monday.Jamie Anderson, after notching a 90 in qualifying, could be the American to beat her. She knows how to win at the Olympics, taking her second slopestyle gold last week.Watch the women’s big air finals live on digital platforms at 4:30 p.m. PT Wednesday here.6. Sweeping the Halfpipe?Four years ago, an American won gold in the men’s ski halfpipe. This year, Americans stand a good chance of sweeping all three medals.Aaron Blunck, Alex Ferreira and Torin Yater-Wallace qualified for the finals with the top three scores, and the fourth member of the U.S. team, David Wise, qualified as well.But it would be smart to bet on Wise, who took gold in the event at the Sochi Olympics and at last month’s X Games, sealing that winning run with a 1260-degree spin. (The two other guys on that X Games podium? Ferreira and Yater-Wallace.)But the rest of the world knows how to throw down at the Olympics, too. Canada’s Mike Riddle won silver in Sochi and Kevin Rolland, “the Flying Frenchman,” got the bronze. They’ll be in the final, too.Regular ski halfpipe viewers will be keeping an eye out for any competitors who don’t try any tricks at all, like Elizabeth Swaney, a California woman of Hungarian descent who only managed to peek above the lip of the halfpipe on her run, winning equal parts fascination and condemnation for competing in the Olympics.Watch the men’s ski halfpipe live during NBC 7’s primetime coverage Wednesday, which begins at 5 p.m. PT, or on digital platforms at 6:30 p.m. PT here. 7. USA Clinches Silver in Women’s BobsledElana Meyers Taylor and Lauren Gibbs of the U.S. finished second in women’s bobsled in Pyeongchang. Their time of 3:22.52 was just 0.07 seconds back from the gold-medal German sled — the closest margin between first and second in any Olympic bobsled race.Germany’s Mariama Jamanka — a winner of exactly zero major international races in her life until now — drove to gold in the event, adding to her country’s dominant showing at the sliding track in these Olympics.Canada’s Kaillie Humphries teamed with Phylicia George to get third in 3:22.89.It was the third consecutive medal for both Meyers Taylor and Humphries. Meyers Taylor won bronze as a push athlete in 2010 and silver as a driver in 2014; Humphries won gold in each of those Olympic races.The American sled piloted by Jamie Greubel Poser with brakeman Aja Evans finished fifth, 0.13 seconds off the podium. Greubel Poser won bronze in Sochi.Outside the medal race, teams from Jamaica and Nigeria made history in Pyeongchang. The Jamaican sled became the first women’s sled from the country to compete in the games, while the Nigerian women became the first African nation to participate in women’s bobsled. Jamaica finished the competition in 19th. Nigeria finished 20th.See the finals on NBC 7’s primetime beginning at 5 p.m. PT Wednesday.  Photo Credit: Getty Images This story uses functionality that may not work in our app. Click here to open the story in your web browser.
Source: NBC San Diego

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