Beijing Olympics: The Detroit News' 5 events to watch

John Niyo
The Detroit News

John Niyo of The Detroit News identifies five events to watch at the Olympic Games in Beijing.

Figure skating — men’s

Outlook: Nathan Chen is the “Quad King” trying to end an American drought. But Yuzuru Hanyu isn’t just Japan’s “Ice Prince.” He’s also the two-time defending Olympic champion in men’s figure skating, and Hanyu will be trying to tie an Olympic medal with his third straight gold in Beijing. The 22-year-old Chen, who just won his sixth U.S. singles title, missed out on a medal in Pyeongchang four years ago — the U.S. men also were shut out in Sochi in 2014. But Chen then won the next three world championships to set up this Olympic showdown, with fellow American Vincent Zhou and Japan’s Uno Shoma and Kagiyama Yuma also in the medal hunt.

Nathan Chen, 22, who just won his sixth U.S. singles title, missed out on a medal in Pyeongchang four years ago.

Ice hockey — women’s

Outlook: The last few meetings in a pre-Olympics series between U.S. and Canada in women’s hockey were canceled due to COVID issues. But the rivalry won’t stay on ice for long in Beijing, as Team USA tries to defend its Olympic gold against from its bitter foe from the north. The Americans won the first and last of the women’s tournaments, separated by 20 years. But the Canadians claimed the four Olympic golds in between, and they just beat the U.S. women in a major final for the first time in seven years at the 2021 world championships to set the stage for Beijing. The two will meet in a preliminary-round game Feb. 8, with the gold-medal rematch expected Feb. 17.

Snowboarding — men's halfpipe

Outlook: Three-time Olympic gold medalist Shaun White had to scramble to make his fifth U.S team this winter. And now that he has, the 35-year-old American icon will have his work cut out to retain his halfpipe title in what he says will be his final Winter Olympics. Australian star Scotty James and Japan’s Ayumu Hirano, who took silver at the last two Games, are chief rivals, with each promising an arsenal of triple-cork tricks and high-flying energy in one of the Olympics’ new showcase events.

Scotty James

Bobsled — monobob

Outlook: Gender equity has been an issue for the Winter Olympics, but a new event in Beijing will help end the disparity in bobsledding. Adding the “monobob” — a one-person event for women only — evens up the medal counts, as men and women compete in a two-person event in addition to the four-man bobsled.  The monobob also adds some intrigue as a do-it-all discipline where standardized sleds eliminate some of the cost-prohibitive issues and the larger competition field adds to the diversity. (Jamaica and South Korea made the Olympics in monobob.) American Elana Meyers Taylor, vying for a medal at a fourth consecutive Olympics but still searching for her first gold, is the current world No. 1 in the event, two years after giving birth to her first child.

Elana Meyers Taylor, vying for a medal at a fourth consecutive Olympics but still searching for her first gold, is the current world No. 1 in the monobob.

Speedskating — women's 500m

Outlook: American Erin Jackson is the world’s top-ranked speedskater in the women’s 500 meters. But it took an act of goodwill from a close friend and teammate to make it to Beijing, where Jackson will lead a U.S. speedskating team hoping for its best showing since 2006. Jackson, the world-record holder in the 500, slipped and finished third at the U.S. Olympic trials, but teammate Brittany Bowe — a medal favorite in the 1,000 and 1,500 meters — gave up her spot to make room for Jackson, bidding to become the first American since Bonnie Blair to win the sprint event. (The U.S. later was allocated a third berth in the 500, so Bowe still will compete in three individual events.)

john.niyo@detroitnews.com

Twitter: @JohnNiyo