WHAT HAPPENED FRIDAY: The opening ceremony ushered in the official beginning of the XXIII Olympic Winter Games, as 35,000 spectators braved the cold temperatures to attend the festivities at PyeongChang Olympic Stadium. Athletes from 91 countries participated in the parade of nations after a number of artistic segments that included a symbolic white tiger creation, a massive puppet display and an elaborate drum performance in “Taeguk: Harmony of the Cosmos.”
Prior to the opening ceremony, there were several initial team events including curling and figure skating. After two events – the men’s short program and pairs short program – Canada currently leads all teams with 17 points thanks to a third place showing by Patrick Chan and second place finish by Meagan Duhamel and Eric Radford.
FIVE THINGS TO WATCH ON SATURDAY
1. The Korean women’s hockey team: The combined squad, which added 12 North Korean players to the roster last month as part of a unifying effort between the North and South Korean governments, takes the ice for the first time in a preliminary round competition with Switzerland. The game – scheduled for 21:10 local time at Kwandong Hockey Centre – will be preceded by an earlier matchup between fellow Group B members Japan and Sweden.
2. Marit Bjoergen’s quest for a three-peat: The most successful women’s cross country skier in history will attempt to win a third consecutive Olympic gold medal in the 7.5km + 7.5 km skiathlon (16:15 local time at Alpensia Cross Country Centre). The Norwegian superstar already has 10 Olympic medals in her collection, tying her with Raisa Smetanina and Stefania Belmondo as the most decorated female Winter Olympians ever. At 37, she’ll not only be trying for a third straight gold in this event, but will return later in the Games to defend her titles in both the 30km freestyle and team sprint.
3. Men’s 1500m short track speed skating: Canada’s Charles Hamelin will attempt to defend his gold medal from Sochi in this event, although much of the focus will be on 18-year-old South Korean Hwang Dae-heon, who won the World Cup title in the event this season and is viewed as one of the host country’s best medal hopes. The six qualifying heats begin at 19:00 local time at Gangneung Ice Arena, with semifinals and finals taking place later in the evening.
4. Claudia Pechstein returns for her seventh Olympic Games: The 45-year-old German, whose nine Olympic medals are the most for any speed skater in the history of the Games, is among the 24 women competing in the Ladies’ 3000m (20:00 local time at Gangneung Oval). Pechstein set the Olympic record in the event in 2002 with a time of 3:57.70 during her gold medal performance at Salt Lake City. She also holds a silver (1998) and bronze medal (1994) in the 3000m and just missed out on the podium in Sochi with a fourth place finish in 2014.
5. Kamil Stoch vs. Andreas Wellinger: 2014 Olympic gold medalist Kamil Stoch of Poland will defend his title in the men’s normal hill individual ski jump (21:35 local time at Alpensia Ski Jumping Centre), with 22-year-old German Andreas Wellinger looking to be one of the key challengers in the event. Wellinger, who is third in World Cup standings this season, finished first among all competitors in Thursday’s qualifying event, with Stoch just behind him.