Winter Olympics 2014: Must-Watch Events at This Year's Games

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Winter Olympics 2014: Must-Watch Events at This Year's Games
Paul Bussi-USA TODAY Sports

There are quite a few events in this year's Winter Olympics, but which ones should you be focusing on?

Sure, you might watch figure skating, but the event doesn't seem to have the anticipation in years past. One of the new events that was highly anticipated was snowboard slopestyle, but it has lost some of its appeal after top contender Shaun White pulled out of the event, according to John Branch of The New York Times.

But there are still plenty of events to keep you entertained. Let's break down the three you can't miss at this year's Games.

 

Men's Hockey

Without doubt, this is the premier event in this year's Games, at least to American audiences. While defending gold-medalists Canada and the host Russians will be favored, teams like the United States, Sweden and Finland are all capable of taking home gold.

And sleeping on the Czech Republic would be a mistake as well.

Think of the NHL stars that will be on display in this year's tournament. Sidney Crosby, Alex Ovechkin, Zach Parise, Evgeni Malkin and Henrik Lundqvist are just a few of the superstars that will be doing battle on the world's stage for their respective countries. When asked if he felt a difference sense of pressure this year than from the 2010 Games in Vancouver, Crosby had this to say according to Don Brennan of the Ottawa Sun:

However you want to look at it. I think there's pressure on everyone. I think there's high expectations, and the expectation is to go there and win. I think there's a lot of teams that have the same one. I think everybody shares a lot of pressure. I don't think there's any less or any more. It's there, and everyone wants the same thing.

Canada is probably the deepest team in this tournament, but besting the Russians in front of their countrymen will be no easy task. The United States is a gritty bunch, while both Sweden and Finland are loaded with NHL talent.

Plus, the rink will be larger and the game will be a much more open, flowing contest than you see in the NHL, which lessens the physicality but makes the game a bit more aesthetically pleasing to the casual viewer. This is the premier event at this year's Olympics.

 

Alpine Skiing 

For starters, this collection of events is one of the main staples of the Winter Olympics. Combining five events—downhill, super-G, slalom, giant slalom and the super combined—the alpine skiing portion of the Sochi Games will be as scrutinized and anticipated as any other event.

The United States has plenty of contenders to keep an eye on, like Bode Miller and Ted Ligety on the men's side and Julia Mancuso and Mikaela Shiffrin for the women. Forbes' Chris Smith highlights that while this may be the final Olympic showcase for Miller, it's a great opportunity for younger stars to emerge:

Of course, the U.S. will have stiff competition, like Slovenian Tina Maze, who comes into these Olympics on fire, German Maria Hoefl-Riesch, who won two golds in Vancouver and Norwegian Aksel Lund Svindal, who has already won three medals in his Olympic career.

The competition will be fierce. The events are exhilarating to watch. You don't want to miss any of the alpine skiing.

 

Bobsleigh

No, this event doesn't have the star power of hockey or the huge following of skiing, but it does have one thing going for it—it's just plain old cool to watch.

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Unlike a sport like curling that sports hipsters pretend to love but, let's be honest, isn't particularly compelling unless you closely watch the sport, bobsled is just fun. There's something about seeing a group of people race down the ice in a go-cart on rails at breakneck speeds, trying to shave off fractions of a second by nailing that perfect turn or sprinting out to a huge start.

And hey, there are fun storylines to follow this year, like the Jamaican men again qualifying for the event (even if their equipment somehow didn't manage to make the trip, according to Jeff Zillgitt of USA Today) or former Olympic hurdler Lolo Jones making the cut for the United States.

If you've never given bobsleigh a try, do so this year. You'll be pleasantly surprised by how entertained you are.

 

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