Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics: Must-Watch Events You Won't Want to Miss
The Sochi 2014 Olympic Games have just begun, and we've already seen the U.S. sweep the gold in snowboard slopestyle, Jenny Jones win Great Britain its first-ever medal in a snow-based event and 15-year-old Julia Lipnitskaia dazzle in team figure skating.
There's so much going on and so many events to follow that even the most dedicated Olympic fan might be a bit overwhelmed. Or perhaps you're just a casual fan who doesn't have the time to watch every event or simply aren't willing to sacrifice too much precious sleep for the next two weeks.
Not to worry; I've picked a handful of events that will surely produce some headlines and bring plenty of excitement. Be sure to tune in to these must-watch events.
Men's Snowboard Halfpipe: February 11
After a surprising decision to pull out of the men's snowboard slopestyle event, Shaun White now has all of his attention set on the event that he's dominated for so many years: the snowboard halfpipe.
Taking home gold in the previous two Olympics was a huge accomplishment, but White has the opportunity to make history with another win in Sochi. White can become the first American male to earn gold medals in the same event for three consecutive Olympics.
The 27-year-old American is understandably the favorite to win the event, but he'll be receiving stiff competition from veterans and youngsters alike. Fellow American Danny Davis and 25-year-old Yuri Podladchikov of Switzerland will be among White's main competition.
The most intriguing contender of this year's event is Japan's Ayumu Hirano. Just 15 years old and standing at 5'3", Hirano is considered by many to be the next big thing in snowboarding. The young competitor has already proven that he has what it takes to compete after winning silver in the 2013 X Games Superpipe. Who finished ahead of him? None other than Shaun White.
Men's 1,000m Long-Track Speedskating: February 12
Apolo Ohno may not be the face of Olympic speedskating this time around, but that's no reason to stop watching one of the Games' most exciting events. As one of the most successful speedskaters of his generation, Shani Davis will be the name to look out for in these Olympics.
The 31-year-old will be looking to make history in the 1,000-meter long-track event. Davis won gold in the 2006 Turin Games and in the 2010 Vancouver Games. Much like Shaun White, the veteran speedskater has the opportunity to become the first American man to win gold medals in the same event for three consecutive Olympics.
If he does complete the three-peat, Davis will be the first male speedskater to win three straight Olympic golds. He will also be competing in the 500-meter (February 10) and 1,500-meter (February 15) long-track events.
Men's Ice Hockey: USA vs. Russia: February 15
It may not be the gold-medal game, but USA vs. Russia is one of the most anticipated hockey games of this year's Olympic Games. Russia will be seeking revenge on its home ice for the world-famous 1980 "Miracle on Ice."
Russia currently sits behind Canada as the favorite to win the tournament. Sweden has the next-best odds, and the U.S. follows.
Despite a few controversial roster decisions, the United States will field a formidable team once again. They will be led by the likes of Zach Parise, Patrick Kane and Phil Kessel.
The Russians have a stronger roster headlined by Evgeni Malkin, Pavel Datsyuk and Alex Ovechkin. Whatever the result, the game should be a great one, and the Bolshoy Ice Dome will surely host an electrifying crowd.
If you're left wanting more hockey, be sure to tune in to the gold-medal game, which will be held on February 23.
Ladies' Figure Skating: February 19-20
Figure skating may not be your cup of tea, but at least give it a try. It's one of the original Winter Olympic events, and it has produced several of the most compelling storylines that the Games have ever witnessed.
Kim Yu-Na is the favorite to win the competition this year. In 2010, she won gold at the Vancouver Games in stunning fashion by breaking the world records in the short program, the free skating and the combined total. If the South Korean skater can win once again, she'll be the first to win two consecutive Olympic golds in singles skating since Katarina Witt won her second in 1984.
Another contender to look out for is 15-year-old Julia Lipnitskaia, who made headlines for her dazzling performance in the team skating event. The young, rising star holds the top scores in the free program and the combined total in this year's figure-skating season. If she can top Kim Yu-Na and finish first, she'll bring home Russia's first-ever Olympic gold in ladies' singles skating.
The U.S. will be looking to end an eight-year gold medal drought, and its hopes lie with Ashley Wagner, Gracie Gold and Polina Edmunds.
After finishing fourth in the U.S. Figure Skating Championships this year, Wagner was controversially selected over bronze medalist Mirai Nagasu to represent the U.S. in Sochi. This will be Wagner's first Olympics, and she'll surely be motivated to prove her critics wrong.
Eighteen-year-old Gracie Gold finished first in the U.S. Championships and looks to be the Americans' best chance of winning gold. As the face of American figure skating during these Games, Gold faces plenty of pressure and sky-high expectations to perform.
Realistically, a first-place finish is a long shot for any of the U.S. skaters this year. However, that's no reason not to watch, because with the way Gold's been skating of late, in four years' time, we may have an Olympic champion on our hands.
Women's Bobsled: February 18-19
Normally, the bobsled event at the Olympics doesn't draw much attention, but that may change this year with U.S. track star Lolo Jones competing. Jones, a hurdler by trade, now has a chance to win her first Olympic medal after coming so close to winning gold in the 2008 Summer Olympics.
The U.S. team will have three pairs racing in Sochi, and only one member of the team has had Olympic bobsledding experience. Elana Meyers won bronze in 2010 at the Vancouver Games as Erin Pac's brakeman, and now Meyers' sled is considered to have the best chance of winning a medal for the Americans.
Unfortunately for Jones, Meyers was paired with brakeman Lauryn Williams instead. Lolo will be racing with pilot Jazmine Fenlator. The third pairing consists of Jamie Greubel and Aja Evans.
Although Lolo Jones is the main attraction for many viewers, Lauryn Williams deserves some attention as well. Williams is also a track athlete who's competed in the Summer Olympics. In the 2012 London Games, she won gold in the 4x100-meter relay. If she and Meyers finish atop the leaderboard, Williams will become the second Olympian ever to win a gold in both the Summer and Winter Games.
American Eddie Eagan is the only other athlete that has accomplished the feat before. He won gold in the 1920 Antwerp Summer Games in boxing. Twelve years later, he took home gold again in Lake Placid for winning the four-man bobsled event.
If watching one bobsled event isn't enough for you, don't miss the men's two-man bobsled on February 16 and 17. The famed Jamaican Bobsled Team is competing this year and will be a great underdog to cheer for.
Women's Slalom: February 21
No Lindsey Vonn? No problem. There's a new skiing sensation to root for in Mikaela Shiffrin.
The 18-year-old American has been dubbed "The Next Lindsey Vonn" on Sports Illustrated's Olympic Preview cover. Shiffrin has already won three of six slalom events in the 2014 Alpine Skiing World Cup and currently leads the standings in the competition.
Her best chance at gold in Sochi will be in the slalom event, where she's the favorite to win. If she does claim gold, she'll be the youngest woman to do so in the history of the event. Shiffrin will also be the first American winner since Barbara Cochran took home the gold in the 1972 Sapporo Games.
Shiffrin will also be competing in the giant slalom on February 18.
On February 21, be sure to watch this star in the making compete in her first Olympic Games and vie for one of the many gold medals that will surely come her way.