The International Olympic Committee deserves a lot of credit for its ability to evolve with the elite world of winter sports, which has undergone a massive transformation in recent decades.
While Winter Games mainstays like the Alpine skiing events and ski jumping are worth watching, the inclusion of snowboarding in 1998 and more freestyle skiing events has made the action on the slopes much more entertaining in recent years.
The 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi will mark the debut site of the parallel slalom race, as the snowboard program has been expanded to a record five events. Russia's Vic Wild took the gold medal in the men's giant parallel slalom on Wednesday, and he's a favorite to medal in this one-on-one style of competition once again.
Both the men and the women will be competing throughout Saturday in their respective competitions with runs being shown on both NBC and NBC Sports Network throughout the day. Visit NBCOlympics.com for complete TV listings and Sochi2014.com for more information.
Let's take a look at the full schedule for the men's parallel slalom snowboarding event with predictions for gold, silver and bronze.
|Feb. 22 Men's Snowboard Parallel Slalom Schedule|
|1/8 Finals||4:27 a.m.|
Gold: Rok Marguc, Slovenia
Rok Marguc has been a consistent force at the top level of men's snowboard slalom in recent years.
In early 2013, Marguc won first place in the parallel slalom at the FIS World Championships and followed it up with another win at a Europa Cup event a few weeks later. Earlier this year, he placed fourth at a World Cup event in Austria.
On Wednesday, Marguc couldn't advance past the quarterfinals but knocked off some elite competition along the way, per Kate Pettersen of CBC.
According to Oddschecker.com, Marguc is the overwhelming favorite to win the gold in his specialty event, where the gates are placed closer together, and he can use his elite technical skill.
Marguc placed 23rd at the parallel giant slaloms in 2010 in Vancouver but looks like a major contender to be in the championship race in the debut for the parallel slalom.
Silver: Vic Wild, Russia
Even if he does repeat as a gold medalist on Saturday, it will be hard for American-turned-Russian Vic Wild to top the theatrics of Wednesday's victory in the giant slalom. That's because he became one half of the elite power couple of the Olympics, as detailed by Eddie Pells of the Associated Press.
Vic Wild, an American native who now competes for Russia, captured the Olympic gold medal in parallel giant slalom about 15 minutes after his wife, Russia's Alena Zavarzina, won the bronze.
"For both of us to have success on the same day, it's truly incredible," Wild said. "I don't know how this happened."
It started five years ago while they were traveling in the same pack on the World Cup snowboard racing circuit. Vic, born and raised in White Salmon, Wash., competed for the United States. Alena, a native of Novosibirsk, rode for Russia.
It will be remarkable if Wild can cap off his storybook Winter Games with another gold. He certainly has momentum. Aside from his win on Wednesday, Wild also took first place in the parallel slalom at a World Cup event in Austria in January.
When it comes down to it, this mano-a-mano structure means Wild just needs to get into the championship race, and then anything can happen. Given his recent success, it seems he's primed to make a deep run in this tournament.
Bronze: Simon Schoch, Switzerland
At 35 years old, Schoch is a respected veteran of snowboard slalom who has been doing it at an elite level for more than a decade.
Wild coasted past him for an easy win in the quarterfinals of Wednesday's competition, as Schoch noted that the warm conditions make it tough to find the best line, per Skyler Wilder of NBCOlympics.com.
Still, Schoch finished third at the Austria World Cup event in January in the parallel slalom and doesn't look like he's lost his touch on the slopes.
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