With the 2014 Winter Olympic closing ceremony airing on NBC on Sunday night, Saturday's prime-time slate represents the final such showing of these Games in Sochi, Russia.
NBC boasts a stacked schedule as some of the final Winter Olympic medals will be awarded. The competition won't officially reach its conclusion until Canada and Sweden meet in the men's hockey gold medal game on Sunday, but the Olympic program is nearing its end.
Some of the most exciting events of the Sochi Games took place on Saturday, and American sports fans who missed them live don't have to fret thanks to NBC's prime-time coverage.
Here is a spoiler-free look at NBC's Day 15 prime-time schedule along with some further analysis regarding the events you simply won't want to miss.
Where: Sochi, Russia
When: Saturday, Feb. 22 at 8 p.m. ET
Live Stream: NBCOlympics.com
|Alpine Skiing||Men's Slalom|
|Speedskating||Men's Team Pursuit|
|Speedskating||Women's Team Pursuit|
|Snowboarding||Men's Parallel Slalom|
|Figure Skating||Exhibition Gala|
Top Events to Watch
NBC will air the final alpine skiing event of the 2014 Olympics on Saturday night, and the United States boasts a legitimate medal threat in the form of Ted Ligety. The 29-year-old American enters the slalom with a ton of momentum behind him. Ligety struggled in his first two Sochi events, but he rebounded in his best discipline by taking gold in the giant slalom.
According to Scott Stump of Today.com, Ligety felt as though his giant slalom triumph went a long way toward eliminating pressure.
It was definitely worth the wait. It was pretty nerve-wracking, though, especially (because) my first two events here didn't go all that great. I was hoping to try to medal in those as well. The giant slalom I always knew was my bread and butter, so to get that one is a really, really big relief.
Ligety now has two career Olympic golds after winning the super combined at the 2006 Winter Games in Turin, Italy. Winning a third would put him in a class all by himself, per ESPN Stats & Info:
Ted Ligety is trying to become 1st American with 3 or more career Alpine gold meals with win in men's slalom— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) February 22, 2014
The slalom isn't one of Ligety's signature event as evidenced by his season-best finish of 11th, but World Cup results often mean very little on the Olympic stage. In order to reach the podium, though, Ligety will have overcome stiff competition such as defending Olympic gold medalist Giuliano Razzoli of Italy.
Regardless of the result, Ligety will return home knowing that he is once again an Olympic champion.
Speedskating Team Pursuit
Which Day 15 prime-time Olympic event are you most excited to watch?
To say that the Dutch have been dominant in speedskating in these Olympics would be a major understatement. The Netherlands has always taken speedskating seriously and excelled at it on an international level, but everything has clicked in Sochi. The men's and women's team pursuit events will air on NBC prime-time on Saturday night, and both Dutch teams have an opportunity to top the podium once again.
The Netherlands enters the races with 21 speedskating medals and 23 are a certainty regardless of how the teams fare. The only question relates to whether they will take gold or silver. The men will face a strong South Korean team, but the trio of Jan Blokhuijsen, Sven Kramer and Koen Verweij is about as good as it gets.
As big of a favorite as the Dutch men are, it can be argued that the women are even more likely to win. They are expected to beat Poland quite easily with Ireen Wust leading the way. The Dutch star already has four medals in Sochi and is now guaranteed to be the most decorated 2014 Olympian, according to Raf Casert of the Associated Press:
Ireen Wust leads Dutch team pursuit into final, assuring speedskater for 5 medals in #Sochi gtames. All on her own in this category.— Raf Casert (@rcasert) February 22, 2014
Although some may feel as though the Netherlands' speedskating dominance is bad for the sport due to a lack of parity, it is certainly worth tuning in to see how well the very best in the world operate as a team.
Figure Skating Exhibition Gala
There won't be any additional figure skating medals awarded in Sochi, but the fans will be treated to one final event featuring the world's best skater. Top stars such as women's singles gold medalist Adelina Sotnikova of host Russia and the gold medal-winning, American ice dancing pair of Meryl Davis and Charlie White will provide an encore performance.
The event will bring some lightheartedness to Sochi after so much intense competition, and it will be hosted by former Olympian Tara Lipinski and Johnny Weir, who have become breakout stars as broadcasters for NBC. As seen in this photo courtesy of White, those involved are likely to be all smiles:
The figure skating exhibition gala is essentially the only Olympic event that doesn't have competitive significance, but the lack of pressure could actually lead to some of the most entertaining performances of these Games. The gala is all about putting on a great show for the fans, and there is little doubt that it will translate well to prime-time television.
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