Winter Olympics

Winter Olympics (117)

The 2022 Beijing Winter Olympic Games officially begin on Friday.

Beijing’s National Stadium - aka, the Bird's Nest - will host the opening ceremony at 20:00 local time (12:00 GMT) 14 years after it did so for the 2008 Summer Games.

President Xi Jinping will be in attendance to officially open the Games, and the ceremony will be directed by celebrated Chinese filmmaker Zhang Yimou, who has promised a simpler show than the one he directed in 2008, with an apparently unprecedented method of lighting the Olympic flame.

Away from the pyrotechnics, the flag bearing and the flame lighting, Stats Perform gives you a rundown of what other events take place in Beijing on Friday.

Alpine skiing

The second men's downhill training run takes place on Friday at Yanqing National Alpine Skiing Centre.

The field includes highly-fancied Swiss star Marco Odermatt as well as one of his closest contenders, Norway's Aleksander Aamodt Kilde.

Curling

This will actually be the third day of the mixed doubles competition, with Italy (2-0) the only team to have not yet lost, though they have only played twice while eight of the other nine teams have played three matches. The Italians play Norway (1-2) in the morning session and Czech Republic (2-1) in the afternoon.

Hosts China (2-1) face Canada (1-1) in the afternoon session, after the Canadians take on Switzerland (2-1).

Australia (0-3) are the only team yet to record a win but will have two opportunities to do so on Friday. They play Sweden (2-1) in the morning followed by Great Britain (2-1) in the afternoon, when Sweden also face the United States (1-2).

Figure skating

The team event begins on Friday, with the men's single short programme followed by the ice dance rhythm dance and the pairs short programme.

The United States, Russian Olympic Committee and Japan are expected to perform well, though Japanese superstar Hanyu Yuzuru is saving himself for the men's singles competition, with Uno Shoma listed instead for the short programme.

Ice hockey

Two more games in the women's preliminary round take place as hosts China face Denmark while Russian Olympic Committee take on Switzerland.

Both China and Switzerland will be hoping to fare better than they did on Thursday, with the former losing 3-1 to Czech Republic while the latter were thrashed 12-1 by Canada.

Luge

It is also the third day of the luge, with the fifth and sixth men's training runs scheduled for Friday.

The German and Austrian athletes have so far dominated in Group A while the slightly more open Group B has seen Italy's representatives mostly impress, though Latvia's Kristers Aparjods has also been among the frontrunners.

Ski jumping

Day two of the men's and women's normal hill training takes place at the Zhangjiakou National Ski Jumping Centre.

Thursday saw Japan's Sara Takanashi rank first in two of the three women's rounds, while in the men's event there was little consistency to be found anywhere, though Norway's Daniel Huber registered the longest jump of 106 metres across the three rounds.

Olympics chief Thomas Bach has confirmed he will meet with tennis star Peng Shuai during the Winter Olympics in Beijing.

There has been global concern expressed for the safety, whereabouts and wellbeing of Chinese player Peng, who has competed at three summer Olympic Games.

In December, Peng denied making an accusation of sexual assault against a Chinese government official, saying there had been "a lot of misunderstandings" about a post on social media in November.

That post on her Weibo account, since removed, contained sexual assault allegations against Zhang Gaoli, the ex-vice premier and member of the Chinese Communist Party's Politburo Standing Committee.

Amid concerns for Peng after the accusation, the head of the women's tennis tour, WTA chairman Steve Simon, said he struggled to believe she had sent him an email that claimed the allegations were false and that she was safely at home.

The WTA has since suspended all its tournaments in China.

International Olympic Committee (IOC) president Bach said in a news conference on the eve of the Winter Olympics opening ceremony that 36-year-old Peng was living in Beijing, and that she claimed to be allowed to move freely. He said the IOC would support Peng if she considered an "inquiry" into her circumstances necessary.

Bach's stance throughout has been that "quiet diplomacy" is required, and he did not deviate from that on Thursday. He explained Peng would enter the "closed loop" of the Games, which has been designed to separate the Olympics from the rest of Beijing during the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

"The answer is, yes, we will have the meeting," Bach said, when the issue was raised in a news conference.

"I'm very happy and grateful to Peng Shuai that she will enter, in order to have this meeting, because she also wanted to have this. We discussed it in November."

Bach said the IOC had previously made contact with Peng "to get to know where she is and as far as possible how she is". He has already spoken to Peng via video link.

"What better way than to have a personal meeting," he added. "This is why already in the first meeting, I said I want to meet personally once I arrive in China, and this will happen.

"It is also not only a sign of respect, but a necessity to respect her and then to listen to her and how she sees the situation, how she wants to live her life. This is what we are step by step trying to find out.

"If she wants to have an inquiry, of course we would also support her in this, but it must be her decision. It's her life; it's her allegations. We have heard the allegations, and we have heard the withdrawal.

"We will have this personal meeting and there we will continue this conversation, and we will know better about her physical integrity and her mental state when we can meet in person. This was the objective of this initiative from the very beginning.

"We say it publicly we have this information, but so far only by video conference. This cannot replace the personal contact and appearance.

"We know from her explanations during these video conferences that she is living here, in Beijing. She's reporting she can move freely, she's spending time with her family and friends, and now we will be able to do the next step in a personal meeting to convince us of her wellbeing and her state of mind."

Superstars of the winter sports world are lining up at Beijing 2022 to create more breathtaking Olympic memories.

This festival of fast-paced action and technical excellence, a bewilderingly brilliant show set on snow and ice, has delivered sporting legends since it was first staged 98 years ago.

The Winter Olympics has ballooned in scale since Chamonix 1924, but its foundations were set then, with bobsleigh, curling, ice hockey, skiing in its varying forms and both figure skating and speed skating on the original programme.

Here, Stats Perform looks at the achievements of the greatest athletes to strike gold.

BIATHLON: Ole Einar Bjorndalen

Stemming from the sport known in 1924 as military patrol, biathlon is that peculiar blend of cross-country skiing and rifle shooting. It might be archaic in origin, but so too is the 100 metres dash at the summer Olympics, and biathlon remains an integral part of the winter programme.

Norwegian master Bjorndalen has been its greatest exponent, winning five solo gold medals and three in relay events. He competed at each Games from Lillehammer 1994 through to Sochi 2014, first striking gold at Nagano 1998. Bjorndalen peaked at Salt Lake City in 2002, landing four golds.

His fame has never rivalled that of a Michael Phelps or Usain Bolt, even though biathlon commands huge television audiences in parts of mainland Europe. Yet the man whose hunger for devouring the competition earned him the nickname of 'The Cannibal' belongs in Olympic legend.

Four silvers and a bronze took him to 13 Olympic medals in all, the most successful male Winter Olympics athlete for the most successful nation in the history of the Games.

CROSS-COUNTRY SKIING: Marit Bjorgen and Bjorn Daehlie

Bjorgen is the most successful athlete in Winter Olympics history, with eight gold medals, four silver and three bronze, out-ranking even Bjorndalen in Norway's parade of great champions.

She scooped 18 World Championship golds too, had 114 wins among 184 top-three finishes at World Cup events, and ranks as the third most successful Olympian of all time in terms of medals won, after swimming great Phelps (28 medals, including 23 golds) and Soviet gymnast Larisa Latynina (18 medals, nine golds).

Bjorgen made her Olympic debut in 2002 but had to wait until 2010 before landing a first gold at the Games, triumphing in the pursuit, the sprint and the 4×5km relay. Three more triumphs followed in Sochi, before Bjorgen, by now a mother, won twice again at Pyeongchang in 2018. Her career climaxed in a dazzling triumph by almost two minutes in the 30km race on the final day of competition, the gold vaulting Bjorgen above Bjorndalen on the all-time list in the process. She retired a matter of weeks later, a mission accomplished.

Oslo-based Bjorgen ranks only just ahead of compatriot and fellow cross-country superstar Daehlie in the grand totting up. Daehlie was the first Winter Olympics star to land eight gold medals, winning those from 1992 to 1998, including two in front of home crowds at Lillehammer in 1994.

He captured four silver medals across his Olympic career, too, and might have gone on to enjoy success in subsequent Games, only for injuries from a roller-skiing accident to force him into retirement in 2001, at the age of 33.

SPEED SKATING: Eric Heiden, Clas Thunberg and Viktor Ahn

Heiden's story is remarkable, with the American sweeping the board by winning five gold medals at his home Winter Olympics in 1980, taking the Games in Lake Placid by storm and instantly making himself an all-timer in speed skating. He snatched Olympic records across the board, and his feat would be remarkable enough if the story ended there, as the only winter athlete in history to win five gold medals in a Games, but Heiden had more up his sleeve.

He turned his focus to cycling and represented the United States on the track before switching to the road, winning a US national championship and competing at the 1985 Giro d'Italia and 1986 Tour de France, crashing out of the latter late on in the race. Later he became an orthopaedic surgeon, and to this day operates a medical centre in Park City, Utah.

Finland's Clas Thunberg also won five Olympic golds in speed skating, three at the inaugural Chamonix Games and two at St Moritz in 1928, before he went on to serve as a politician. Claudia Pechstein of Germany and Ireen Wust of the Netherlands have also both won five golds.

The only speed skaters to win more have been Lidiya Skoblikova, a six-time gold medallist for the Soviet Union in the 1960s, and Viktor Ahn, a more modern marvel.

Ahn, a short-track speed skater, won the first three medals of his set competing for South Korea as Ahn Hyun-soo in 2006 at Turin. He added three more after switching to race for Russia at the 2014 Sochi Games, a tough pill for Seoul to swallow, with Ahn having cited a lack of support from South Korean authorities as the reason for his sporting defection. South Korean president Park Geun-hye demanded answers.

Ahn was controversially not invited to compete for the Olympic Athletes from Russia team at the 2018 Games in Pyeongchang, South Korea. A state-sponsored doping scandal from Sochi saw the Russian Olympic Committee banned, with a makeshift team entering in their place. Ahn, who insists he has never cheated, said it was "outrageous" to exclude him.

FIGURE SKATING: Sonja Henie

Before she became a Hollywood movie star, and before Adolf Hitler became an admirer of her graceful routines, Norwegian Henie made her Winter Olympics debut as an 11-year-old in 1924. She was a raw talent at the time but in 1928 she landed the gold medal at St Moritz, before repeating the feat four years later at Lake Placid and completing a hat-trick in Garmisch-Partenkirchen in 1936. She had a fan in Hitler and warmly greeted the Nazi leader before the 1936 Games, which did not sit well with many, although she managed to set the controversy aside. Henie elected to turn professional after that triumph in Germany, ensuring she could monetise her talent, and American film studios soon beckoned.

Henie became an ever bigger star, appearing in a host of major box-office movies. Her Olympic gold medal success has never been beaten in figure skating, although Sweden's Gillis Grafstrom also won three consecutive titles in the men's event, with the first of those coming at the 1920 Summer Games in Antwerp, where figure skating was part of the programme.

ALPINE SKIING: Kjetil Andre Aamodt and Janica Kostelic

Alberto Tomba, Pirmin Zurbriggen and Marc Girardelli were bona fide superstars of the slopes in the 1980s and early 1990s, but none of them have an Olympic record to match that of Aamodt.

At the age of 20, Aamodt denied Girardelli the super-G gold at Val d'Isere in Albertville's 1992 Games, pulling off a shock victory that was an omen of things to come, although it was 10 years before he won a second Olympic gold. In Salt Lake City, Aamodt captured the super-G and combined titles, while four years later in Turin he edged out Hermann Maier to take a third super-G title, becoming the first male alpine skier to win four Olympic golds. That he did that after two injury-blighted years, at the age of 34, only enhanced the achievement.

Within minutes of Norwegian Aamodt reaching four, so too did Croatia's Janica Kostelic, the only woman to achieve such a haul. She had won three times in Salt Lake City in 2002, taking the slalom, giant slalom and combined titles, and in Turin, after a bout of sickness disrupted her preparation, Kostelic defended the combined.

Aamodt has eight Olympic medals in all (four gold, two silver, two bronze), while Kostelic has six (four gold, two silver).

Although the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympic Games do not officially get underway until Friday, events began in the Chinese capital on Wednesday.

The luge men's singles training runs for Group A and B took place at the Yanqing National Sliding Centre.

Austria and Germany produced the six fastest times between them in both Group A runs, with Austrian Wolfgang Kindl recording the fastest time from the field in both runs.

Group B's first run was all about Italy, with cousins Dominik and Kevin Fischnaller as well as countryman Leon Felderer securing the top three fastest times.

However, while Dominik also achieved the fastest time in the second run, Kevin came 13th, with Felderer in fourth. 

Latvia's Kristers Aparjods and the Russian Olympic Committee's Semen Pavlichenko split Dominik Fischnaller and Felderer to make the top three.

The curling competition also began at the National Aquatics Centre with the mixed doubles round-robin.

Host nation China beat Switzerland 7-6 after being forced to an extra end, only for the duo of Ling Zhi and Fan SuYuan to ultimately secure victory.

Great Britain beat Sweden 9-5, the United States narrowly pipped Australia 6-5 and the Czech Republic produced an impressive fightback from 3-6 down against Norway to win 7-6 after an extra end.

Both events continue on Thursday, while Alpine skiing, freestyle skiing, ice hockey and ski jumping events are due to begin.

Marita Kramer, Austria's ski jumping World Cup leader and a gold medal favourite, will not be able to compete at the Winter Olympics.

Austria's Kramer has finished on the podium in 13 of the last 14 individual World Cup events at which she has competed, winning 10 of those.

However, she tested positive for coronavirus on January 29 in the last routine PCR test before her planned departure to Beijing.

Kramer, 20, had competed at the World Cup event in Willingen, Germany, that day. The Austrian team subsequently withdrew from the competition on Sunday.

The Austria Ski Federation (OESV) said it hoped she would still be able to feature in the women's ski jump event, which is due to take place on Saturday at the Zhangjiakou venue.

However, it has now been confirmed Kramer will not be competing.

"Our worst fears have become sad certainties," tweeted Ski Austria, the OESV's official Twitter account.

"World Cup dominator Marita Kramer cannot start in Beijing because of positive COVID tests, although she feels physically fit and ready. Lisa Eder steps in as a substitute."

"No words, no feelings, just emptiness," Kramer wrote on Instagram.

"Is the world really this unfair? The last years I have prepared for the Olympics. I have put in so much energy and time in it to make my dreams come true.

"Now it feels that my dreams are gone within one day.

"I will take some time off to refill my body with energy and new dreams to get that fire again."

 

The 2022 Winter Olympics kick-off in Beijing on Friday, with 109 medal events to look forward to.

While several of these events are sports that many will only watch every four years when the Winter Games come around, some will be ones that quite a few will never have seen before, or at least not at the Olympics.

There will be seven new events at Beijing 2022, with some mixed team events – something that has been an increasing trend for the Olympics – and a new women's bobsled event among others.

Stats Perform is here to give you a brief guide to these debutants, so all you have to do is look forward to watching them.

Women's Monobob

This becomes the fourth bobsled event at the Olympics, along with the two-man, two-woman and four-man competitions.

You would have thought the obvious next step would be a four-woman event, but this iteration could be even more fascinating as the monobob – you may have guessed – is for just one athlete.

One other key feature in this discipline is that unlike the two and four-person events, all monobob competitors will race in sleds with identical specifications.

Two of the favourites for the Gold medal are American duo Elana Meyers Taylor and Kaillie Humphries, the two most decorated women in Olympic bobsled history with three medals each.

Freeski Big Air (men's and women's)

The snowboard big air event was introduced four years ago in PyeongChang, and such was its success that freeskiers now have their own version.

Like the snowboard event, the course has one big jump and competitors have three attempts at performing tricks to try and impress the judges, with their two best scores counting to their overall total.

Freeski Big Air has gained popularity at the Winter X Games among other competitions before now, but will finally be an Olympic event this year, with most eyes on the battle for gold on the women's side and one of the favourites Eileen Gu, who has decided to represent China instead of the US.

Mixed team snowboard cross

This event involves one male and one female competitor, with the men starting the race and the women finishing it, tagging over once the male competitor has crossed the finish line.

The two best teams from each of the four heats will advance to the semi-finals, with the two best from each semi-final going on to the final.

The American duo of Lindsey Jacobellis and Mick Dierdorff will be among the favourites after winning the 2019 world championships.

Mixed team ski jumping

While men's team ski jumping has been one of the more popular events since it debuted at the 1988 Games in Calgary, we now have a mixed version.

Four athletes for each team - two men and two women - perform a jump in the order of woman, man, woman, man. All individual scores will be added together to get the overall team score.

Slovenia were victorious in the first mixed team event of the Ski Jumping World Cup season in Willingen, Germany on Friday.

Mixed team aerials

This is another freestyle skiing event that consists of three athletes, including either two men and one woman or one man and two women, and as with the ski jump event, the teams overall score comes from adding up the individual efforts.

The event has been a part of the FIS Freestyle Skiing World Cup programme since the 2014-15 season and the FIS World Championships since 2019.

The Russian Olympic Committee are among the favourites for the event, having won the World Championship this year with their team of Pavel Krotov, Liubov Nikitina and Maxim Burov, who was the individual world champion in 2019 and 2021.

Mixed team short track relay

Two men and two women per country participate as a team of four in a speed skating relay situation.

The two women go first for two and a half laps each, followed by the two men for the same distance, then the women for two laps each, and again the men for the same for an overall distance of 2000 metres.

One interesting factor is that should an athlete fall, their team-mate of the same gender can tag in and finish the relay leg.

This is the third relay event at the Winter Games along with the men's 5000m and women's 3000m relays.

Hosts China will be the favourites heading in after obliterating the 2,000m mixed relay world record at the Short Track Speed Skating World Cup in October.

Canada men's ice hockey head coach Claude Julien will miss the Winter Olympics after falling on the ice in a team-building session and suffering broken ribs.

Former New Jersey Devils, Boston Bruins and Montreal Canadiens coach Julien sustained the injury blow while with the team in Switzerland, where Canada are completing their preparation for the Games in Beijing.

Julien, 61, had been preparing to lead a team who will hope to compete for Olympic gold, an honour Canada have achieved nine times in their history, most recently at the 2014 Games in Sochi. They are hampered this time by players from the NHL sitting out the Olympics, a decision that was announced in December.

Hockey Canada confirmed Julien's injury in a statement that said: "During a team-building activity at training camp in Switzerland, Julien slipped on ice and sustained fractured ribs. As per the advice of the team's medical staff and other medical experts, it was determined that he will be unable to fly to Beijing to participate in the 2022 Olympic Winter Games due to the injury."

Details of what the team-building activity involved have not been revealed.

Team general manager Shane Doan said: "Claude was beyond excited and honoured to be a member of Team Canada at the Olympics, and we are all disappointed that he will no longer be able to lead our team in Beijing.

"Claude is in great spirits and we will continue to do everything we can to support him. We ask that Claude's privacy please be respected at this time."

According to the Toronto Sun newspaper, Doan said Julien was "devastated" when told his injuries meant he could not join the team on their mission to China.

Former Chicago Blackhawks head coach Jeremy Colliton takes over from Julien, with Doan saying: "We know he will do an exceptional job leading our team behind the bench in Beijing."

Colliton said: "While it is difficult to fill in for a coach that has a pedigree like Claude Julien, I am honoured to be considered as the person to lead Canada's men's Olympic team as head coach.

"We have a very close-knit, experienced coaching staff that has gained a lot of knowledge from Claude in our short time together, and I know our staff will continue to support each other as we look to achieve our goal of winning an Olympic gold medal."

Canada begin their Olympic campaign against Germany on February 10, before playing further preliminary group games against the United States on February 12 and China a day later.

Austria's ski jumping World Cup leader Marita Kramer has tested positive for COVID-19 ahead of the Winter Olympics.

Kramer has finished on the podium in 13 of the last 14 individual World Cup events at which she has competed, winning 10 of those.

The women's ski jump event is due to take place next Saturday, February 5, at the Zhangjiakou venue.

It remains to be seen whether 20-year-old Kramer is able to take part, but the Austria Ski Federation (OESV) said it hoped she would still feature.

In a statement, the OESV said: "Despite the strictest conditions and all conceivable precautions, Marita Kramer tested positive for the COVID virus in the last routine PCR test before the planned departure for the Olympics. The goal remains to compete in the Olympic Games."

The international federation, FIS, said Kramer tested positive on Saturday and "has no symptoms and feels well".

She competed on Saturday at the World Cup event in Willingen, Germany. The Austrian team withdrew from the competition on Sunday.

Canada have reported five COVID-19 cases among their Winter Olympics delegation in Beijing.

The names of those infected have not been released, nor has it been specified whether those affected are athletes or support staff, or a combination of those.

The Beijing 2022 opening ceremony takes place on Friday, February 4, although curling begins two days earlier and freestyle skiing and ice hockey start on the eve of the Games.

The Canadian Olympic Committee said in a statement: "Currently five out of the 246 members of the Team Canada delegation in Beijing are in COVID-19 protocols.

"We are following the Beijing 2022 playbook rules. Part of our strategy was to arrive early to allow time for confirmation testing and, if necessary, the medical expert panel process to unfold.

"Because there will likely be persistent shedders among the delegation, we will not be sharing names at this time. Members of Team Canada's delegation include athletes, coaches and mission team."

Persistent shedders are those who have recovered from having the coronavirus and may no longer be contagious, but who still have remnants of the virus in their system.

The Beijing Games playbook for athletes is their guide to the Games, and it outlines COVID-19 rules, with those that test positive to be taken to a designated hospital if symptomatic, or to an isolation facility if showing no outward signs of the virus.

Canada has a rich tradition of success at the Winter Olympics, finishing third on the medal table at the 2018 Games in Pyeongchang, South Korea.

The news comes a day after Norway's reigning Winter Olympics skiathlon champion Simen Hegstad Kruger was revealed to have tested positive.

Reigning Winter Olympics skiathlon champion Simen Hegstad Kruger may be denied the opportunity to defend his title after testing positive for coronavirus.

The 28-year-old, who won gold in the men's 30 kilometres event in Pyeongchang four years ago, is the third member of Norway's cross-country skiing team to contract the virus.

Kruger had been much-fancied to add to his medal collection in Beijing, but it now seems unlikely he will get the chance to represent his country.

Speaking on Thursday, 10 days before Kruger's event takes place, Norway team doctor Oystein Andersen said: "We have had infections in the squad and took new PCR tests.

"We have feared that more would come, and unfortunately we have got another one. Unfortunately, it is Simen Hegstad Kruger who has taken a positive test today."

Female cross-country skiers Heidi Weng and Anne Kjersti Kalva are the other two Norwegian competitors to have tested positive.

All three athletes must now self-isolate in Italy, where the Norway team is based prior to flying out to China on January 30.

"It's an extreme situation," Andersen said of the spiralling coronavirus cases in the camp. "We have to limit the damage as best we can."

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