If you’re an American, you are likely to see the Winter Olympics through the lens of NBC: a healthy dose of figure skating, Shaun White, Mikaela Shiffrin, Chloe Kim.
But there are places where skating raises a yawn, and fans thrill to the anticipation of the Nordic combined or skeleton competitions.
Here is how some other countries are seeing the games.
In the host country, it’s all about short-track speedskating, especially for women. Shim Suk-hee and Choi Min-jeong are going to contend in just about every event.
More generally, said Lee Sung-han of the Yonhap News Agency, the country has shown a “concentration on ice-related sports, not as much on snow events.”
Skeleton was not too popular five to 10 years ago, but thanks to the gold medal hopes of Yun Sung-bin, it is attracting attention this time around.
But a medal is not mandatory for interest. The women’s ice hockey team, which will include a few players from North Korea, will be a hot topic, regardless of its results, Lee said.
In Germany, popular sports include a number barely registering in the United States.
Biathlon, which Nicolas Reimer of Sport-Informations-Dienst called “the Formula One of the winter,” was always popular, but it grew even bigger with the success of Laura Dahlmeier, who won five gold medals at the 2017 world championships.
Reimer also ticks off “Luge, the women for sure. Ski jumping will be big.” But he worries about Nordic combined. Germans “won everything last season. This season they are a little bit weak.”
Still, the country will be watching.
Cross-country skiing will be the most popular sport, “no doubt,” said Karl Forssell of Expressen Sweden. “Charlotte Kalla is the most popular athlete by a big margin.”
Kalla has parlayed cross-country fame into endorsement deals for electric toothbrushes and vegetarian meat substitutes.
Ice hockey is huge in Sweden, and after it was announced that NHL players would not participate this year, “there was less interest,” he said. “But when the tournament is on … it’s Sweden. If they can get into the semifinals, people will watch.”
The country’s biggest star, and one of the world’s biggest, is defending men’s figure skating champion Yuzuru Hanyu.
But it’s not just Hanyu. Figure skating is “far more popular than the other sports,” said Daisuke Hasegawa of Kyodo News. “The are enthusiastic fans who go around the world for figure skating events. So many Japanese fans will be here for Hanyu.”
Only baseball and soccer can rival figure skating’s popularity, Hasegawa said.
As in the United States, interest in winter sports skyrockets in Britain every four years. One sport in particular. “Every time the games come on, curling goes bonkers,” said Ed Langford of Team GB. “It’s a national obsession for a fortnight.”
Short-track speedskating has also drawn a following “because of one athlete,” Elise Christie, who could win a medal.
The freestyle skiers and snowboarders in big air and slopestyle events could also become national darlings.
Canada has the second-biggest delegation to these games and a strong team in a number of sports. Among the biggest stars, said Photi Sotiropoulos, the team’s press secretary, will be ice dancers Scott Moir and Tessa Virtue — “The nicest people you’ll ever meet” — and freestyle skier Mikael Kingsbury. But as you might expect, hockey is still the king. Even without NHL players, interest will be very high in both the men’s and women’s events, Sotiropolous said.
Australians will be looking to the newer events for their stars this year, especially the freestyle skiing and snowboard events, said Geoff Lipshut, the deputy chief of mission.
Among them is snowboarder Scotty James, who carried the nation’s flag in the opening ceremony.
Pairs skater Harley Windsor is likely to attract a lot of attention, too. He is the first aboriginal Australian to compete at a Winter Games.
And every four years, there is interest in short-track speedskating, Lipshut said. That’s largely because of the story of Steven Bradbury, who took gold at the Salt Lake City Games in 2002 when everyone else fell down. The memory is so sharp in Australia that people still tune in, perhaps hoping for a repeat.
This article originally appeared in The New York Times.
Source: Pulse. Ng