PyeongChang test events attract world’s best
This week will be the busiest week for the PyeongChang Organizing Committee for the 2018 Olympic & Paralympic Winter Games (Pocog) as six Olympic test events will be held across five venues in Pyeongchang and Gangneung, a sub-host city in Gangwon.
The Olympic test events have been in full swing this month as local organizers already hosted two International Ski Federation (FIS) competitions - Cross-country and Nordic combined World Cups - and the International Skating Union (ISU) Single Distance Speeding Skating Championships.
Pocog said the FIS Freestyle Ski World Cup and the FIS Snowboard World Cup will conclude this weekend at Phoenix Snow Park in Pyeongchang, some 180 kilometers (112 miles) east of Seoul.
The two FIS competitions kicked off last week and already showcased aerials, moguls and parallel giant slalom events. The two World Cups will present halfpipe events this week.
The qualification round for halfpipe freestyle skiing is set for Thursday, with the finals scheduled on Saturday.
Pocog said defending Olympic halfpipe champions - David Wise and Maddie Bowman - will compete in Pyeongchang.
Korean hopeful Kim Kwang-jin, who finished 25th at the 2014 Sochi Olympics, will be the local favorite for the men’s halfpipe.’
In the snowboard halfpipe, Korean-American sensation Chloe Kim will lead the way.
Kim, who already landed in Korea last week, is currently the No. 1 in World Cup rankings. The 16-year-old won three gold medals in superpipe events at the Winter X-Games and was a double gold medalist at the 2016 Winter Youth Olympic Games.
On the men’s side, Sochi Olympic gold medalist Iouri Poladtchikov and two-time Olympic champion Shaun White are expected to display their skills. Korean hopeful Lee Kwang-ki, No. 14 in the World Cup rankings, will also perform.
The qualification stage for the snowboard halfpipe is on Friday, with the finals set for Sunday.
For Nordic skiing, the FIS Ski Jumping World Cup will be contested in Korea for the first time. It will be staged at Alpensia Ski Jumping Centre in Pyeongchang, featuring some 180 athletes from 17 countries, Pocog said.
The competition will start on Tuesday with official practice sessions, and the finals are scheduled for Wednesday and Thursday. Pocog said there will be no team events for this World Cup.
In men’s, the organizers said nine of the top 10 athletes in the World Cup rankings, including the reigning Olympic champion and current No. 1 Kamil Stoch, will compete on large hills.
The women will jump on normal hills, with Sara Takanashi looking to set a new record.
If the 20-year-old Japanese athlete wins the events on Wednesday and Thursday, she can become the all-time leader in World Cup wins - either men or women. She currently has 52 wins, just one behind Austria’s Gregor Schlierenzauer.
Korea will be represented by Choi Heung-chul, Kim Hyun-ki and Choi Seo-woo, who will compete in the men’s event on a 140-meter hill, while Park Gyu-lim will jump on a 109-meter hill in the women’s competition.’
For ice sports, the ISU Four Continents Figure Skating Championships will be played from Thursday to Sunday at Gangneung Ice Arena in Gangneung, some 230 kilometers (143 miles) east of Seoul.
The organizers said 112 skaters from 14 countries, excluding those from Europe, will perform in men’s and women’s singles, pair skating and ice dancing.
The men’s competition features Yuzuru Hanyu of Japan, current world No. 1 and the reigning Olympic gold medalist who holds the highest score in men’s singles.
He will be challenged by Nathan Chen, who recently won the U.S. national championship, and Patrick Chan of Canada, the 2014 Olympic silver medalist.
The women’s single will have Kaetlyn Osmond, the Canadian national title holder, and Rika Hongo of Japan, the two-time bronze medalist at the Four Continents.
Korea will send six skaters for this test event, but not its figure skating prodigy Cha Jun-hwan because of the age limit.
For sliding sports, Pyeongchang will host the Luge World Cup from Friday to Sunday at Alpensia Sliding Centre. The event from the International Luge Federation is the first international competition contested at the country’s only track for winter sliding sports.
Local fans will be able to see a performance of Aileen Frisch, a German-born luger who recently decided to race for Korea after obtaining the country’s citizenship.
Koreans can also see a glimpse of future stars in curling, as the World Junior Curling Championship will be played at Gangneung Curling Centre.
The World Curling Federation competition is the longest of the six test events this February. It will begin on Thursday and conclude on Feb. 26.