Don’t Know What to Watch at the Winter Olympics? Use Our Trusty Viewers’ Guide.

Scenes from the Olympics.
Feb. 6 2014 2:34 PM

What to Watch at the Winter Olympics

Slate’s comprehensive viewers’ guide to the Sochi Games.

Canada's Maxime Dufour-Lapointe competes in the Women's Freestyle Skiing Moguls qualifications at the Rosa Khutor Extreme Park during the Sochi Winter Olympics on February 6, 2014.
One of the three Dufour-Lapointe sisters—Maxime—who will be competeing in the ladies’ moguls freestyle skiing on Feb. 8.

Photo by Franck Fife/AFP/Getty Images

The Olympics are here, which makes you excited! But you don’t know what to watch, which makes you upset! Never fear: Slate is here with a handy viewing guide guaranteed to maximize your viewing enjoyment while minimizing your Olympics-related stress headaches.

Thursday, Feb. 6: American snowboarder Shaun White spoke for many Olympians when he recently withdrew from the slopestyle snowboarding competition, citing concerns over the safety of the course. (On Monday, Norwegian snowboarder Torstein Horgmo broke his collarbone during a practice run on the slopestyle course.) Watch today’s slopestyle qualifiers to see if Olympic officials addressed the athletes’ concerns, or whether games personnel merely settled for putting a tarp on it.

Friday, Feb. 7: The 22nd Winter Olympics are officially called to order with an opening ceremony that, like all Olympics opening ceremonies, will serve as a tribute to the history and culture of the games’ host city and country. I’m not sure what Sochi has in store for the world, but if I know anything about Russia—which, to be clear, I do not—it’s probably safe to expect a montage of hair-raising dash-cam videos set to the “1812 Overture,” followed by an extended tribute to Vladimir Putin’s athletic prowess and the utterly gratuitous destruction of several billion dollars.

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Saturday, Feb. 8: The ladies’ moguls freestyle skiing finals are up today, and Dartmouth student and Volvo enthusiast Hannah Kearney is a heavy favorite to repeat her 2010 gold medal performance. You, however, will be rooting for the three Dufour-Lapointe sisters—Maxime, Chloe, and Justine—all of whom will be skiing for Canada. An all-sibling podium would be great, especially if they subsequently go on TV and start finishing each other’s sentences like Donald Duck’s obnoxious nephews.

First place finisher Justine Dufour-Lapointe (L) and sister Chloe Dufour-Lapointe, third place,  smile at each other during the women's moguls finals at the FIS Freestyle Ski World Cup January 4, 2014 in Calgary, Alberta, Canada.
Justine Dufour-Lapointe and sister Chloe will be competing in the ladies’ moguls freestyle skiing finals along with their third sister Maxime.

Photo by Todd Korol/Getty Images

Sunday, Feb. 9: “Age is only a state of mind” is more than just a cloying coffee-mug sentiment for the numerous superannuated Olympians competing in this year’s games. Sochi features a sizeable contingent of athletes on the wrong side of 40, like 41-year-old Japanese ski jumper Noriaki Kasai, who last medaled in Lillehammer in 1994; 44-year-old Nepali cross-country skier Dachhiri Sherpa, who openly admits that “there is a very big chance I will finish last”; and 47-year-old Gary and 48-year-old Angelica di Silvestri, wealthy philanthropists who were named to Dominica’s cross-country-skiing team as a thank you for their charity work on the island. German speed-skater Claudia Pechstein, however, is likely the only fortysomething with a shot at medaling. The 41-year-old Pechstein goes today in the ladies’ 3000-meter race. Root for her to win—or at least to not succumb to arthritis before the race concludes.

Monday, Feb. 10: Hooray, curling! Every four years, the world’s best balding and pudgy semi-athletes gather to wow us all with their precision broomsmanship and heavy-stone-sliding skills. It sounds like I’m mocking curling, but I’m not, really; the fact that there’s room in the Olympics for people who do not look good in Spandex gives hope to the rest of us lumpish couch-jockeys. Who should you root for as you follow the riveting round-robin action? I’d support the 45-year-old American curler Ann Swisshelm, who weirdly lists 1970s journeyman pitcher Dick Ruthven as one of her athletic heroes; Canadian skip Brad Jacobs, who works at a bank and looks like it; and the bleary-eyed American Jared Zezel, who, in his official photo on the Sochi 2014 website, looks like he got caught mid-snooze.

Tuesday, Feb. 11: Looking for some excitement today? Tune in to the women’s 10-kilometer pursuit biathlon event, in which gun-toting women chase after one another, stopping every now and then to fire a rifle. You’d think the Americans would be great at this sport, but they’re not, a state of affairs for which I can only blame the atheistic Democratic Party. If you’re looking for something a little bit less exciting, 31-year-old Kikkan Randall, America’s best—and, really, only—hope at taking a cross-country skiing medal, goes today in the ladies’ sprint event. The United States traditionally has been horrible at cross-country skiing, too, for which I also choose to blame the Democrats.

Wednesday, Feb. 12: Though American speed-skater Shani Davis is the favorite in today’s 1,000-meter race, I’d keep an eye on Kazakhstan’s Denis Kuzin, who has an added incentive to take the gold. According to Bloomberg Businessweek, Kazakhstan pays its Olympians a handsome $250,000 per gold medal won—the richest bonus of any country competing in the Games. Skate fast, Denis!

Thursday, Feb. 13: Answer: “Let’s talk about luge.” Question: “What are four words that you are almost guaranteed not to hear on NBC this year?” This is because Americans stink at luge, a sport that has long been controlled by central European nations with strong national traditions of reckless sledding. As you tune in to the team relay luge event today, at which, big surprise, the Germans are expected to dominate, call your congressman and insist that he take steps to revitalize America’s luge program, preferably by replacing our subway systems with perilous underground ice tunnels.

Friday, Feb. 14: The absence of American figure skater Evan Lysacek (who took gold in 2010) and the encroaching decrepitude of Russian champion Evgeni Plushenko (who took silver) leaves room for new blood to dominate today’s men’s singles event. Canadian skater Patrick Chan and Japan’s Yuzuru Hanyu are safe bets to medal, but keep an eye out for talented Canadian leaper Kevin Reynolds, too. Not only was Reynolds the first man to land two quadruple jumps in a single short program, he also apparently bears a strong resemblance to the lead character in the Japanese video game Chrono Trigger. If Reynolds collects enough gold coins to unlock “Victory Mode,” he could be very successful today.

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