Ilya Kovalchuk, Olympic Athletes from Russia, Ice Hockey
Olympic ice hockey will not include National Hockey League players for the first time since 1994. The NHL ruled it didn’t want its athletes to compete because the Olympics interfere with the NHL season. Another controversy with the Olympics is Russia’s ban from the events. After numerous reports, it was uncovered that the Russian Federation Ministry of Sports supported a nationwide doping policy. The World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) concluded that the Russians were doping their athletes, and the International Olympic Committee chose to ban Russia from the 2018 Olympics. However, the IOC will allow Russian athletes to play under the neutral name “Olympic Athletes from Russia.”
Left winger Ilya Kovalchuk will be the driving force behind the Russian hockey team. After playing for more than a decade in the NHL, Kovalchuk moved back to Russia to play in the Kontinental Hockey League. At 34 years old, Kovalchuk is still one of Europe’s premier hockey players. His size, matched with his speed and power, makes him one of the deadliest players on the ice. In an Olympics without NHL players, Kovalchuk may be the key factor to lead the Russians to gold.
Lindsey Vonn, United States, Alpine Skiing
Lindsey Vonn has had a long career of ups and downs. She previously won gold at the 2010 Olympics in Vancouver. Then she missed the next Olympics in Sochi because of a torn ACL. In November 2016, Vonn stated she fractured her right humerus bone. After Vonn had surgery, she captured her 77th World Cup title.
Vonn will be the heavy favorite coming into the downhill and possibly the Super-G event. She will have to face her American counterpart and current World Cup Champion Mikaela Shiffrin, who looks to steal the gold from Vonn.
Nathan Chen, United States, Figure Skating
Chen has been dubbed one of the “golden boys” of figure skating after winning the 2017 ISU Grand Prix. At 18 years old, Chen will be the heavy favorite to win the gold after winning the Grand Prix and previously defeating Olympic gold medalist Yuzuru Hanyu.
Chen could become one of the youngest Americans to win gold in figure skating. He is two years older than the record holder, Tara Lipinski, who was 16 when she won the gold medal at the 1998 Winter Olympics.
Felix Loch, Germany, Luge
Loch will attempt to continue German dominance this year in the luge. Germans have won 10 of 14 gold medals in the luge in the Winter Olympics. Loch will also attempt to become the second man to win three gold medals in a row for the luge, as the other man was fellow countryman Georg Hackl.
In comparison to the other contestants in the singles luge this Olympics, Loch has a clear path to the gold. The only athlete who could give Loch some fierce competition is Austria’s Wolfgang Kindl, who won the 2017 World Luge Championships.
Martin Fourcade, France, Biathlon
Fourcade heads the athletes to watch in the biathlon after a terrific performance at the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi. Fourcade medaled in three of the five biathlon events, including gold in the singles and pursuit. With four medals, Fourcade ranks 11th in most all-time Winter Olympics medals.
Eric Single of Sports Illustrated ranked Johannes Thingnes Bø of Norway to win the Sprint, Mass and Individual ahead of Fourcade. But after Thingnes Bø’s less than exceptional performance in Sochi, Fourcade should be the easy favorite to win the gold.