PYEONGCHANG, South Korea – When the sun rises over the Land of the Morning Calm on Thursday, which will be Wednesday night on the East Coast in the United States, there will be 78 medals still to be claimed at the Winter Olympics.
Even after a thrilling and historic women’s cross country gold Wednesday, the US stood at 16 medals at the conclusion of Wednesday’s action and is lagging behind its 2014 haul in Sochi of 28 medals, and is well off the pace of its record-setting 37 medals at the Vancouver Olympics in 2010.
Of the six golds the US has won, four have been by snowboarders, one by an Alpine skier who has not finished competing, and another by a two-woman cross-country sprint team. The US is guaranteed to pick up at least one more medal in PyeongChang because the women’s hockey team is in Thursday’s gold medal game.
In each of the last four Winter Olympics, the US has won at least 25 medals.
What’s the outlook with just three full days of competition left? Here’s a glance.
Thank goodness for snowboarders and a new event in this Olympics. In the women’s big air, the US could potentially sweep with Jessika Jenson, Julia Marino, and Jamie Anderson all in the 12-rider finals. Anderson was the highest-ranked qualifier. Big air is making its Olympic debut in PyeongChang.
In men’s freestyle skiing halfpipe, the US has four skiers in the finals – David Wise, Torin Yater-Wallace, Alex Ferreira, and Aaron Blunck. Blunck, Ferreira, and Yater-Wallace are the top three qualifiers, and Wise was the X Games champ in this event.
The women’s Alpine Combined will feature the two best skiers in the world, and both are American. Lindsey Vonn, who won bronze in the downhill Wednesday, and giant slalom gold medalist Mikaela Shiffrin have solid shots at the podium in an event that plays to a strength for each one.
The US men’s curling team, led by John Shuster, is in the semifinals vs. Canada, which it defeated earlier in the tournament. The loser goes into the bronze-medal game, the winner to the gold-medal game.
Those events may be Thursday’s best chances for the US. The men’s slalom will be held, but a US man hasn’t even sniffed the podium in any of the World Cup slaloms this year. David Chodounsky, Mark Engel, and Nolan Kasper are the US starters.
Nordic Combined and biathlon are on the schedule, but the US has not yet won a medal in either.
There is short-track speed skating on the schedule, but the US does not have anyone in the quarterfinals of either the men’s 500 meters or women’s 1,000. The US has a team in the men’s 5,000 relay B final, but there’s no medal at stake – it’s just for final placement.
The women’s figure skating free skate begins at 8 p.m. EST, and while the three American entries are 9-10-11 after the short program, the best of them, Mirai Nagasu, is 15.99 points behind leader Alina Zagitova. But as Nathan Chen showed in the men’s skating competition, a huge jump up the leaderboard is possible in the free skate.
In speedskating, Shani Davis has an outside shot at the podium in the men’s 1,000 meters. He was fifth at the world single-distance championships last year.
There is also women’s ski cross, curling, biathlon on the schedule. The US does not have any starters in ski cross.
Snowboard slopestyle gold medalist Red Gerard is one of three US finalists in men’s big air. Chris Corning and Kyle Mack are the others.
The speed skating mass start events – new to the Olympics this year – are the US’s best chances for a medal. Joey Mantia is men’s world champion and Heather Bergsma won bronze at the women’s worlds.
There is also an Alpine skiing team event, but three of the top US skiers – Shiffrin, Vonn, and Ted Ligety – reportedly will not participate.
In the men’s parallel giant slalom snowboarding, two Americans are entered – Mike Trapp and AJ Muss – but neither has hit the podium on the World Cup. The US has no women’s parallel GS riders.
The Olympics wrap up with four medal events: the men’s curling gold-medal game, the men’s hockey gold-medal game, the final runs of the four-man bobsled, and the women’s cross country 30-kilometer race.
A win in the semifinals would put the US’s Shuster team in the curling final. In Wednesday’s opening training runs for the four-man bobsled, two US sleds – one is piloted by Codie Bascue, another by Justin Olsen – were in the top 20.