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Daily Olympic Briefing: Eileen Gu goes for halfpipe gold on Day 14

Daily Olympic Briefing: Eileen Gu goes for halfpipe gold on Day 14
Posted at 1:12 PM, Jan 26, 2022
and last updated 2022-02-17 23:07:20-05

Each day of the 2022 Winter Games, NBC Olympics will run down every sport in action, highlighting the biggest athletes and marquee events. Every single event streams live on NBCOlympics.com, the NBC Sports app and Peacock, and many are also on the TV networks of NBC. Visit the Olympic schedule page for listings sorted by sport and TV network.

On Day 14, Eileen Gu goes for a third medal, the figure skating pairs’ event starts and Kaillie Humphries and Elana Meyers Taylor return for the two-woman bobsled.

All times listed below are Eastern Time on the night of Thursday, February 17 or the morning of Friday, February 18.

Freestyle Skiing

Freestyle Skiing: Halfpipe & Ski Cross
All events also stream live on Peacock
Event Time (ET) How to Watch
Women's Halfpipe Final 🏅 8:30 p.m. NBCOlympics.com, USA
Men's Ski Cross Qualifying 10:45 p.m. NBCOlympics.com, USA
Men's Ski Cross Finals 🏅 1:00 a.m. NBCOlympics.com

China’s Eileen Gu already met her medal target for her first Olympics – two medals, one gold. In the women’s ski halfpipe final, she can finish it by becoming the first freestyle skier to earn three medals at one Games.

Gu, an 18-year-old born in San Francisco to an American father and Chinese mother, won big air in the first week. She took silver in slopestyle in the second week. Her best event is last.

Gu said she ran a weekly half-marathon over the summer to build her endurance to combat the inevitable exhaustion.

"From the Opening Ceremony until tomorrow I have had no days off, I'm skiing every single day,” she said Friday, after posting the top two scores in qualifying.

Gu is undefeated in five halfpipe contests this season. She also swept gold medals at X Games and world championships last season.

All this success in an event that she didn’t take seriously as a younger teen. Gu’s first love was slopestyle. She said that she started entering halfpipe contests because they were held in conjunction with slopestyle competitions.

“Sometimes there would be a halfpipe event there also, so I was thinking, I'm already skipping school. I'm in the slopestyle contest. It's like a $30 entry fee. I may as well just do halfpipe,” she told NBC Sports last year.

She looked at it that way until around 14 or 15. Then Gu got serious. In her first World Cup in New Zealand, she placed second. That was September 2019, four days after she turned 16 and three months after she announced her nationality switch from the U.S. to China.

What Gu is on the verge of – earning a medal in all three freeskiing events – is by definition unprecedented because this is ski big air’s first time on the Olympic program.

But the pioneers of women’s freeskiing were also all-arounders. That included the ultimate pioneer, Canadian Sarah Burke, who died at 29 in 2012, nine days after suffering a head injury in a training accident.

Gu is a throwback.

“Powder, pipe, jumps, you were supposed to do it all,” said Grete Eliassen, who won the first X Games women’s halfpipe event in 2005, then took silver in the first X Games women’s slopestyle event in 2009. “It shows that you want to be creative and push the sport beyond just a repetitive movement. … We want it to look different. We want to stand out.”

Women did not have their own X Games ski big air event until 2017.

Estonian Kelly Sildaru, who qualified third into Friday’s final, earned gold, silver and bronze in the three events at the 2019 X Games, when she was 16.

Eliassen, whose competitive career ended before women’s big air was added to the X Games, gushed about the direction that Gu and Sildaru are taking women’s freeskiing.

“[Gu] deserves a break after this, for sure,” she said.

Later Friday, men’s ski cross is a less predictable event. Five different men claimed the biggest trophies of this Olympic cycle. A sixth and seventh, Switzerland's Ryan Regez and Frenchman Terence Tchiknavorian, are tied atop this season’s World Cup standings. An eighth, Canadian Brady Leman, is the defending Olympic champion and last won a top-level event three years ago.

SEE MORE: Gu builds confidence in halfpipe qualifying, looks ahead

Figure Skating

Figure Skating: Pairs
All events also stream live on Peacock
Event Time (ET) How to Watch
Pairs Short Program 5:30 a.m. NBCOlympics.com, USA

Pairs is traditionally the first figure skating event on the Olympic schedule (aside from the team event). It is the last one this time around. It is the host nation’s best discipline. China has eight Olympic figure skating podiums – bronzes from Lu Chen in 1994 and 1998, and a world-leading six medals in pairs over the last five Olympics.

In 2018, Chinese Sui Wenjing and Han Cong missed gold by the smallest margin in Olympic figure skating history under the current scoring format (since 2006). They led after the short program, but Germans Aljona Savchenko and Bruno Massot usurped them by 0.43 points with a world record free skate. Savchenko and Massot stopped competing after that season. Sui and Han won nine of their 10 international competitions in this Olympic cycle, missing time due to injuries.

ROC's Anastasia Mishina and Aleksandr Galliamov handed Sui and Han their lone defeat since PyeongChang, taking the 2021 World title, and have the world’s best total score this season. Sui and Han outscored them in the short program of the team event (by 0.19). China used a different pair for the free skate.

The U.S. last won a pairs' medal in 1988. Alexa Knierim and Brandon Frazier and Ashley Cain-Gribble and Timothy LeDuc rank Nos. 7 and 8 in the Olympic field by best total scores this season.

SEE MORE: Alexa Knierim/Brandon Frazier skate to 'Fix You'

Hockey

Men's Hockey: Semifinals
All events also stream live on Peacock
Matchup Time (ET) How to Watch
Finland vs Slovakia 11:00 p.m. NBCOlympics.com
ROC vs Sweden 8:00 a.m. NBCOlympics.com, USA

Neither the U.S. nor Canada made the top four of a men’s hockey tournament for the third time in Olympic history.

The Russian Olympic Committee became the pre-tournament favorite two months ago, when the NHL withdrew from participating due to the pandemic wreaking havoc with its schedule. Russia’s roster is wholly players from its domestic league, the KHL, regarded as the world’s second-best after the NHL. Its semifinal opponent, Sweden, rebounded from finishing ninth at the 2021 World Championship, its first time outside the top eight at the Olympics or worlds since 1937.

The other semifinal pits the top men’s hockey nation without a gold medal (Finland has two silver, four bronze) against the top men’s hockey nation without a medal of any color (Slovakia was fourth in 2010).

Speed Skating

Speed Skating
All events also stream live on Peacock
Event Time (ET) How to Watch
Men's 1000m 🏅 3:30 a.m. NBCOlympics.com, USA

The Netherlands boasts the reigning Olympic 1000m champion (Kjeld Nuis), reigning world champion (Kai Verbij) and the top-ranked skater this season (Thomas Krol). The Dutch are so deep that Nuis didn’t make the team to defend this title, though he did repeat as 1500m gold medalist.

Jordan Stolz, a 17-year-old American, ranks fourth in the field by best time this season at altitude and sixth by best time at sea level (behind the three Dutch entries and two Chinese). The Olympics are at sea level. No man under 18 has won an individual Olympic speed skating medal, according to Olympedia.org.

Bobsled

Two-Woman Bobsled
All events also stream live on Peacock
Event Time (ET) How to Watch
Run 1 7:00 a.m. NBCOlympics.com
Run 2 8:30 a.m. NBCOlympics.com

Americans Kaillie Humphries and Elana Meyers Taylor return for the first two of four runs in two-woman bobsled after finishing one-two in the first Olympic women’s monobob on Monday. Humphries, who won the two-woman in 2010 and 2014 for Canada, can tie the Olympic bobsled record of four gold medals held by retired Germans Andre Lange and Kevin Kuske. Olympic rookie Kaysha Love is her push athlete.

Humphries was fastest and second-fastest in the first two training runs, though Germans Laura Nolte and Kim Kalicki skipped them. Nolte was fastest in the third and fourth training runs, where all the medal contenders took part. Germany won seven of the first eight gold medals in sliding sports at these Games and could finish with nine of the 10. Nolte and Kalicki had the best results this World Cup season, though they skipped an event, so American Meyers Taylor took the season title.

Biathlon

Biathlon: Mass Starts
All events also stream live on Peacock
Event Time (ET) How to Watch
Women's 12.5km 🏅 2:00 a.m. NBCOlympics.com
Men's 15km 🏅 4:00 a.m. NBCOlympics.com

The final biathlon events could be crowning races for Norwegian Marte Olsbu Roeiseland and Frenchman Quentin Fillon Maillet. Olsbu Roiseland can become the fourth athlete to win four gold medals at a Winter Games, two years after winning seven medals at the world championships.

Fillon Maillet can become the first athlete to win six medals at a Winter Olympics, which would break the record held by Eric Heiden. Heiden’s five 1980 speed skating medals were all gold. Fillon Maillet, who had zero medals at the 2018 Olympics, where he was left off the French relay team, has two golds and three silvers so far at these Games. No discipline had six events at the Winter Games until 2002, and even now only four do.

Curling

Men's & Women's Curling
All events also stream live on Peacock
Matchup Time (ET) How to Watch
Bronze Medal: USA vs Canada (M) 🏅 1:00 a.m. NBCOlympics.com, USA
Semifinal: Sweden vs Great Britain (W) 7:00 a.m. NBCOlympics.com
Semifinal: Japan vs Switzerland (W) 7:00 a.m. NBCOlympics.com

In the men’s bronze-medal game, the U.S. plays Canada in a matchup of Olympic champion skips. John Shuster, the 2018 gold medalist, takes on Brad Gushue, the 2006 gold medalist. Shuster and Gushue previously shared ice in the playoffs at the 2006 Torino Olympics, where Canada beat the U.S. in the semis. Shuster earned bronze as part of Pete Fenson’s team that year.

In the women’s semifinals, reigning world champion Switzerland is the top seed and plays 2018 Olympic bronze medalist Japan. Sweden, the 2018 Olympic champion, plays Great Britain in the other semi. Canadian Jennifer Jones was bidding to become the oldest woman to win a Winter Olympic medal at 47, but her team was eliminated on the draw shot challenge tiebreaker after round-robin play.