2018 Winter Olympics: PreviewApril 21, 2017

The XXIII Olympic Winter Games may be less than a year away, but it won't be too early to make a fearless prediction at this point. After all, there would be world championships and the annual World Cup circuit between Olympic cycles. This could be a good gauge of which athletes should make it to the winner's podium in Pyeongchang. And Australian athletes have the same advantage as their fellow (winter) athletes from the northern hemisphere.

Steven Bradbury, Australia's first gold medalist in the Winter Games, was the unlikely winner in the men's 1,000 meters in short track speed skating. He wasn't as fast as Apolo Anton Ohno, who was the favourite to win in that event. The native of Camden, New South Wales won't even fancy his chances against the South Korean skaters, the traditional powerhouse in the sport. But Bradbury had lots of luck on his side. Collisions could yield unexpected results, prompting one American spectator to tell Bradbury to wipe off that grin on his face. Bradbury became part of our local dialect, which would pertain to an unexpected victory. He wouldn't mind, but four more Australians won the gold. Aussie freestyle skiers accounted for three of those gold, seven in total.

David Morris, who won the bronze in the men's aerials at the recent World Championships in Sierra Nevada, Spain, should be a contender for the Olympic gold medal next year. But watch out for Britteny Cox. The 22-year old from Wodonga, Victoria was the gold medal winner in the moguls' event. Sydneysider Danielle Scott won the silver in the women's aerials. Expect one of them to put Australia on the medal table.

How about the other disciplines? Let's have a look:

Men's snowboard cross. Alex Pullin was the favourite to win the gold medal in Sochi, as he won the World Championships the year before the Olympiad. But he crashed out in the quarterfinals. It was the nature of the sport, but the last few years saw Pierre Vaultier of France building on his Olympic triumph. Two World Cups and last year's world championship gold should make him an overwhelming favourite to defend his Olympic title. Then again, anything can happen in the snowy slopes. Chumpy should know better.

Women's skiing. Lindsey Vonn's bid to add another gold medal to her downhill gold (Vancouver, 2010) would be put to a stern test. Ilka Štuhec, who succeeded Tina Maze as Slovenia's top skier, won the event at the World Championships in St. Moritz a few months ago. Sofia Goggia of Italy finished first in the World Cup race in Jeongseon Alpine Centre, which would be the site of the Olympic races. Vonn is a fearless racer, always going for broke. Speed would favour the younger ones, though.

Men's figure skating. Brian Orser, the silver medalist in the 1988 Olympics, couldn't get the grin off his face. He would be the coach of Yuzuru Hanyu of Japan and Javier Fernández of Spain, both of whom won the last four editions of the World Championships. Hanyu would defend his Olympic title in Pyeongchang, so the event could be a battle between the two. Patrick Chan, who finished second behind Hanyu in Sochi, seemed to have a slim chance of making it to the Olympic podium. Watch out for Nathan Chan, though. The native of Salt Lake City is the first male skater to land five quads in the free program. He's also the first (and only) skater to land a quad lutz and quad flip. Chan, who will turn 18 next month, finished sixth at the World Championships in Helsinki. If he'll be able to land his jumps cleanly, then expect him to be the sixth American to win the Olympic gold medal.

There's more to come.

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