So that’s it for the warm-up: the pyrotechnics and the puffer jackets, the calls for unity and the power politics, the Italians in their tricolor Armani capes and the American Samoan in, well, not much of anything.
Hours after host China opened its first Winter Olympics with an opening ceremony that was so meticulously choreographed that no one saw coming its selection of an athlete with a Uyghur name to help light the cauldron, it is, at long last, time for some medals.
What’s your pleasure? Skiing? Shooting? Skating? Sliding? The Olympics spring to life on Saturday with competition in nearly every sport.
The first gold medal will be handed out at about 4 a.m. Eastern in the women’s skiathlon, a cross-country race skied half in the “classical” up-and-down skiing style and half in the more freewheeling “skating” style. Jessie Diggins, a hero of the 2018 Games for the United States after her dramatic closing leg in the women’s team sprint — “They’ve given it everything on the Klaebo bakken!” — could be one of the medalists.
Biathlon begins with the mixed relay, part of an ongoing trend to add mixed-gender events — with teams comprising men and women — to both the Summer and Winter Games. Short-track speedskating will award its first medal in a mixed relay on Saturday as well, and mixed doubles curling, which started a few days ago, is also on the program. (Still to come are mixed team freestyle aerials, mixed team ski jumping and mixed team snowboard cross.)
The women’s ice hockey teams from Canada and the United States will continue on their collision course for a finals meeting. Their expected victims on Saturday: Finland (for Canada) and Russia (for the U.S.).
Freestyle skiers will zip down a course that’s intentionally extremely bumpy in the moguls event, women’s long-track speedskaters will go for their first gold medal on a smooth sheet of ice in the 3,000 meters.
At the ski jump, the women’s normal hill competition suddenly becomes wide open. Katharina Althaus of Germany, the defending silver medalist, and Sara Takanashi of Japan, the defending bronze medalist, are the elder stateswomen at age 25 in this young person’s game, but Marita Kramer of Austria is out because of a Covid-positive test.
There will no doubt be more of those as the weekend hits full speed. But for now, just sit back and pace yourself. Friday was Day 1. There are 16 more to go.