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The opening ceremony and the games' first medal events lead the way in what to watch in PyeongChang.

By Jon Tayler
February 09, 2018

Welcome to SI's Daily Olympic Digest! Each day, we'll give you the rundown on everything worth knowing about the last 24 hours in Olympic action, including the most recent results, what to look forward to, the biggest news, and much more.

The first full day of official Olympic events is done, though there isn't yet much to write home about. Thursday's major happening was the first portion of the new team figure skating event, with the men's single short and the pairs short programs both completed. The former was a surprising disappointment for Team USA's top male skater, 18-year-old Nathan Chen, who took a big spill in his first Winter Games appearance and finished fourth among individuals, picking up seven points for his side (team figure skating sees points awarded to the top 10 skaters by position finished). The U.S. also finished fourth in the pairs, with the husband-wife team of Chris Knierim and Alexa Scimeca-Knierim ending up with seven points after a terrific skate. Nonetheless, after two of the five portions, the U.S. sits second overall with 14 points, right behind Canada (17) and just ahead of both Japan and the Olympic Athletes from Russia (13 each).

Elsewhere in PyeongChang, women's and men's freestyle skiing began its qualifiers with the moguls, the most knee-buckling of any winter sport. On the women's side, Americans Morgan Schild (third), Jaelin Kauf (fifth) and Keaton McCargo (eighth) all earned automatic spots in the final by virtue of finishing in the top 10, as did defending gold medalist Justine Dufour-Lapointe (fourth) of Canada. For the men, Troy Murphy was the only American to lock up his place in the final, ending up in fourth.

And in mixed doubles curling, it was a mixed day (sorry) for Team USA, which beat a team of Russian athletes in the first session of the round robin but lost to Canada in the second match. After four games, the U.S. has a dismal 1–3 record and looks like a longshot to compete for a medal in the inaugural version of this event.

Must-Watch Events

Opening Ceremony (8 PM ET, NBC)

The official beginning of the games has already happened but will be aired tonight on NBC. I won't spoil those of you planning to watch when it's broadcast, but be sure to tune in for the decidedly silly spectacle that is the IOC basically throwing itself an international pageant.

  • Men's 1,500 meter short track speed skating final (7:28 AM ET on Saturday; NBCSN begins its live coverage at 5 AM ET, and NBC will re-air it at 3 PM ET)
  • Women's 3,000 meter speed skating final (6:00 AM ET on Saturday; NBCSN will broadcast it at 1 PM ET)
  • Women's 500 meter short track speed skating heats (Begins at 5:44 AM ET on Saturday; NBCSN begins its live coverage at 5 AM ET, and NBC will re-air it at 3 PM ET)

These three events will be Team USA's first chance at speed skating redemption after a horrible stay in Sochi, where the U.S. failed to medal in a single individual race. The American man to watch in the 1,500 races is J.R. Celski, who won silver in 2014 as part of the 5,000 meter relay team and finished fourth in the 1,500 but won bronze in that event in 2010. Another name to keep an eye on: Thomas Hong. The 20-year-old Maryland native finished fourth in team trials for the U.S. and will be making his Olympic debut.

For the women's 3,000 meter final, Carlijn Schoutens will be the only Team USA representative in the field; the Dutch-American won the 3,000 in the U.S. team trials to make her first Olympic squad. The real battle here, though, will be between two Olympic legends: the Netherlands' Ireen Wuest (eight career medals) and Germany's Claudia Pechstein (nine). And in the 500 meter race, it'll be the Olympic debut of 18-year-old American Maame Biney, who could be one of the breakout stars of this year's games.

  • Cross-country skiing: Ladies' 7.5 kilometer + 7.5 kilometer skiathlon (2:15 AM ET on Saturday, NBCSN)

I'm highlighting this one because it's the first medal event of the games, and you'll be able to watch it live if you're really into cross-country skiing or are a hopeless insomniac. In case you were wondering what "skiathlon" is, it's a combination of the two techniques of cross-country skiing: classic and skating.

  • Women's ice hockey, preliminary round, Group B: Switzerland vs. Korea (7:10 AM ET on Saturday, USA)

Yes, this is only a group stage game, but it'll be the first for the unified Korean team featuring skaters from South and North, so tune in to catch a little history in the making.

Tweet of the Day

Okay, one opening ceremony spoiler. Remember the shirtless Tongan flag bearer from the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio? Well, he's back, in winter form.

Yes, the oiled-up specimen that is Pita Taufatofua is blasting his pecs in 22-degree weather. And if you're wondering how a former taekwondo athlete managed to get into the Winter Olympics, it's because he's now competing as a cross-country skier despite the fact that he had never done that before last year. I think I speak for everyone when I say how lucky we are that he strapped on the skis and made his way to South Korea.

Daily Reading and Videos

Our intrepid staff on the ground in PyeongChang and in our New York office is already cranking away on the biggest stories so far from the games.

• From Michael Rosenberg: The Olympics remain as controversial and complicated as ever.

• Also from Michael: On learning to live with (or at least not panic over) the potential doom hanging over the Korean peninsula.

• Our video team has a quick look at Shaun White's comeback from injury as the two-time Olympic medalist looks to make up for a disappointing performance in Sochi.

• Karl Bullock caught up with slalom skier and former teen prodigy Resi Stiegler as she prepared for her third Olympic games.

• Chris Ballard profiled would-be Olympic speed-skating hopeful Theron Sands, who nearly realized his Winter Games dream at the ripe old age of 53.

• And here's Michael Blinn on the U.S. women's hockey team's plans to end its 20-year Olympic medal drought.

Athlete To Root For

Maame Biney, speed skating

As noted above, Biney will be making her Olympic debut in the women's 500 meter heats. The 18-year-old from Ghana is as fun a story as you can get: She's energetic and enthusiastic, and she's a real contender in this event. Get to know more about her in this Q&A she did with our own Mitch Goldich before the games.

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