Beijing 2022 predictions: Guardian US writers on the victors at the Winter Olympics | Winter Olympics Beijing 2022

Medal count winner

Four years ago, Norway edged Germany atop the table with a staggering 39 medals (including 14 golds), besting their previous high as the host country in 1994. This time it won’t be nearly as close. The familiar dominance in cross-country skiing, in addition to likely medals in alpine skiing, biathlon, curling, freestyle skiing, ski jumping, snowboarding and speed skating, should end in another record haul. No mean feat for a nation with a smaller population than greater Atlanta. BAG

The only question for Norway is whether they’ll match or beat their record of 39 medals from 2018. Gracenote’s final projection: 44. You can’t bet against a country in an event that doubles as a mode of transportation for its citizens, and yes, Norway will dominate in cross-country skiing and biathlon once again, but they’re also strong in the Alpine events and basically anything that involves snow. The resurgent ROC may slow the Norwegian procession, as may host China, which excels in winter sports with flips, twists and other forms of gymnastics. BD

Covid will …

… be responsible for at least one completely out-of-nowhere gold medalist thanks to China’s strict ‘Zero Covid’ protocols – which include daily throat swabs for testing and enhanced ‘close contact’ tracing – meaning athletes will face minimum two-day isolation for a positive test and risk missing their competition even if they are asymptomatic. The early days inside the closed loop for athletes and other participants have gone smoothly enough, though an outbreak looms as the doomsday scenario. BAG

… be all but forgotten by day three. I said the same thing for the Summer Olympics, and when I get one of these predictions right, I have to stick with it. We may see a few more Covid-related absences this time around because omicron is more contagious, but China and the IOC both have plenty of experience building bubbles. BD

Breakout star

Besides Eileen Gu? Let’s take a flyer on Jordan Stolz. The 17-year-old speed skater from the Wisconsin village of Kewaskum followed up his maiden World Cup medal at Calgary in December with a breakout performance at last month’s US Olympic trials, smashing double Olympic champion Shani Davis’s track record in the 1000m to become the third-youngest American man to make an Olympic team in long track after Eric Heiden and Emery Lehman. BAG

Norwegian Alpine skier Aleksander Aamodt Kilde has hit his peak at age 29. He had no top-12 finishes in his prior two Olympics, but won the overall World Cup title in 2020 and leads the speed disciplines this season. Oh, and he’s dating Mikaela Shiffrin.

For the USA, curler Chris Plys is competing in mixed doubles and has moved up to vice (second-in-charge) for John Shuster‘s defending gold medalists in the men’s event. For Australia, Jakara Anthony finished fourth in moguls in 2018 and has only gotten better, holding the lead in the overall World Cup standings. For Canada, short-track skater Courtney Sarault has successfully moved up after a strong junior career. For Team GB, it’s all a potential three-medal performance in curling, with the relative newcomer being Jennifer Dodds in mixed doubles and the women’s event. BD

Bold prediction

The highest-profile border war on the medal table comes down to the women’s ice hockey final, where Canada’s win ensures it will finish with more medals than the United States for only the third time in history. BAG

After taking no medals in 2014 and just one in 2018, the US long-track speed skaters bounce back with six medals in Beijing. BD

Can’t miss event

Alpine skiing, women’s slalom (9 Feb, 12.45am ET). The Mikaela Shiffrin-Petra Vlhova rivalry that’s captivated the sport all season – they’ve been one-and-two atop the overall World Cup standings while pulling away from the pack all year – reaches a flashpoint on the unknown piste in Yanqing. Shiffrin has dominated the sport’s most technical discipline like no one before her, but Vlhova has won six of the last slaloms on the World Cup circuit dating back to last season. BAG

USA v Canada in anything. In women’s bobsled, Kaillie Humphries goes for her third and fourth Olympic golds after switching nationalities and accusing Canadian officials of verbal and mental abuse. In curling, Canada will aim to shake off disappointment from four years ago but will find 2018 gold medalist John Shuster and 2021 world championship bronze medalist Tabitha Peterson in their way. Both countries have contenders in most of the X Games-ish freestyle and snowboard events. And the main event will be the all-but-certain quadrennial (annual, if you add in world championships) showdown in the women’s hockey final. BD

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