5 things to watch at Winter Olympics

Chelsea J. Carter


(CNN) — Armchair Olympic fans, be warned. It’s week one of the Winter Games in Sochi, Russia, and there are a mind-blowing number of events to try to follow.

Here are five things to look for Saturday at the 2014 Olympic Winter Games:

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1. Men’s slopestyle finals

Dude, seriously? No Shaun White in the Olympic debut of the men’s slopestyle finals?

If you’ve been living under a rock, the biggest name in snowboarding withdrew from the competition before it began — to focus on the men’s halfpipe next week.

But who cares? With or without White, it’s going to be an awesome ride to watch as eight snowboarders run what looks like a downhill obstacle course — riding rails and grabbing not just big, but giant air — where they are judged not just on tricks, but style.

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Already, there has been a bit of controversy about the course with complaints by some that it was too intense, too dangerous, leaving a handful of snowboarders injured. Olympic officials made changes to the course to make it a bit safer.

Who to watch:

Canada’s Max Parrot, the reigning X Games gold medalist in the event, had the highest qualifying score with 97.50 heading into Saturday’s semifinal and final rounds.

Also, keep an eye on Finland’s Roope Tonteri, Norway’s Staale Sandbech and Canada’s Sebastien Toutant, who are all likely to delight viewers with their twisting flips and speed.

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2. Figure skating team competition

It’s day two of the Olympic debut of the team figure skating competition, and it may be a little confusing for part-time fans who only follow the sport every four years during the Winter Games.

So here’s what to know: Each nation enters men’s, women’s, pairs and ice dance skaters, who all perform a short program and a long program. The highest combined total determines which countries medal.

The team event is separate from the Olympic skating events that award medals for each category: men’s, women’s, pairs and ice dancing.

Heading into Saturday’s competition, Russia holds a commanding lead, thanks in large part to Yevgeny Plushenko’s skate in the men’s short program.

Plushenko may be a three-time Olympic medalist, but his presence in Sochi was marked by controversy. The 31-year-old was named the only male figure skater on the Russian team, beating out 18-year-old Maxim Kovtun for a spot on the team, despite finishing second to him in the Russia’s national championships.

The women’s and ice dancing short programs and pairs free skate are on tap Saturday, which will determine the five teams that advance to Sunday’s long programs.

Currently, Canada is in second place, followed by China and Japan. The United States is tied for fifth with Germany and France.

The finals are Sunday.

3. Women’s moguls final

Call it a Vancouver 2010 Winter Games redux, with all eyes on the competition shaping up between the United States and Canada.

American Hannah Kearney, a 27-year-old from New Hampshire, looking to repeat her gold medal performance in the freestyle skiing event.

Standing in her way, just like last time, is Canada.

Chloe, Justine and Maxime Dufour-Lapointe, sisters from Montreal, Quebec, have advanced along with Kearney to Saturday’s semifinals after Thursday’s qualifying round. The finals follow later Saturday.

Chloe and Justine Dufour-Lapointe are considered possible medal contenders. Also in hunt for a medal is American Eliza Outtrim, Perrine Laffont of France and Yulia Galysheva of Kazakhstan.

American Heidi Kloser is expected to be on the sidelines cheering on her teammates after she was forced to pull out of the moguls competition. She fell Thursday just minutes before her qualifying run and tore a knee ligament.

Kearney sent Kloser a message of support via Twitter: “You are a beast. You will be back and you will be stronger than ever.”

On Friday, Kloser tweeted a picture of herself wearing her Olympic uniform and giving a thumbs up.

“Heading to the Opening Ceremonies! Excited that I will still get to walk!,” she said in the post on Twitter.

4. Luge men’s singles

Let’s be honest. Most of us don’t know a thing about the luge other than it features somebody going feet first down a twisting, turning track of ice. Or if it’s the doubles, two people going feet first down the track.

Still, we watch it.

Why? Because it’s fast and furious.

Just ask India’s Shiva Keshavan, who appears to have turned in one of the early memorable moments of the Sochi Games during a practice run in the men’s luge singles that begin Saturday. The finals are Sunday.

On Friday, Keshavan was on the track, traveling an estimated 70 miles per hour, according to reports, when he slid off his sled during a turn and onto the ice. Incredibly, he was able to get back on the sled — while sliding — by flipping his body back on it.

Who to watch:

By all accounts, Felix Loch of Germany is the man to beat. He’s considered the king of the luge hill, so to speak, after winning gold in Vancouver four years ago.

In the 24-year-old’s way is Italy’s Armin Zoeggler, the 2002 and 2006 Olympic gold medalist in the event.

5. Women’s hockey preliminaries

Let the rivalry renew. Canada and the United States begin the quest Saturday to win the gold medal in women’s hockey.

Canada is looking for a four-peat on the top of the Olympic podium, while the United States is looking to break its golden drought.

This time, the two teams won’t have to wait until the finals to meet. They will play one another in the preliminary round

Because the two teams are so strong and so dominant, there has been a change in the lineup, according to Bleacher Report. The two teams will play one another in the preliminary round, though could still end up vying for the gold in the medal round.

The two teams are scheduled to play against one another on Wednesday.

But first up Saturday for Canada is the team from Switzerland, while the United States will face off against Finland.