6 things to watch for during the 2018 Winter Olympics

Experts discuss women's hockey, cross-country skiing, Russian athletes, being a host with a volatile neighbour, momentum for a Calgary Olympic bid and more.

Tia Lalani - 09 February 2018


With the Canadian women's hockey team looking for its fifth consecutive Olympic gold medal, will they draw more attention now that current NHL players won't be in PyeongChang? That's one question on the minds of UAlberta experts as the Games unfold. (Photo: Canadian Olympic Committee)

As the 2018 Winter Olympic Games kick off today in PyeongChang, South Korea, the sporting drama set to unfold over the next 17 days will happen amid a backdrop of the saga of banned Russian athletes, an unpredictable neighbour and a notable lack of NHL hockey players.

To help sort out the implications of these questions, as well as the impact these Games may have on a potential Calgary bid, and more, University of Alberta experts share their thoughts on what Canadians should watch for.

Will Canadian female Olympians continue to outpace their male counterparts for medals?

The stage is set, sports history professor Stacy Lorenz of Augustana Campus believes, for the country's female Olympians to once again shine on the podium. Since 2006, Canadian women have contributed 44 of Canada's 75 Olympic winter medals, he noted, while Canadian men have been part of 34 medals (three shared in figure skating). At the 2016 Summer Olympics, Canadian female athletes outperformed their male counterparts by a margin of 16 to six in terms of medal success.

"The one place where women's sports get almost as much attention and carry similar cultural weight to men's sports is the Olympics." Ideally, he added, the Games should be a springboard for more widespread media coverage-and higher pay for female athletes.

"In part, Canada can pat itself on the back for providing more resources and opportunities for female athletes than other countries do. However, it's also the case that Canada specifically targets funding for women's Olympic sports where officials feel there is a greater opportunity for success, because the depth of competition is seen to be not as strong as in men's sports. At the same time, there's an argument that Canadian women succeed in Olympic sport precisely because it is almost always the pinnacle of female sport. Male athletes have so many other professional options and more chances to make big money in comparison to women, that they may not pursue Olympic sports to the same degree."

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