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Lindsey Vonn and beyond: Your Winter Olympics primer

By Tom Jones
The tower for the Alpensia Ski Jumping Center rises beyond a set of Olympic Rings at the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea, on Friday. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)

Here's my Two Cents on the 2018 Olympics, which starts competition next week and celebrates the opening ceremonies at 6 a.m. EST Friday from PyeongChang, South Korea. It will be streamed live here.

SIMPLY THE BEST

Take some time to enjoy Lindsey Vonn. She's 33, so this could be her last Olympics. She is trying to become the oldest skier to win an Alpine medal. Judging by her competitiveness and insane training, who would be shocked if she has one more Olympics in her after this one. In case this is her last, take a moment to watch the greatest skier of all time.

Truly love this #SuperBowl Ad from @NBCOlympics ���� It airs this Sunday on NBC. Hope you guys like it  #BestOfUS #WinterOlympics #thankful #nevergiveup pic.twitter.com/pLBI6uiiQQ

— lindsey vonn (@lindseyvonn) January 31, 2018

BREAKOUT STAR

Snowboarder Chloe Kim, 17, should've been at the 2014 Games. She qualified but couldn't compete because she was 13. A three-time X Games gold medalist, these Olympics should make her a star.

Thanks dad for riding on this journey with me! See my #SuperBowl ad from @NBCOlympics this Sunday on NBC #BestOfUS #WinterOlympics pic.twitter.com/skbuWIWdpc

— Chloe Kim (@chloekimsnow) February 1, 2018

BEST CHANCE AT HISTORY

Four-time Olympian Lowell Bailey is trying to earn the first biathlon medal for the United States. He's the reigning world individual champ, so history could be made.

There's only one Winter Olympic event that Team USA has never won an Olympic medal in: the biathlon. With new perspective, Lowell Bailey has a chance to make history: https://t.co/WVOEwze0Sb pic.twitter.com/xmoMtFcsNZ

— USA TODAY Sports (@usatodaysports) January 30, 2018

BIGGEST ABSENCE

Sometimes there is justice. Russia is banned from these games as punishment for alleged state-sponsored doping when they hosted the last Winter Games. Some Russians will compete as "Olympic Athletes from Russia" under the Olympic flag and 28 Russian athletes had their lifetime bans overturned Thursday. Stay tuned.

BEST MOMENT

American Nathan Chen is favored to win gold in men's figure skating, but can he match his incredible record of landing five quadruple jumps in one performance? That might be the most compelling moment of these games.

I've put in the work. Now I'm ready for the lights. See my #SuperBowl Ad from @NBCOlympics this Sunday on NBC #BestOfUS #WinterOlympics pic.twitter.com/8sJMSkicL1

— Nathan Chen (@nathanwchen) January 30, 2018

STRONGEST ATHLETE

American Lauren Gibbs is a newcomer to bobsled, but check it: She can dead lift 425 pounds. No wonder she is the brakeman for two-time medalist Elana Meyers Taylor. The Americans might win gold, but watch out for Canada. Kaillie Humphries is trying to become the first female bobsledder to win three consecutive gold medals.

WORST TOURNAMENT

Sorry, but it's going to be darn near impossible to get into the men's hockey tournament. The only U.S. players I've ever heard of are Brian Gionta and James Wisniewski, the latter a veteran of 552 NHL games who was in Lightning training camp for, like, 10 minutes in 2016. The NHL guys should be in this tournament. Because they are not, the best hockey of this Olympics will be the women's, especially the always fun United States versus Canada showdown.

TOUGHEST ATHLETE

Eleven months ago, Canadian snowboarder Mark McMorris crashed, breaking his jaw, an arm and several ribs, as well rupturing his spleen and having a lung collapse. It's courageous to even get on a mountain again, and here he is as gold-medal favorite in Big Air.

Less than a year ago, Mark McMorris suffered a fractured jaw, fractured left arm, ruptured spleen, stable pelvic fracture, rib fractures and a collapsed left lung in a backcountry crash near Whistler, B.C.

Today, he's on Canada's Olympic slopestyle and big air snowboard team pic.twitter.com/tletAahpVR

— The National (@CBCTheNational) January 10, 2018

MOST INTERESTING

Maame Biney, who was born in Ghana and moved to the United States when she was 5, might have the coolest name in the Olympics. She wanted to be a figure skater, but she was told she was too fast. Easy fix: make her a speed skater. This year she became the first African-American woman to make the U.S. short-track speed skating team.

BEST LET-SEE-WHAT-HAPPENS MOMENT

Adam Rippon is the first openly gay man to compete at the Olympics for the United States in figure skating. And he is highly critical of Vice President Mike Pence leading the U.S. delegation in South Korea. Wonder if Pence will go watch him skate. For the record, Rippon said he has no interest in meeting Pence. "If it were before my event,'' Rippon told USA Today, "I would absolutely not go out of my way to meet somebody who I felt has gone out of their way to not only show that they aren't a friend of a gay person but that they think that (gay people are) sick. I wouldn't go out of my way to meet somebody like that.''

This is me a year ago. I had a broken foot and a goal to be healthy & skating better than before. Kind of unreal and feel so lucky have worked with such amazing people on this journey. YOU GUYS: WE CAN DO ANYTHING IF WE PUT OUR MINDS TO IT ������ pic.twitter.com/VjE5GEDye8

— Adam Rippon (@Adaripp) January 13, 2018

MOST UNDERRATED

The best and most underrated sport of the Olympics? Curling! And don't tell me I'm wrong. If I can't convince you to watch all the curling, then at least check out the American brother-sister team of Becca and Matt Hamilton. Becca is competing in the women's tournament and Matt in the men's, but they are teaming up in the games' first mixed doubles tournament. These two might be on TV as much as any athletes at the games.

COOLEST SIBLINGS

Be sure to watch the "Shib Sibs.'' If anything, they have the best nickname. Their game is pretty good, too, as Maia Shibutani and her brother, Alex, try to win a medal in ice dancing.

.@AlexShibutani is smart. He knows the future is female! �� pic.twitter.com/w6qxHFwnO3

— Maia Shibutani (@MaiaShibutani) January 21, 2018

COOLEST MASCOT

You'll see plenty of Sooharang, the mascot of this year's Olympics. Who is he? A white tiger who is the guardian of Korean history.

CRAZIEST SPORT

I still don't understand why someone would actually participate in ski jumping. And I still can't imagine what was going through the mind of the first person to try it. Anyway, if you like to watch people defy gravity and risk great bodily harm, you might want to watch one of the best. That's American Sarah Hendrickson, who might have won gold in the 2014 Olympics if she hadn't tore her MCL six months before those games.

BEST OLYMPIC TEAM

Can the United States win the most medals? Sure, it's possible. But most predictions have the Americans running third behind Germany and Norway. Look for strong performances from Canada and Japan, too. Meantime, Liechtenstein is predicted to win just one medal, but it's a gold. Tina Weirather is the favorite over Vonn in Alpine skiing's super-G.

THREE THINGS THAT POPPED INTO MY HEAD

1. It will be strange not seeing Bob Costas as the host on NBC. He decided to turn over the duties to Mike Tirico. This would have been Costas' 12th turn as the prime-time Olympic host, and he stands alongside Jim McKay as the greatest Olympic hosts ever.

2. If the NHL would have allowed its players to play in this year's games, the American team — which would have been led by a bevy of young stars such as Auston Matthews, Jack Eichel, Johnny Gaudreau and Seth Jones — would have been my clear pick to win the gold.

3. If you told me a meteor was headed straight for my house but luge was just coming on my TV, I might actually keep watching luge.

Contact Tom Jones at [email protected] Follow @tomwjones.