Seven bold predictions for the 2018 Pyeongchang Olympics

The 2018 Winter Games are upon us, and we know a bunch of things: NHL players won’t be participating, Russian athletes will compete under a neutral flag and a record 102 medals will be awarded.

But there are so many unknowns. The Canadian Olympic Committee’s primary goal for the Pyeongchang Olympics is for the country to be “in contention for No. 1” when it comes to medal haul. And if you’re paying attention to the World Cup circuit, you’ll know that Canadians are hitting podiums an awful lot — as of Dec. 19, Canada’s 85 total medals are second only to Germany.

In other words, things are looking positive for Canada as the Games set to get underway on Feb. 9.

Of course, a lot can happen at the Olympics: There’s pressure, injuries, bad days and dark horses who come out of nowhere. And while there are a lot of variables and a lot we don’t know, we’re going to make guesses, anyway.

Here are seven predictions about Canadian outcomes at the Olympics:

1. Calgary’s Kaillie Humphries will become the first female bobsledder in history to win three straight Olympic gold medals
This is a close call in a sport that comes down to milliseconds, but we’re taking Humphries for the win. She’s up against some formidable opponents in a pair of American pilots: Reigning world champion Elana Meyers and reigning world bronze medallist Jamie Greubel. The three sleds are regularly 1-2-3. But we’re going with Humphries because she always manages to get it done on the biggest stage there is, and Pyeongchang won’t be any different.

2. Less than a year after Mark McMorris’s brutal crash, the snowboarder will reach the Olympic podium for the second time
In March of 2017, McMorris broke his jaw, his left arm and a few ribs. He had a collapsed left lung and a ruptured spleen.

Apparently a lot can change in a week.. So so thankful to have my life! It was touch and go there for a second and I don’t know how I can thank everyone enough for praying and sending healing vibes…. I hit a tree in the whistler backcountry a week ago and to be honest I was pretty sure I was going to die… @craigmcmorris @torsteinhorgmo @erinhogue @brandonkelly and @ryantiene saved my life by staying calm, building me a nest, and calling search and rescue I will never take another day on this earth for granted Much Love

117k Likes, 3,877 Comments – Mark McMorris (@markmcmorris) on Instagram: “Apparently a lot can change in a week.. So so thankful to have my life! It was touch and go there…”

McMorris wasn’t sure if he’d ever snowboard again. But we’re still calling the 24-year-old from Regina to win gold in Big Air, which is making its Olympic debut in Pyeongchang. He’ll pick up another medal in the slopestyle competition, too.

3. Neither of Canada’s hockey teams will win Olympic gold
That the men’s team isn’t coming home with gold needs no explanation, because Sidney and Connor and many of their Canadian friends won’t be there. On the women’s side, while it’s hard to bet against Canada — they went 5-1 against the Americans in a pre-Games exhibition series that ended earlier this month — we’re going to.

Here’s why: The Americans are reigning world champions, and they also head into these Olympics with some awful memories after suffering one of the most insane defeats in history four years ago in Sochi. If you need a reminder, Team USA was up 2–0 late in the third, and then Canada scored twice with under four minutes to go, and Marie-Philip Poulin netted the OT winner.

You should have seen the tears streaming down those American faces. Here’s betting they don’t let that happen again.

This American team is stacked with talent, they’re fuelled by revenge and they’ll beat Team Canada in the final for the first time since the inaugural women’s tournament in 1998. We’re calling Wisconsin-born Brianna Decker to score the winner.

4. Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir will win Olympic gold in ice dance
This likeable pair swear they aren’t motivated by what happened in Sochi. If you recall, they won Olympic silver in 2014, and a good many people felt the judges blew it, handing gold to Americans Meryl Davis and Charlie White.

Virtue and Moir retired after Sochi, but then staged a comeback because they decided they wanted another shot at Olympic gold (to add to the one they won in Vancouver in 2010). They moved to Montreal, got a new coach and now say they’re better than they were four years ago. Even if they won’t admit to being motivated by that experience at the last Games, we’re betting on gold medals around their necks at the end of the ice dance competition.

5. Alex Gough will win Canada’s first-ever individual Olympic medal in luge
And it’ll be huge. In late December of 2017, the Canadian luge team (which Gough was a part of) was upgraded from fourth to third at the Sochi Olympics after Russian athletes were stripped of their medals due to doping allegations.

So it’ll be a second Olympic medal for Gough, the veteran on this Canadian women’s team, but of course it’ll be much sweeter — it won’t come nearly four years after the fact.

The 30-year-old from Calgary has had a ton of firsts for Canadian lugers, and she’ll add another in Pyeongchang, with an individual podium performance. Gough is driven by the fact that she came fourth in Sochi four years ago, and missed the podium by a hair. It was still the best-ever performance for a Canadian woman in her sport.

Gough has had success so far this season on the World Cup circuit, and if anyone in Canadian luge deserves to make history, it’s her. She’ll do it in Pyeongchang.

6. Cassie Sharpe will become a household name with a podium finish in women’s freestyle skiing halfpipe
The 25-year-old from B.C. won world-championship silver in halfpipe in 2015 and X Games gold last year in Oslo:

She should be a household name already, but Pyeongchang will be her coming-out party.

7. Mikael Kingsbury will win his first Olympic gold medal
Nobody has won more World Cup titles in moguls than this guy, but what’s missing from Kingsbury’s resumé is Olympic gold. He came awfully close four years ago, with a silver-medal finish after a mistake in his second run. The 25-year-old two-time world champion from Sainte-Agathe-des-Monts, Que., will add that gold medal to his collection in 2018.

Agree? Disagree? Got predictions of your own? Let us know in the comments below.