5 to Watch Wednesday: Vonn vs. Shiffrin, Big Air Snowboarding and Women's Hockey

Day 12 in Pyeongchang

These Winter Olympics haven’t always been kind to Americans, but there might be no bigger day for Team USA at the Pyeongchang Games than the one that finally sees Mikaela Shiffrin and Lindsey Vonn share the hill.

It’s the matchup we’ve been waiting for since Vonn recovered from the years of injuries that kept her out of the Sochi Games, where Shiffrin made her Olympic debut and won gold. The Alpine combined will give the two greats a chance to play to their strengths as they duke it out down the hill.

So break out the Stars and Stripes and settle in for some of the best action on Day 12 of the 2018 Pyeongchang Olympics.

Finally: Shiffrin vs. Vonn

Mitchell Haaseth/NBC
Mikaela Shiffrin

The past and future of American skiing are about to face off for the only time at the Pyeongchang Olympics, and maybe any Olympics.

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Thursday's two-legged event (the first airs Wednesday night in the U.S.) plays to both of their strengths: Vonn’s best event is downhill, Shiffrin's the slalom.

Both competitors were expected to set up camp atop the podium this year, with hopes for Shiffrin running especially high. But Shiffrin and Vonn both lost races they were favored to win, and Shiffrin’s Olympics got even more disappointing when she bowed out of two races after high winds compressed the racing schedule. The one gold medal she has so far might be the pinnacle of another skier’s career, but it’s a disappointing haul for Shiffrin, 22, who had talked in 2014 of winning five gold medals here.

Vonn is the comeback story of the Games. She won gold and bronze in Vancouver but injuries kept her out of Sochi; she went through intense rehab to return to the top of the sport. She took bronze in the downhill Wednesday, finishing 0.47 seconds behind her Italian rival Sofia Goggia, who won gold.

This will likely be the only time she and Shiffrin race each other on the world’s biggest stage — Vonn indicated she will not return to the Olympics in 2022.

How to Watch: The downhill run starts at 8:30 p.m. CT. It will also be shown live during NBC's primtime Olympics coverage. Click here to watch on digital platforms. The slalom run starts at 12 a.m. CT Thursday. It will also be shown during NBC's prime-plus Olympics coverage. Click here to watch on digital platforms.

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Big Air’s Big Finish

The first big air snowboarding competition at the Olympics will conclude Thursday (Wednesday night in the U.S.) with more of the soaring spins that made the women’s qualifying rounds so fun to watch.

[NBCO-GalleryFeed] Model Olympian: Jamie Anderson

But in the calm weather during qualifying, Austrian Anna Gasser set the big air bar very high, corkscrewing herself around three times as she flew through the air and getting a 98 from judges. A pair of Japanese snowboarders, Yuka Fujimori and Reira Iwabuchi, rounded out the top three on Monday.

Jamie Anderson, after notching a 90 in qualifying, could be the American to beat her. She knows how to win at the Olympics, taking her second slopestyle gold last week.

How to Watch: The competition starts at 6:30 p.m. CT. Click here to watch on digital platforms.

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Women’s Hockey Grudge Match

Getty Images
Kacey Bellamy #22 of the United States skates after a goal in the first period against Sweden during the Women's Ice Hockey Playoffs Semifinal game on day ten of the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics at Shayba Arena on February 17, 2014 in Sochi, Russia. (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)

The American women who suit up for USA Hockey had Feb. 22 circled on their calendars as soon as the 2018 Olympic schedule was announced. It’s the day of the women’s hockey gold medal game, when they can get revenge over Canada.

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Look at the Olympics head-to-head and Canada has the clear advantage over the U.S. They've won four gold medals to Team USA’s one, and beat the U.S. in pool play last week, 2-1.

But the Americans believe they should have won gold in 2014, when Canada rallied from two goals down with less than four minutes to play and won in overtime.

"This is the game we've been dreaming of and to have another opportunity to get back here, it's huge," star Hilary Knight said after the team punched its ticket to yet another final.

How to Watch: The puck drops at 10:10 p.m. CT. You can watch live on NBCSN. Click here to watch on digital platforms.

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Sweeping the Halfipe?

Four years ago, an American won gold in the men’s ski halfpipe. This year, Americans stand a good chance of sweeping all three medals.

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But it would be smart to bet on Wise, who took gold in the event at the Sochi Olympics and at last month's X Games, sealing that winning run with a 1260-degree spin. (The two other guys on that X Games podium? Ferreira and Yater-Wallace.)

But the rest of the world knows how to throw down at the Olympics, too. Canada’s Mike Riddle won silver in Sochi and Kevin Rolland, "the Flying Frenchman," got the bronze. They’ll be in the final, too.

Regular ski halfpipe viewers will be keeping an eye out for any competitors who don’t try any tricks at all, like Elizabeth Swaney, a California woman of Hungarian descent who only managed to peek above the lip of the halfpipe on her run, winning equal parts fascination and condemnation for competing in the Olympics.

How to Watch: The men's ski halfpipe starts at 8:30 p.m. CT. It will also be shown during NBC's primetime Olympics coverage. Click here to watch on digital platforms.

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Third Gold’s the Charm

The last day of individual Alpine skiing at the 2018 Winter Games could bring a moment of rare greatness.

Austria’s Marcel Hirscher won the Alpine combined and giant slalom events already, and he’ll be in men’s slalom on Thursday (Wednesday night in the U.S.).

Only three people have won three Alpine gold medals at the Olympics, the last in 2002, so another gold for Hirscher would be a big deal. Fortunately for Hirscher, slalom is his best event. Six of his 10 world cup victories since December have come in slalom.

[NBCO-GalleryFeed] Model Olympian: Ted Ligety

How to Watch: The first run starts at 7 p.m. CT. It will also be shown live in NBC's primtime Olympics coverage. Click here to watch on digital platforms. The second run starts at 10:30 p.m CT and will be shown during NBC's prime-plus Olympic coverage. Click here to watch on digital platforms.  

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