Though it seems the Rio Olympics just concluded, the short Summer to Winter Olympics turnaround means the Pyeongchang Games in 2018 are only a year away. Here’s a look at the story lines to follow in the next 365 days:
Will NHL players compete in Pyeongchang?
This is one of the biggest looming issues heading into the Olympic year. The NHL, NHL Players’ Association, International Ice Hockey Federation and International Olympic Committee have not come to an agreement about whether the pros will compete in a sixth consecutive Olympics.
Though the players favor Olympic participation, NHL owners are reluctant for players to compete because of the challenges of a season shutdown, concerns about injuries and the IOC’s resistance to covering out-of-pocket payments for players to attend.
The IIHF has said it has a way to cover the costs, but all four parties met in New York this month without a resolution.
“The question is still out there as to who is going to participate and which athletes will be participating, so we’re kind of waiting just like everyone else in terms of how this all sorts itself out,” said Alan Ashley, the U.S. Olympic Committee’s chief of sport performance.
“We have a Plan A and a Plan B, and we’ll be ready for whatever the outcome is and do our very best to make sure our hockey team’s ready to go.”
Will USA keep dominating the X Games-type events?
In Sochi, the sports of snowboarding and freeskiing led the way for the Americans. They won 11 of their 28 medals there, with the addition of slopestyle snowboarding and freeskiing halfpipe and slopestyle for the first time.
The IOC continues its addition of XGames-type events with snowboard big air being contested for the first time, meaning the strong U.S. team has six more shots at medals.
Besides veteran riders such as Shaun White, Kelly Clark and Jamie Anderson — all of whom have at least one Olympic gold medal — the U.S. team features a roster of young talent.
Snowboarding teenagers Hailey Langland and Julia Marino each have two X Games medals and would likely compete in slopestyle and big air.
In freeskiing, halfpipe gold medalists Maddie Bowman and David Wise are likely to return, as is the trio that swept the slopestyle podium in Sochi in 2014 — Joss Christensen, Gus Kenworthy and Nick Goepper.
But no American is likely to be a bigger star than snowboarder Chloe Kim.
The 16-year-old qualified mathematically for Sochi but was too young to go. Since then, she has become the first woman to land back-to-back 1080s in the halfpipe. A streak of eight consecutive wins in the last two seasons ended with a bronze in the X Games last month.
And the event will have a family feel for Kim. Her parents emigrated from South Korea, and Kim still has relatives there.
How will Vonn and Shiffrin look?
Lindsey Vonn and Mikaela Shiffrin have been the face of Alpine skiing in the USA, and both look to pick up more Olympic hardware in Pyeongchang.
Vonn, a veteran at 32, won two medals in Vancouver in 2010 but could not compete in Sochi after reinjuring a knee in the lead-up to the Games.
Since breaking her arm in late 2016, Vonn has returned and is chasing the World Cup career record of 86 wins held by Sweden’s Ingemar Stenmark.
She has 77 and says that record and another Olympic gold are among her remaining career goals.
Shiffrin, meanwhile, is trying to wrap up her first World Cup overall title at 21. The Sochi Olympic slalom champion heads into the world championships this month with a focus on getting high-quality training on her best events — slalom and giant slalom — and could add more to her schedule in Pyeongchang.
“I’m trying to set myself up to be a medal contender in three or maybe even four events, which would really be incredible,” Shiffrin said.
What impact will Russia’s doping scandal have?
The Russian doping scandal overshadowed the 2016 Summer Olympics, with anti-doping organizations leading the call for the country to be banned after two investigations commissioned by the World Anti-Doping Agency revealed widespread doping in Russian sports.
Further revelations from the second investigation revealed by Canadian lawyer Richard McLaren in December have prompted calls for Russia to be banned from Pyeongchang.
McLaren revealed details of a Russian system that involved more than 1,000 athletes who subverted anti-doping procedures for at least two Olympics, including through the tampering of samples in Sochi.
While not naming individual athletes, McLaren’s report found that 15 Russians who won medals in the Sochi Olympics had their samples tampered with in an effort to avoid having positive drug tests.
Russia finished on top of the overall medal count with 33, including 13 golds.
WADA has given information on individual athletes to their sports’ international federations, and hundreds of anti-doping cases are likely to follow. A group of leaders from national anti-doping organizations have called for Russia to be banned from Pyeongchang if the country remains out of compliance with the world anti-doping code.
The IOC is following up on the McLaren investigation and doing further retesting, though it seems likely to resist a broader ban.
In making its decision for Rio, the IOC said it sought to balance collective responsibility with individual justice.
Will Pyeongchang be ready in time?
As with every Olympics, questions about venue readiness will persist until the opening ceremony. But early reports indicate local organizers are prepared.
Several sports have had or will soon have test events in South Korea.
“Things look good. The venues in particular are in really great shape,” Ashley said, adding he had seen accommodations in both the coastal and mountain village. “Those are in full swing as well and are actually in pretty good shape. We were able to tour some of the rooms that the athletes will use, and, overall, I would say the venues themselves and the villages are really coming together well.”
The biggest question mark will be a high-speed train expected to transport people from the airport in Seoul to Pyeongchang. That’s expected to be completed in December.