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What to look out for at the 2018 Winter Olympics in South Korea

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What to look out for at the 2018 Winter Olympics in South Korea

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Europe’s sports lovers are set to be warmed this month as the Winter Olympics slides onto their screens from South Korea.

The extravaganza — which officially runs from February 9 to February 25 — will likely reignite interest in skiing, curling and other marginal winter sports.

More than 2,900 athletes from 92 nations are set to compete in 102 different sporting events at PyeongChang 2018.

With so much packed into little more than two weeks, here is our guide to what to look out for in South Korea.

Early days

With South Korea eight hours ahead of Europe, ardent Olympics fans might have to wake earlier or stay-up late to catch the action.

There is also some action ahead of the opening ceremony on Friday, February 9.

Curling gets underway on February 8 at just after midnight Central European Time, as well as qualification events for ski jumping later in the day.

The ski jumpers that get eliminated at this stage face going home around 24 hours before the opening ceremony has even taken place.

Korea combined

All eyes will be on the ice hockey on the first official day of action: Saturday, February 10.

That is because the first unified Korean women’s team — featuring players from North Korea and South Korea — will take on Switzerland.

North Korea, one of the world’s most secretive societies, has long been at odds with its southern neighbour, with whom it went to war with in the 1950s.

But relations have seemingly thawed in recent months after North Korea leader, Kim Jong Un, said he was willing to open up discussions with Seoul.

That lead to both countries deciding to compete together in a unified hockey team.

But the move has not been without controversy. Many South Koreans have complained the team — the only such joint one to be formed between the two countries — was unfair to the South Korean players.

Caribbean cool

Remember the 1993 film ‘Cool Runnings’? It was loosely-based on the true story of Jamaica’s bobsleigh team making its debut at the 1988 Winter Olympics in Calgary, Canada.

Well, three decades on, it’s the women’s turn. A female team from the Caribbean island have qualified for South Korea.

It’s not just Jamaican women making history: three women from Nigeria will be the first people to represent Africa’s most populous country at a Winter Olympics.

The trio — Seun Adigun, Ngozi Onwumere and Akuoma Omeoga — make up the Super Eagles women's bobsleigh team.

Pita Pacific pride?

Watch out for the athlete who enjoyed Brazil so much he taught himself a new sport to get back to the Olympics in double-quick time.

Pita Taufatofua, who represented Tonga in taekwondo at the 2016 Rio Olympics, has switched sports to compete in South Korea next month.

The 34-year-old, who’s oiled and muscular body attracted attention during the opening ceremony in Brazil, has become a cross-country skier.

He nailed a last-chance opportunity to qualify last month having only taken up the sport in late 2016.

New blood

There are four new events at this year’s Winter Olympics.

‘Snowboard big air’ sees competitors ride down a steep slope, fly off a large ramp and perform various tricks while in the air.

There is also an attempt to sex-up speed skating with the introduction of a ‘mass start format’: 24 athletes will line up to fight for gold.

There is also mixed curling — a woman and a man competing in each team — and the introduction of a team element to alpine skiing.

There will also be six nations making their Winter Olympics debuts: Ecuador, Eritrea, Kosovo, Malaysia, Nigeria and Singapore.