TEAM USA'S SWEENEY AIMS FOR FIRST OLYMPIC FINISH
The big story this year: Emily Sweeney returns to the Games following a near-fatal crash at PyeongChang 2018 that broke several of her vertebrae.
Blazing over 60 miles per hour during her final heat, Sweeney's sled spun out of control. The luger skidded from one side of the track to the other, eventually bouncing against a wall of ice, flying off her vessel, and tumbling down the course.
"I was actually having a pretty awesome run up until that point," Sweeney told NBC. "I just came out, and knew it was too far. It was kind of the perfect storm."
Simply completing four runs on the Yanqing National Sliding Centre's notoriously serpentine track (often referred to as "The Snow Dragon" or "The Flying Snow Dragon") will be a big win for Sweeney. But she has the potential to do much more: After all, the American finished third in singles at the 2019 World Championships.
Making her Olympic debut, Utah's 22-year-old Ashley Farquharson could shock the field after finishing 8th at the Olympic test event.
Aside from Sweeney, Pennsylvania's 27-year-old Summer Britcher is the other U.S. female luger with Olympic experience. She placed 15th at Sochi 2014 and 19th at PyeongChang 2018.
But even during the 2018 Games, the inconsistent Britcher demonstrated what she's capable of at her best: She managed the fastest Run 2, and the eighth-fastest Run 3.
A year later, Britcher would finish third in the 2018-19 World Cup overall standings - behind only Geisenberger and Taubitz. Following the most recent World Cup series, Britcher ranked the highest of all American women in 11th place.
Those World Cup standings are perhaps the best indicator of where things stand just ahead of the Olympics: Farquharson tied for 15th, and Sweeney - who missed four of the 12 total races - placed 19th.
GERMANY GOES FOR SEVENTH CONSECUTIVE GOLD
Coming off a big win - some might say return to form - for Germany in the men's singles category, the country now seeks to continue the longest active streak in the Winter Olympics by earning a seventh consecutive women's singles gold.
If Germany's lugers are lucky, they could sweep the podium for the first time since Torino 2006.
Natalie Geisenberger, Julia Taubitz, and Anna Berreiter went 2-3-4 in the 2021-22 Luge World Cup, respectively. Geisenberger is the veteran: After a bronze medal debut at Vancouver 2010, the 34-year-old (who celebrated a birthday on Saturday) won both the singles and team relay events at Sochi 2014, then repeated with two more golds at PyeongChang 2018.
Taubitz and Berreiter are new to the Winter Games. That does not, however, make them novices. Taubitz is the reigning world champion, while Berreiter has amassed seven World Cup medals - three of them gold.
Will it be Geisenberger's revenge? Taubitz taking the lead? Or is it Berreiter's time to shine?
Or will Austria's Madeleine Egle somehow manage to edge out both German speedsters?
The 23-year-old Egle may be the only woman luger able to best Germany's power players. She made her Olympic debut in 2018, helping Austria win bronze in team relay. Egle has upped her game over the last four years, earning team relay gold at the 2021 World Championships and - most significantly - topping the women's singles division in the 2021-22 Luge World Cup series.
But Olympic success is far from guaranteed. After all, her margin of victory across all nine World Cup races was a whopping two points over second-place finisher Taubitz.