4 to Watch: After History and Heartbreak, Winter Games End With Closing Ceremony

The closing ceremony wraps up nearly three weeks of highs, lows and world-class competition at the Winter Olympics

One of the iconic moments for Team USA in these Pyeongchang Olympics was Jessie Diggins pushing down the stretch during the women’s team sprint to earn America’s first-ever cross country gold medal. So it’s fitting that Diggins will end the Olympics by carrying the American flag in Pyeongchang Olympic Stadium during the closing ceremonies.

But before Diggins leads Team USA out of the Olympics, there are more medals to be awarded: The host country’s "Garlic Girls "go for gold in women’s curling and the not-Russians go for gold in men’s hockey. The United States will try to spoil a Canada-Germany rematch in the bobsled, and Norway will try to add to an already-historic Olympic medal haul.

Here are the events to watch as the competition ends in Pyeongchang.

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1. History-Making Gold Medalist Carries the Red, White and Blue

Jessie Diggins, from Minnesota, captured the United States' first-ever women’s cross-country skiing medal when she and teammate Kikkan Randall won gold in the freestyle team event. Now, the 26-year-old will be the first country-country skier to carry the U.S. flag in the Winter Games’ closing ceremonies.

“I actually thought there maybe had been a mistake. I was like, `What? I can’t believe this,’” Diggins said on the “Today" show. “It is so humbling, and I feel so honored to have been picked.”

Some of the star power will be in the stands, where President Donald’s Trump’s daughter, Ivanka, will lead the U.S. delegation. The opening ceremony spotlight was on the mysterious Kim Yo-jong, the sister of the North Korean leader, Kim Jong Un, who was dubbed “North Korea’s Ivanka.” Will the real Ivanka Trump be able to seize some of that limelight?

 As for entertainment, expect K-pop stars CL and the boy band EXO.

Watch the closing ceremony Sunday at 5 p.m. on NBC or on digital platforms.

Watch the closing ceremony live (natural sound only) at 3 a.m. on digital platforms.

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2. Russians Skate for Elusive Hockey Gold Against Surprising Germany

The Soviet Union won the hockey gold medal in the Olympics seven times between 1956 and 1988. The Unified Team, a team of post-Soviet players, won the gold medal in 1992. And when the Russians play for the gold medal on Sunday, they will be competing as OAR, the Olympic Athletes from Russia.

So the Russians are trying to win a ninth hockey gold medal while never actually winning one for Russia.

After failing to win a gold medal at the last six Olympics (regardless of their name), and failing to win any medal at the last three, the Pyeongchang games seemed to be Russia’s best chance in decades. With the National Hockey League missing in action — it refused to allow its players to participate in the Olympics — the Russians entered the tournament as the heavy favorite.

 “We’ve been striving for this for years,” said Oleg Znarok, Russia’s coach.

But because of a doping scandal that impacted the country’s entire Olympic program, the Russian national team has been banned from these Olympics — hence the Olympic Athletes from Russia name. If they beat Germany, the Russian flag will not be raised, and the Russian national anthem will not play. .

They face a surprising German team in the gold medal match. The Germans upset Canada in the semifinals, 4-3.

The Russians haven’t needed upsets to reach the finals. After losing to Slovakia 3-2 in its opening game, the Russians won four consecutive games by a combined score of 21-3, including a 6-1 win over Norway in the quarterfinals and a 3-0 win over the Czech Republic in the semifinals. In pool play, the Russians beat the United States, 4-0.

Watch live on NBCSN at 7:30 p.m. Saturday or on digital platforms.

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3. #GarlicGirls Trend as an Internet Meme But They’re Tuned Out

South Korea’s curling team heads into the final against Sweden, the culmination of a surprise winning streak that has brought them to the top of the rankings and in contention for the gold.

Dubbed the “Garlic Girls” for their hometown’s locally grown garlic, they are a phenomenon not just on the ice, but on social media, too, where fans search for their nicknames and distinctive eyewear.

But the women apparently don’t know what superstars they’ve become. They’ve turned off their phones for the duration of the Games to keep their focus. 

Watch live on NBCSN at 4:05 p.m. or on digital platforms.

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4. Pyeongchang’s Final Event: Cross Country 30km Mass Start Classic

Perhaps it’s only fitting that the final event of these Pyeongchang games gives Norway one more chance to add to its record-setting Olympics.

Entering the final stretch of competition, Norway had 37 total medals, tied for the most ever in the Winter Olympics. That includes 13 golds, 14 silvers and 10 bronze.

Norway could add two more medals in the final event, the women’s cross country 30km mass start classic, as Marit Bjoergen and Heidi Weng could both finish on the podium. Bjoergen is already the most decorated winter athlete ever, with 14 total medals, including four (a gold, a silver and two bronze) in Pyeongchang.

Sweden’s Charlotte Kalla could pose the biggest challenge for the Norwegians.

Watch on digital platforms at 10:15 p.m. Sunday. 

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