Winter Olympics: 2018 the year the Kiwis fly in Pyeonchang

The 21-strong NZ team is the largest in history.
The 21-strong NZ team is the largest in history. Photo credit: Getty

They start in just a few days - but should we be getting excited about the Winter Olympics?

While events like cricket's tri series will be huge for some, Pyeongchang promises to be a multi-sport extravaganza, with North Korea and the ongoing Russian doping scandal adding even more spice and intrigue.

International careers will be made and broken from February 9-25, with more than 100 gold medals being handed out.

Like most Olympics, they are a slow burn. Invariably, it takes a few days to get into the competition, then suddenly the ski jumping, the half pipe, the speed skating, the ice dancing, the skeleton racing and the biathlon turn into everyday conversations at work and home.

There is a novelty about what they do and a genuine admiration for the skill they have.

This is the year for the New Zealand team. At 21, it is our biggest-ever Winter Olympics team and this time, they need to front up.

It's not just about justifying the investment in the athletes - it is about sporting credibility.

Everyone knows the only winter medal we have ever won is a silver at Albertville, thanks to Annelise Coberger, way back in 1992. 

Since then, there have been some fourths, with Jossi Wells the most recent, in the half pipe at Sochi four years ago. 

But fourths, however meritorious, just don't cut with Kiwi punters - they want medals.

So where will they come from, potentially?

The three speed skaters - third-time Olympian Shane Dobbin, Pete Michael and Reyon Kay - are rated a massive chance.

XXXX competes in the XXXXX on day one during the ISU World Cup Speed Skating held at Thialf on November 10, 2017 in Heerenveen, Netherlands.
Photo credit: Getty

They stay under the radar in New Zealand, due to the fact they train in Calgary and other far-flung places around the globe.

But in the team pursuit, they have been medallists at four World Cups and were second at the world championships, at the very venue where the Olympics are being held.

We have heard this before, of course, with the short track skaters in 1992 and they finished fourth. The dreaded fourth!

They will compete in individual events, as well.

And there are plenty of other chances - Janina Kuzma was fifth at Sochi in the freeski halfpipe, snowboarder Zoi Sadowski Sinnott is a huge talent at just 16-years-old and could medal in the slopestyle or the big air.

Members of the New Zealand Olympic team.
Members of the New Zealand Olympic team. Photo credit: Getty

Then there are young freeskiers like the three Wells brothers and the Porteous  brothers, along with snowboarders Carlos Garcia Knight and Tiarn Collins.

Jamie Prebble in the skier cross - on his day, he's beaten some of the world's best, but like the others, this time, he has to beat the best on the biggest stage of them all.

It sounds like a cop-out, but so much of what they do is on the day. A gust of wind, a slightly misjudged landing, an over-rotation can be the difference between a medal and finishing outside the top 10. 

Favourites often get beaten in this event, because playing it safe just doesn't cut it.

This is generally a very young team with many, many more Olympics in them, but the public is impatient for results.

Someone needs to win something or no matter what they do, the Games will not be deemed a success.

And that's what the Olympics are - cut-throat.

With 95 nations and 3000 athletes, it won't be easy.

Reporter David Di Somma is in Pyeongchang for Newshub.