SOCHI -- On Sunday the most gilded American alpine skier will race in what will be his third and almost certainly final Olympic downhill. One of the signature events of the Winter Olympics, the men's downhill begins Sunday at 2:00 a.m. ET at the Rosa Khutor Alpine Center in Krasnaya Polyana, Russia, with the 36-year-old Bode Miller -- competing in his fifth Olympic Games, which is the most of any U.S. alpine skier -- once again a threat to make history.
“He will fly down the demanding hill, racing the clock and dozens of other skiers (very few of whom are capable of winning the race or any of the three medals), and a few seconds more than two minutes after pushing out of the start house he will slam his skis to a stop in the finish area, one race closer to the end of a remarkable and remarkably complex Olympic career,” wrote SI’s Tim Layden about Miller.
He’s one of the athletes to watch on a day where medals will be awarded in the biathlon (women’s 7.5 km sprint), cross-country skiing (men’s 30 km skiathon), figure skating (team competition), snowboarding (women’s slopestyle), ski jumping (men’s normal hill) and long-track speed skating (women’s 3000).
What to watch (all times in Eastern Standard Time)
• WOMEN'S SNOWBOARDING SLOPESTYLE: American X-Games champion Jamie Anderson duels Canada’s Spencer O’Brien in the first-ever Olympic women’s slopestyle snowboarding competition. The semifinal starts at 1:30 a.m., with the finals beginning at 4:45 a.m. Anderson and fellow American Karly Shorr automatically qualified out of the preliminaries for the final, while fellow Americans Jessika Jenson and 16-year-old Ty Walker advanced to Sunday’s semifinals.
• MEN'S DOWNHILL SKIING: World champion Aksel Lund Svindal of Norway was the pre-Olympics favorite for the men’s downhill (which starts at 2:00 a.m.) but Miller announced himself as a serious threat by winning the men's first downhill training run on Thursday morning in two minutes and 07.75 seconds. Other contenders include Switzerland’s Patrick Kueng, Canada’s Erik Guay, Christof Innerhofer of Italy and American Marco Sullivan. Travis Ganong and Steven Nyman are the other U.S. representatives competing today.
• MEN'S CROSS-COUNTRY SKIING: Russia’s Alexander Legkov is SI’s pick to win gold home in the men’s 15 km classic + 15 km freeskiing skiathlon (5:00 a.m.) Norway’s Martin Johnsrud Sundby and Switzerland’s Dario Cologna and defending champion Marcus Hellner of Sweden are the other favorites at the Laura Cross-Country Ski and Biathlon Center. Eric Bjornsen, Kris Freeman, Brian Gregg and Noah Hoffman will compete for the U.S.
• WOMEN'S LONG-TRACK SPEED SKATING: The women’s 3000 meter long-track speed skating competition hits Adler Arena as a duel between Ireen Wust of the Netherlands (she won the event in Turin) and defending Olympic champion Martina Sablikova of Czech Republic. But don’t count out 41-year-old Claudia Pechstein, Germany’s most decorated Winter Olympian and a five-time gold medalist. Sablikova is aiming to become the second speed skater to win the 3000 in successive Olympic Winter Games (Lidia Skoblikova of the Soviet Union, 1960 and 1964). The event starts at 6:30 a.m. Anna Ringsred and Jilleanne Rookard will compete for the U.S.
• WOMEN'S ICE HOCKEY: Women’s hockey prelims continue at Shayba Arena with Sweden-Japan (3:00 a.m.) and Russia-Germany (8:00 a.m.).
• WOMEN'S BIATHLON: The women’s biathlon 7.5k sprint (9:30 a.m.) features Norwegian star Tora Berger, who could win six medals in Sochi. She’s the favorite here along with Belarusian biathlete Darya Domracheva. U.S. athlete Lanny Barnes made the U.S. team after twin sister Tracy ceded her position so that Lanny (who was ill during some key trials events) could compete in Sochi.
• TEAM FIGURE SKATING: The team figure skating competition at Iceberg Skating Palace concludes with the men’s and women’s free skate and the dance free skate. The standings at the moment look like this: Russia (47 points), Canada (41), the United States (34), Italy (31) and Japan (30). Russia’s 15-year-old rising star Julia Lipnitskaya brought the house down with her short program on Saturday night. The team competition begins with the free skate portion of the program at 10:05 a.m.
• MEN'S LUGE: Germany’s Felix Loch, the defending Olympic champ finished his first two trips down the Sanki Center Sliding track in 1 minute, 44.149 seconds and leads Russia’s Albert Demchenko (1:44.443) in the men’s singles luge competition. Italy’s Armin Zoeggeler is in third place at (1:44.893). Zoeggeler won bronze in men's singles at Lillehammer, silver at Nagano, gold at Salt Lake City and Torino, and bronze at Vancouver 2010, and he's currently tied with Georg Hackl for the most Olympic luge medals; Loch has won four of the last five world championship titles in this event. Christopher Mazdzer of the U.S. was 13th after the first two rounds. The final round begins today at 11:40 a.m.
• MEN'S SKI JUMPING: SI’s pick to win gold in the men’s normal hill ski jump (final round: 12:35 p.m.) is Anders Bardal of Norway. Slovenia’s Peter Prevc, Austria’s Gregor Schlierenzauer and Germany’s Thomas Diethart are also medal contenders. Simon Ammann, the 2010 Olympic champion, would be the first ski jumper to win five Olympic medals if he hits the podium. Anders Johnson, Peter Frenette and Nick Alexander are the American representatives in the event.
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By the numbers
62 -- Years since an American athlete won the first gold medal at a Winter Olympics (Andrea Mead Lawrence won the giant slalom at the 1952 Olympics in Oslo.)
10 -- Markets (ranked in order) that had the highest TV ratings for NBC’s coverage of the Opening Ceremony: 1. Minneapolis; 2. Salt Lake City; 3. Ft. Myers; 4. Chicago; 5. Boston; 6. Kansas City; 7. Milwaukee; 8. Denver; 9. 10. Buffalo.
1 -- Speedskater (Germany’s Claudia Pechstein) who can become the first athlete in any sport to win at least one medal at six Olympic Winter Games. She skates today in the 3,000.
Around the web
Here are five Olympic stories you’ll be talking about today:
- How Norway Scores So Much Olympic Gold (By Ellen Emmerentze Jervell, Wall Street Journal) -- Great piece on how a country with only five million people has won more than 300 Winter Olympic medals.
- Russians Think We're Engaging in Olympic Schadenfreude. They're Right. (By Julie Ioffe, The New Republic) -- Russians are slamming the Western Press in Sochi for feeding anti-Russian sentiment; the writer sides with the Russians.
- I Was A Tonya Harding Look-Alike (By Lynn Harris for The New York Times Magazine) -- But the did the gig come with a 401K?
- Mythbusting: Russia, Putin and why the Sochi Olympic Games matter (By Alan Yuhas, The Guardian) -- Russia is complicated, says the writer, so let’s treat it that way.
- Meet the genius behind @SochiProblems Twitter sensation (By Greg Wyshynski, Yahoo! Sports) -- The genius is a 20-year-old college student from Toronto.