What to watch for at the Olympics: Tuesday, Feb. 11
SOCHI -- “Shaun White is not here to have fun,” writes SI’s Austin Murphy about the Halfpipe King. “He’s here to dominate, and collect his third straight gold medal. His decision to pull out of slopestyle on the eve of the Olympics improved his chances for a three-peat, but smudged his image, ever so slightly. A pair of Canadian slopestylers basically called him chicken. He was criticized for squandering an Olympic berth that might have gone to a fellow American.”
Murphy says that tempest will fade quickly should White prevail on Tuesday in the men’s halfpipe, where he remains the odds-on favorite to repeat his success in Turin and Vancouver. But the future of the sport is coming including talented Swiss rider Iouri (the iPod) Podladtchikov and his signature YOLO (You Only Live Once) Flip.
White, at 27, is one of the headliners of a day where medals will also be handed out in biathlon (women’s 10k pursuit), cross-country (men’s and women’s sprint free final), freestyle skiing (women’s slopestyle), luge (women’s singles), ski jumping (women’s), snowboard (men’s half pipe), and speedskating (women’s 500).
What to watch (all times in Eastern Standard Time)
• WOMEN'S SLOPESTYLE: The debut of women’s slopestyle comes today with Canada’s Dara Howell, American Keri Herman and Germany’s Lisa Zimmerman as SI’s medal picks. American Devin Logan is also a contender. The competition starts at 1:00 a.m.
• WOMEN'S SKI JUMPING: Women’s ski jumping makes its Olympic debut after an arduous battle to land on the program. “For the first time in history, 30 women representing 12 nations will fly off the Russian mountainside to compete for an Olympic medal, writes SI’s Sarah Kwak. “The world will watch -- and it’ll be hailed a victory for women, for equality, for sport -- without knowing the frustrating journey it took to climb this 90-meter hill and the fight that must go on.” The American to watch is 19-year-old former world champion Sarah Hendrickson, who is coming back from reconstructive surgery on her right knee that she injured in August, The woman who soared in Hendrickson’s absence is Japan’s Sara Takanashi, just 17. Austria’s Daniela Iraschko-Stolz, Germany’s Carina Vogt will also be contenders. The qualification round starts at 5:00 a.m. and the semifinals come at 7:00 a.m. The finals come after the semis. Lindsey Van and Jessica Jerome will also compete for the U.S.
• MEN'S HALFPIPE: The darling of NBC producers hits the marquee as halfpipe icon Shaun White attempts to become the first American man to three-peat at a Winter Olympics. The two times defending Olympic champ will be challenged by Japan’s 15-year-old star Ayumu Hirano and Podladtchikov. Greg Bretz, Danny Davis and Taylor Gold will also compete for the U.S. Qualifying starts at 5:00 a.m. and will run through 1:00 p.m. including semis and finals.
• WOMEN'S CROSS-COUNTRY SKIING: The U.S. could make history in the women’s cross-country sprint freestyle with Kikkan Randall, who is SI’s pick for gold. No U.S. cross-country skier has ever won an Olympic medal. Norway’s Marit Bjoergen became the most successful female Norwegian Olympian at these Olympics, winning her fourth gold medal to surpass figure skater Sonja Henie. If Bjoergen wins this race, she’d be just one gold medal behind the record for most golds (6) by a female Winter Olympian. That record is currently shared by Russian cross-country skier Lyubov Yegorova and Russian speed skater Lidia Skoblikova. The competition begins at 5:00 a.m.
• WOMEN'S HOCKEY: Women’s hockey preliminaries continue with Germany-Sweden (5:00 a.m.) and Russia-Japan (10:00 a.m.).
• CURLING: Curling qualification takes place all day, starting at midnight with Russia-United States in the women’s competition. The American men play China at 5:00 a.m. while the U.S. return to the Ice Cube Curling Center for a meeting with Great Britain at 10:00 a.m.
• MEN'S CROSS-COUNTRY SKIING: The men’s cross-country sprint freestyle could be a win for the home country with Russia’s Nikita Kriukov, one of the favorites today. Italy’s Federico Pellegrino, Canada’s Alex Harvey, Norway’s Petter Northug and Sweden’s Marcus Hellner are also contenders. Andy Newell is the top U.S. sprinter. The qualification round starts at 5:25 a.m. and the semifinals and finals come after the conclusion of the women’s cross-country sprint.
• WOMEN'S SHORT-TRACK SPEED SKATING: SI’s pick for the women’s 500-meter long-track speedskating is Lee Sang-hwa of South Korea but watch out for U.S. skater Heather Richardson, who has a strong chance for a medal. Lee has won all seven 500-meter World Cup races that she entered this season, with Olga Fatkulina of Russia winning the only other race. Brittany Bowe, Lauren Cholewinski and Sugar Todd will also compete for the U.S. The final is set for 9:34 a.m.
• FIGURE SKATING: The Pairs short program takes place at Iceberg Arena (10:00 a.m.) with Russian reigning world champion Tatiana Volosozhar and Maxim Trankov as the heavy favorites. Vancouver bronze medalists Aliona Savchenko and Robin Szolkowy of Germany will also be a factor. American skaters Marissa Casetilli and Simon Shnapir and Felicia Zhang and Nathan Bartholomay are not expected to medal. The long program comes Wednesday night.
• WOMEN'S BIATHLON: SI’s pick for gold in the women’s biathlon 10km pursuit is Finland’s Kaisa Makarainen. Norway’s Tora Berger and Ukraine’s Vaji Semerenko are also major contenders. Susan Dunklee will compete for the U.S. The race starts at 10:00 a.m. at Biathlon Stadium.
• WOMEN'S LUGE: Women’s luge, as always, is Germany versus the world. World champion Natalie Geisenberger leads countrywoman and defending Olympic champion Tatjana Huefner by .264 seconds halfway through the singles event, but the big surprise is American Erin Hamlin sits in third place (.only 0.052 behind Huefner). Kate Hansen and Summer Britcher are the other Americans competing. The third run is scheduled for 9:30 a.m. The fourth and final run is set for 11:10 a.m.
TWEET OF THE DAY
By the numbers
61 -- Degrees Fahrenheit in Sochi, Russia on Monday.
8 -- Medals won (out of possible 12) for the United States in the brief history of Olympic halfpipe.
6 -- Winter Olympics for Nordic combined skier Todd Lodwick, the most for any American at a Winter Olympics along with bobsledder Brian Shimer, luger Mark Grimmette, and skier Casey Puckett.
4 -- Career Olympic medals for Julia Mancuso, the most decorated woman in U.S. Olympic alpine skiing. Mancuso won a gold medal in the giant slalom at Turin in 2006, and silvers in the downhill and super combined at Vancouver in 2010.
Around the web
Here are five Olympic stories you’ll be talking about today:
• Sochi’s softened State of Security (By Paul Sonne and Anton Troianovski, Wall Street Journal)
The Wall Street Journal examines the security within Olympic Park.
• Glasnost at Glacial Pace: Russian Hockey Breaks Silence (By David Segal, The New York Times)
The cold war between Russian hockey players and the news media is slowly thawing.
• Russia Has Gone Bonkers For Biathlon (By Anton Troianovski and Paul Sonne, Wall Street Journal)
“Says Dmitry Guberniev, the boisterous announcer of Russia's wildly-popular biathlon: ‘I feel sorry for the Americans. Maybe all the chicken wings they eat during the American football final prevent them from understanding the biathlon.’”
• IOC: Black Armbands, Helmet Stickers Not Allowed (By Steven Wilson, Associated Press)
The IOC is telling Olympic athletes they may not wear armbands or stickers during competition to commemorate the dead.
• Ole Einar Bjoerndalen: The greatest Olympian you've never heard of (By Nick Zaccardi, NBCOlympics.com)
Meet the Biathlon King of Norway.