SOCHI— It is the best rivalry in sports we rarely see. The United States and Canada meet Wednesday in women’s hockey for a preview of what is likely to be the gold medal game on Feb. 20.
“For once, this won’t be for all the marbles,” writes SI’s Sarah Kwak. “This won’t be a game that divides ultimate victory from inconsolable defeat. It won’t end with gloves flung high in the air, a joyful national anthem, flag-waving or champagne celebrations. Instead, for the first time ever, the U.S. and Canadian women’s hockey teams will meet in the Olympics without a gold medal on the line Wednesday afternoon at Shayba Arena.”
The U.S.-Canada tussle is one of the showcased events in Sochi on a day when medals will be handed out in alpine skiing (women’s downhill), figure skating (pairs), luge (doubles), Nordic combined (normal hill), snowboard (women halfpipe) and speed skating (men’s 1000 meters).
What to watch (all times in Eastern Standard Time)
• WOMEN'S ALPINE SKIING: The women’s downhill (2:00 a.m.) would have gotten monster play Stateside had 2010 Olympic gold medalist Lindsey Vonn been here, but with Vonn on the couch for NBC’s Today show, the Europeans are the main focus. SI’s picks for the podium: Germany’s Maria Hoefl-Riesch, Switzerland’s Marianne Kaufmann-Abderhalden and Slovenia’s Tina Maze. Lara Gut of Switzerland and Austria’s Anna Fenninger also should factor in the race.
The American to watch in the race is Julia Mancuso, who had the best downhill time in the combined and ultimately claimed a bronze medal in the event. Stacy Cook will also compete for the U.S. Hoefl-Riesch can join Croatia’s Janica Kostelic and Norway's Kjetil Andre Aamodt as skiers who have won a record four gold medals if she wins. Hoefl-Riesch took gold in the women’s super combined on Monday.
• MEN'S CURLING: The fourth round-robin session in curling takes place today with the men’s team playing Denmark (2:00 a.m.) and U.S. women taking on China (5:00 a.m.).
• MEN'S NORDIC COMBINED: The individual normal hill Nordic Combined will be held at the RusSki Gorki Ski Jumping Centre today (4:30 a.m. final) and is notable for U.S. fans thanks to the presence of American Todd Lodwick, who is competing in his sixth Winter Olympics after separating his shoulder just a couple of weeks ago. France’s Jason Lamy Chappuis is SI’s pick for gold.
• WOMEN'S SNOWBOARDING: The Americans could do major podium damage in the women’s halfpipe (5:00 a.m. -- 1:20 p.m.) with Kelly Clark and Arielle Gold as medal favorites. Clark won gold in this event in 2002. Australia’s Torah Bright is the defending Olympic champ and SI’s pick for gold. Hannah Teter and Kaitlyn Farrington will also compete for the U.S.
• WOMEN'S ICE HOCKEY: Two of the pre-Olympic tune-ups between the U.S. and Canada women’s hockey teams involved brawls, so we’ll see what happens today when the puck drops at 7:30 a.m. The U.S. has won the last four games between the teams, though the last two meetings have been tight. The Americans are coming off a 9-0 win over Switzerland after defeating Finland 3-1 in their opener. Canada also had easy wins over those two opponents.
• MEN'S LONG-TRACK SPEED SKATING: U.S. long-track speed skater and two-time Olympic champion Shani Davis hits the stage today in his signature event -- the 1000 meters. Davis has the opportunity to make history here, as no male speed skater from any country has ever won three consecutive Olympic gold medals. Who are his top rivals? Michel Mulder and Kjeld Nuis of the Netherlands, and Denis Kuzin of Kazakhstan. The race starts at 9:00 a.m.
• MEN'S LUGE: German teams Tobias Wendl and Tobias Arlt, and Toni Eggert and Sascha Benecken are the heavy favorites in the doubles luge (the first run is 9:15 a.m., and the final is 10:45 a.m.). The U.S. teams of Preston Griffall and Matthew Mortensen, and Christian Niccum and Jayson Terdiman are not expected to contend for a medal.
• FIGURE SKATING: The pairs figure skating free program takes place Wednesday (10:45 a.m.) with Russia’s elegant team of Tatiana Volosozhar and Maxim Trankov in the lead after the short program. They are followed by Germany’s Aliona Savchenko and Robin Szolkowy, and Russia's Ksenia Stolbova and Fedor Klimov. The American tandems of Marissa Castelli and Simon Shnapir, and Felicia Zhang and Nathan Bartholomay earned spots here with their placements in the short program.
• MEN'S ICE HOCKEY: Men’s hockey begins with the Czech Republic-Sweden (12:00 p.m.) at Bolshoy Ice Palace, and Latvia-Switzerland (12:00 p.m.) at Shayba Arena.
Tweet of the day
By the numbers
157 -- Consecutive primetime appearances by Bob Costas on NBC’s Olympic coverage of the Summer and Winter Games. That streak ended on Tuesday when Matt Lauer filled in for Costas who has an eye infection.
16/1 -- Odds of Canada winning the overall medal count, according to Bovada.lv.
9/1 -- Odds of Russia winning the medal count.
1/1 -- Odds of U.S. winning.
Around the web
Here are five Olympic stories you’ll be talking about today:
• Fourth: What It’s Like To Just Miss An Olympic Medal (By The New York Times staff) -- The answer: It’s painful, but also rewarding.
• Oral History of the 2010 Gold Medal Game (By Scott Burnside, ESPN.com) -- A very cool look back at Canada’s 3-2 overtime win over the U.S. four years ago.
• Chasing Gold And Jeans That Fit (By Sarah, Lyall, The New York Times) -- For Olympians who have big thighs and booty, it's tough to find pants that fit right.
• #SochiProblems Is More of An Embarrassment For America Than It Is For Russia (By Sarah Kaufman, Policy Mic) -- A plea to whining journalists and social media fiends: Have just a bit more respect for Russians.
• Lasting Legacy (By Lily Idov, The Calvert Journal) -- Photographer Lily Idov revisits the 1980 Moscow Olympic village