SOCHI -- American women have not won a long-track speed skating medal in 12 years, but that could change today on the Adler Arena oval. Heather Richardson and Brittany Bowe: friends, rivals, and Team USA's best shot at women's speed skating gold, are strong favorites to hit the podium in the 1000-meter race. Their credentials: Richardson won the 2013 World Sprint Championship crown while Bowe holds the 1000-meter world record. Four years ago, Bowe watched the Vancouver Games on television and decided to take up the sport after being an inline skater and playing college basketball at Florida Atlantic. Now, she and Richardson will be front and center in Sochi on a day where medals will also be awarded in biathlon (men’s 20KM individual), cross-country (women’s10km classic), freestyle skiing (men’s ski slopestyle), luge (team competition) and short track (women’s 500).
What to watch (all times in Eastern Standard Time)
• MEN’S SLOPESTYLE SKIING: Men’s slopestyle skiing debuts as an Olympic event with Americans Nick Goepper and Bobby Brown among the favorites. Sweden’s Jesper Tjader and Britain’s James Woods are also contenders. Gus Kenworthy will also compete for the U.S. The qualification run starts at 1:15 a.m. The final is set for 5:04 a.m.
• WOMEN’S SKELETON: The first two heats of the women’s skeleton qualifying will be held starting at 2:30 a.m., and the competition should be a duel between Great Britain (Elizabeth Yarnold and Shelley Rudman) and Noelle Pikus-Pace of the U.S. Pikus-Pace nearly lost her leg when she was struck by a bobsled in 2005. That accident knocked her out of the Turin Games, and she finished fourth in Vancouver. Women's skeleton is the only event in which Great Britain won medals in the last two Winter Games: Shelley Rudman won silver in Torino in 2006, while Amy Williams took gold in Vancouver four years ago.
• MEN’S HOCKEY: The men’s hockey tournament continues with Finland-Austria (3:00 a.m.), Russia-Slovenia (7:30 a.m.), U.S.- Slovakia (7:30 a.m.) and Canada-Norway (noon). American success will likely be determined by its netminder, with Los Angeles Kings goalie Jonathan Quick named as the starter against Slovakia. “The goaltender is the mythic centerpiece in America’s preferred hockey tableau, maybe because the job actually merits the adulation, or maybe because it is the easiest position to dope out on the whirling kaleidoscope of the rink,” writes SI’s Michael Farber. “(Even Ray LeBlanc, in Albertville 1992, briefly was portrayed as the second coming of Frankie Brimsek.) Team USA has the best goaltending duo, Ryan Miller and Jonathan Quick, which might prove significant.”
• WOMEN’S HOCKEY: Women’s hockey games include Japan-Germany (3:00 a.m.) and Sweden-Russian (noon)
• WOMEN’S CROSS-COUNTRY SKIING: SI’s pick for the women’s 10km classic cross-country race (5:00 a.m.) is Poland’s Justyana Kowalczyk, followed by Russia’s Yulia Chekaleva and Norway’s Therese Johaug. Norway’s Marit Bjorgen will also be a factor. If Bjorgen wins gold -- she won silver in Turin and bronze in Vancouver -- she will be first woman to complete the medal set in 10km events at the Winter Games. Italian-born Angelica Morrone di Silvestri, 48, will ski for the island of Dominica and can become the oldest woman to compete in Olympic cross-country skiing. Sadie Bjornsen will compete for the U.S.
• CURLING: Curling round robin play continues with the U.S. men facing Great Britain (5:00 a.m.) and the U.S. women meeting Japan (10:00 a.m.).
• WOMEN’S SPEED SKATING: Chasing Bowe and Richardson in the 1000 (9:00 a.m.) will be Russia’s Olga Fatkulina, who won silver in the women’s 500, and China’s Zhang Hong, who finished fourth in the 500. Richardson has won three of the four 1000 races this season, with Bowe winning the other.
• MEN’S BIATHLON: The men’s 20km individual biathlon comes today (9:00 a.m.) and that means another chance for Norway’s Ole Einar Bjoerndalen to win his 13th Olympic medal, which would set a new record for Winter Games athletes. Bjoerdalen equaled his countryman Bjorn Daehlie (who owns 12 medals) when he won gold in men's 10km sprint last Saturday. France’s Martin Fouracde, the world champion in the event and the winner of the men’s 20KM individual, and Norway’s Emil Hegle Svendsen, who this race in 2010, are the favorites. Ondrej Moravec of the Czech Republic is also a medal contender. Fourcade took gold in the pursuit on Monday. Tim Burke is the best hope for the U.S.
• LUGE: The luge team relay event (starts at 11:15 a.m.) makes its Winter Games debut, a discipline that allows men and women teams to compete in singles alongside a doubles pairing. World and European champion Germany, led by singles gold medalists Felix Loch and Natalie Geisenberger, and Tobias Wendl, are the favorites. All competitors begin from the same women's/doubles starting point. Each sledder must hit a touch pad just past the finish line to release the gate and allow the following team member to start. The team with the fastest cumulative time wins. Canada won silver at the 2013 world championship. Italy, featuring the ageless Armin Zoeggeler and Sandra Gasparini, are also medal contenders. The U.S. has Erin Hamlin, Chris Madzer, Matthew Mortensen and Preston Griffal. Germany has won the team relay event at the last 10 world championships (between 2000 and 2013).
• MEN’S FIGURE SKATING: The figure skating men’s short program comes today at 12:30 p.m., with SI picking Japan’s Yuzuru Hanyu for gold, Canada’s Patrick Chan for silver and Spain’s Javier Fernandez for bronze. Russia’s Evgeni Plushenko is the defending Olympic silver medalist and looks like he’ll be a factor based on his performance in the team competition. Jeremy Abbott and Jason Brown will skate for the U.S.
Tweet of The Day
My new favorite Sochi Olympic pin. pic.twitter.com/HbQsDPN44g— Craig Neff (@CraigNeffSI) February 12, 2014
By The Numbers
$1,000 -- Average spending (in dollars) per customer at Sochi’s Olympic store, according to Sports Business Journal reporter Tripp Mickle.
18 -- Consecutive wins for the Canadian women’s hockey team in Olympic play.
1 -- Athlete from Paraguay in Sochi, freestyle skier Julia Marino, who is the country’s first-ever Winter Olympian.
Around the web
Here are five Olympic stories you’ll be talking about today:
• Russia's Ban on Alcohol in Arenas Leaves Drinkers Flat (By Brian Costa, Wall Street Journal) -- It’s hard to find a cold one in Sochi.
• The inside story of the man who beat Shaun White (By Jeff Passan, Yahoo! Sports) -- Great read on Switzerland’s Iouri Podladtchikov, the new half pipe king.
• Digital Security Covering The Olympics (By Lauren Kirchner, Columbia Journalism Review) -- Are reporters covering the Olympics properly protecting their digital assets?
• Russian volunteers smuggle Sochi strays to new life, far from Olympics host city (By Will Englund, The Washington Post) -- A mission to get stray dogs out of Sochi.
• Sochi 2014: 10 best multiple-exposures at the Winter Olympics – in pictures (By The Guardian staff) -- Photographers in Sochi have been creating an array of dynamic images by shooting multiple exposures in-camera.