Pavel Bure

Pavel Bure says Russia is ‘indisputable’ favorite for Olympic hockey gold

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The Russian Rocket put out some bulletin-board material for the rest of the Olympic men’s hockey field Wednesday.

“Every team has chances, but the fact that we are the favorites is indisputable,” two-time Olympian Pavel Bure said, according to R-Sport. “We’ll have a very strong team in Sochi with a great coaching staff and several world stars. And this team is capable of taking the trophy.”

The retired forward Bure, 42, won Olympic silver and bronze with Russia in 1998 and 2002. He was the general manager of the Russian team that took fourth in 2006. Russia lost in the quarterfinals in 2010. The nation hasn’t won gold in men’s hockey at the Olympics since the fall of the Soviet Union and the Unified Team’s triumph in 1992.

But home ice always helps, as Canada learned in 2010 on its way to gold.

The Olympic prediction service Infostrada has Russia winning men’s hockey gold, followed by Finland and the Czech Republic. It has neither Canada nor the U.S. winning men’s hockey medals. A North American nation hasn’t medaled at non-North American Olympics since the 1994 Lillehammer Games before the influx of NHL superstars in 1998.

Bure was just as impressive as an Olympian as he was for the Vancouver Canucks during his Hall of Fame career. He scored five goals in the 1998 semifinals before Russia was shut down by Czech goalie Dominik Hasek in the Nagano final. Bure tallied nine goals overall in the 1998 tournament.

Sochi Olympic curling schedule released

Simone Biles among Time Person of the Year finalists

RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL - AUGUST 07: Simone Biles of the United States competes on the uneven bars during Women's qualification for Artistic Gymnastics on Day 2 of the Rio 2016 Olympic Games at the Rio Olympic Arena on August 7, 2016 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil  (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images)
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Simone Biles is one of 11 finalists for Time‘s Person of the Year.

Time‘s Person of the Year, named annually since 1927, has never been an individual athlete or team. Tennis player Billie Jean King was part of the “American Women” group named in 1975.

In 2015, the 1976 Olympic decathlon champion Caitlyn Jenner was one of eight finalists.

The Person of the Year “is the person or persons who most affected the news and our lives, for good or ill, and embodied what was important about the year.”

Biles, 19, is the only teenager finalist and is six years younger than the youngest-ever solo Person of the Year, Charles Lindbergh in 1927. Biles won four gold medals and one bronze in Rio, the largest collection for a female gymnast at one Olympics since 1988.

The Person of the Year will be announced on Wednesday morning on “Today.”

Here are the finalists, in alphabetical order:

Simone Biles
Hillary Clinton
CRISPR Scientists
Recep Tayyip Erdoğan
Nigel Farage
The Flint Whistleblowers
Beyoncé Knowles
Narendra Modi
Vladimir Putin
Donald Trump
Mark Zuckerberg

VIDEO: Biles shows Stephen Colbert how to stick the landing

Tonga flag bearer Pita Taufatofua eyes 2018 Winter Olympics

RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL - AUGUST 08:  (BROADCAST - OUT) Pita Taufatofua of Tonga poses for a photo on the NBC Today show set at Copacabana Beach on August 8, 2016 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.  (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
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Tonga’s famous flag bearer, Pita Taufatofua, said he wants to compete at the 2018 Winter Olympics as a cross-country skier.

“I’m going to be taking my Olympic dream one step further,” Taufatofua said in an Olympic Channel video published Monday. “My goal is to let people see, if I can do it, they can do it. The goal is to hunt down that Olympic medal at the 2018 Olympics.”

Sure enough, Taufatofua already has an International Ski Federation bio page. The federation lists one other Tongan cross-country skier with a bio, Makeleta Stephan, who was last of 93 finishers in a 2015 World Championships event.

In 2014, Bruno Banani became the first Tongan to compete at a Winter Olympics, placing 32nd in men’s luge. He was later the subject of a documentary. Banani gained fame starting in early 2012, when the story of his name was widely publicized. Banani’s real name is Fuahea Semi, but he changed it to the name of his German clothing sponsor as a marketing ploy.

Taufatofua lost his opening Olympic taekwondo match by mercy rule in Rio, two weeks after his his shirtless, oiled-up appearance in the Opening Ceremony.

Judging by the Olympic Channel video, Taufatofua’s chances of qualifying for the Olympics look better for Tokyo 2020 than Pyeongchang 2018.

PHOTOS: Tongan flag bearer steals show at Opening Ceremony